BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Fans going to Sunday’s match between Colon and San Lorenzo in Santa Fe will be guinea pigs for a cutting-edge biometrics system aimed at combating hooliganism that has been blamed for 70 deaths in the last decade.
The Argentine Football Association’s (AFA) ambitious new system, known as “AFA-Plus”, has been a year in the making and is designed to drastically reduce football-related violence by prohibiting known hooligans from entering stadiums and will also reduce ticket touting and fake ticket sales.
Anyone wishing to enter a first division stadium, from fans to technical staff to police, will first need to register in one of the club’s assigned offices.
Once registered, they will be given a magnetic identity card that contains their personal information, a photo and digital finger prints.
AFA spokesman Ernesto Cherquis Bialo said the measures were meant to weed out violent offenders.
“The objective is to kick out the violent people. We want to get rid of the business of the barrabravas,” said Cherquis, using the local term for football hooligans.
“We want there to be better revenue for the clubs, we want families to go back to football games and, more than anything, we want order in football and not fear,” he told Reuters.
Fans have been lining up to register ahead of the implementation of the new security measures expected to be rolled out later this season.
Most said they understood the importance of the extra security measures, but voiced doubts the system will keep out those it is designed to bar from entering the clubs.
“It’s good on the one hand, but on the other, not so much. Because for me, the barrabravas who are the main problem for safety at football games, I think they’re still going to get in,” fan Facundo Salomon told Reuters.
Fellow supporter Raul Luoni echoed the sentiment when he said: “The main problem is the (football) directors who know who shouldn’t get in (to games), but they get in all the same and I don’t think they will ever fix that.”
Cherquis said rolling the system out at the Colon-San Lorenzo match will give the AFA a chance to learn how the system works and time to iron out all the kinks before going live.
“We’re going to hear all the grievances there, all the delays. Someone is going to say to the referee, ‘delay the game because there are a ton of people outside’. Any of this could happen, but also with this example we can better implement the system,” he said.
The AFA is investing 300 million Argentine pesos ($52.09 million) in the new security measures, which will require, among other things, turnstiles, card scanners and non-transferable membership cards.
There have been 269 hooligan-related deaths in Argentine football since 1924.
Writing by Kurt Hall; Editing by Rex Gowar and Alison Wildey