River Plate Stadium foolproof security plans



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Ignacio Villarroel on Coliseum LATAM Image: Ignacio Villarroel & River Plate

Club Atlético River Plate, commonly known as River Plate, is an Argentine professional sports club based in the Núñez neighborhood of Buenos Aires (Argentina), and was founded on May 25th, 1901, and named after the English name for the City’s estuary, Río de la Plata. Although many sports are practiced at the club, River Plate is best known for its professional football team, which has won Argentina’s Primera División championship a record 36 times.

The 72,054-capacity Estadio ‘Monumental’ Antonio Vespucio Liberti, also referred to as River Plate Stadium, Monumental de Nuñez, or simply El Monumental, is a stadium in Belgrano, Buenos Aires, Argentina, home of the football club River Plate.

In an exclusive with ‘Coliseum’, Ignacio Villarroel, General Secretary, River Plate, Argentina, shared how COVID-19 and its variants has brought to the fore the issue of providing fans a sense of security and safety while inside the venue and how the top-flight River Plate is consolidating all its efforts towards this end.

First COVID-19 struck in March 2020 and put the world off-kilter. Then its variant Delta struck and just when the world was trying to get back on its feet, the Omicron variant has struck and is causing upheaval the world over again.

The fatal respiratory disease has become like a never-ending episode which does not seem to go away. Against such a scenario, the security and safety paradigm of sports venues are undergoing a 360 degree change and tight COVID rules are being laid down keeping fans’ safety in mind.
 

River Plate Stadium refurbishment

Ignacio Villarroel informed that when the pandemic struck, they decided to refurbish the River Plate Stadium – “The refurbishment work included the installation of a new pitch with hybrid technology that allows the ball to move faster and quickly removes excess water. The redecoration work also included the removal of the venue’s athletics track and barbed wire fencing, building new restaurants and restrooms for fans and the implementation of a free high-speed Wi-Fi system.”
 

Robust network

He further informed that 1,096+ access points have also been set up in the stadium so that fans can stay “connected” when they come to the facility.
 

Safety and security

The River Plate Stadium is maintaining the highest standards of safety and security rules and has laid down stringent COVID-19 protocols to ensure that fans feel safe inside the facility and exit the venue smiling.

Villarroel explained how with the pandemic outbreak, he slowly got involved with matters pertaining to safety and security of fans while inside the arena.

The whole stadium is under surveillance and the movement of each and every individual is monitored and the ingress and egress points of the venue are also under the microscope.
 

Revered River Plate

The Argentine professional sports club River Plate is known the world over for its pitch prowess and its growth trajectory is something to write home about.

At international level, River Plate has won 16 international titles, with 11 titles recognized by FIFA and CONMEBOL, including the Copa Libertadores, Copa Intercontinental and Copa Sudamericana. Other international official titles include Rioplatenses competitions Copa Aldao and Tie Cup.

Villarroel elaborated, “River Plate is more than just a soccer team. We have several other sports going on like basketball under one single entity and we are part of that entity. We also work in the field of education and have primary schools, secondary schools, even a high school and even the University of River Plate under our wings where much focus is put on sports. We are known across Argentina as a club with great social commitments.”

He informed that the club also has a foundation with 20,000 children in Argentina and also in countries outside Argentina like Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.

Coming to the security aspect, he added, “In a pre-COVID world, fans used to come to our stadium by the horde to attend the various other events apart from soccer. Almost half of Buenos Aires used to descend on our stadium on an event day. But with the COVID curse, we decided to tighten the stadium security and boost the safety quotients. We introduced futuristic technology which made our task easier like contactless payments, no more serpentine queues at the concourses and smooth entry and exit to the stadium.”

In fact, the future of sports venues is indeed contactless as social distancing is one of the key mantras to prevent coronavirus. And technology will play a pivotal role in creating a safer experience for spectators.

Villarroel further explained that strict pandemic protocols are in place for fans that come to the stadium to attend big-ticket events – “All events held in the stadium are a total sell-out. Fans are packed like sardines – be it the local championship or the Libertadores Cup. To provide fans an exhilarating experience, everything boils down to execution of policies in matters of safety and security and we work out the finer details in this regard.”
 

Soccer passion

He pointed out that in Latin America, soccer is religion and people follow it with lot of passion. But, frenetic fans can cause security issues when they are in the thick of pitch action and River Plate fans are known to be die-hard – “It is great to see passionate fans in the stadium, but we have to ensure that unruly scenes do not break out and fans do not get hurt in the melee. We bend over backwards to ensure such ruckus do not break out.”
 

Hitch-free events mantra:

  • Working in concert with the local cops;
  • Heavy investment in technology to keep intact the safety and security quotient;
  • Working in coordination with the concerned authorities like the stakeholders, police, municipality, and the Ministry of Safety and Security pre-, during and post-event;
  • On the day of the game, total monitoring of the stadium is done and safety checks carried out both outside the stadium and in the bleachers area; and
  • The away team is supplied with all security-related information in the form of a kit given to them so that they feel at home.

 

Post-game postmortem

Informed Villarroel, “Once the game or the event is over, we sit down to do a thorough examination of the loopholes which occurred and what are the aspects which we pulled off in a smooth way. We also find out which mode of transport fans have used to reach the stadium.
 

No love lost

The rivalry between River Plate and Boca Juniors is perhaps the greatest and fiercest rivalry in the world. It has no limits, no frontiers. Throughout the years, the rivalry has intensified. Boca Juniors and River Plate never stopped jostling for superiority in Argentina.

But the worrying part, stated Villarroel, is that such rivalry is accompanied by a lot of violence.

To backtrack, in 1968, when Boca Juniors and River Plate were meeting for their 89th derby, the horrible ‘Puerta 12’ disaster struck. The blocked gate number 12, in River Plate’s stadium, the Monumental, was locked. The people at the top of the stairs did not realize the door was locked and continued pushing their way down, crushing the people underneath them. It remains the largest football-related disaster in Argentina, where 74 people died and over 150 people were injured.

However, he pointed out that today a Boca-River Plate matchup is a “Very well-organized affair at the River Plate Stadium. During those days there used to be no coordination between the club, the police and the Ministry of Security and Safety. Whenever fans used to enter the stadium, chaos used to reign supreme. Soon, we decided to work in total tandem with the police and the municipal authorities and we broke down groups to boys, girls, children, and families. Today, we do not leave fans to their own devices and strict vigilance is maintained. Cutting-edge technology helps us to monitor visitors’ movements and activities even outside the arena.”

He wrapped up by stating that the River Plate team has a lot of mental bonding with their fans and is walking the extra mile to ensure that they have an enriching experience inside the stadium and they feel protected, safe and secure inside the venue with no pandemic worries as well as keeping a safe distance from the unruly crowd.

Ignacio Villarroel and his team are committed to total security of not only the River Plate fans but also teams which come from outside of Argentina. And state-of-the-art technology is giving a huge leg-up to their efforts.

Club Atlético Boca Juniors is an Argentine sports club headquartered in La Boca, a neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

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