World Cup teams hire security firms from Iraq amid kidnap risk

Private guards and armoured vehicles from war-zone specialists drafted as flaws in South African plans emerge

Many of the nations competing at next summer's World Cup will use private security firms – including war-zone specialists who operate in Iraq and Afghanistan – to safeguard their players and officials.

Sources within the private protection industry have told The Independent that high-profile football associations from Europe and South America have already hired firms that will use ex-military personnel, some of them special forces veterans, to look after players and their families during the tournament. These companies will provide round-the-clock armed bodyguards, bulletproof vehicles, hijack prevention advice and "crisis management" squads that can handle kidnap situations. Kidnap insurance is also offered by some agencies but by nature is ultra-secretive; public knowledge that a specific party is insured typically means that policy becomes nullified.

These revelations come amid fears there could be "gaps in the coverage" provided by the organisers. A number of football associations from around the world and senior figures within international administrative circles have ongoing concerns sparked by lapses at last summer's Confederation Cup, which was effectively a small-scale test event for 2010.

"There was no single major mishap but some worrying gaps were noted, suggesting there won't be enough properly trained security at every place they'll be required [at the World Cup]," one source said. "[Security] contracts weren't in place until very late, some players had property stolen from hotels, and some fans were victims of crime.

"And at the Confederations Cup there were just eight teams, playing in four stadiums, three of which were within 70 miles of each other. The World Cup is in a whole different league, with 32 teams, 10 stadiums in nine cities across more than a thousand miles, and millions of fans, hundreds of thousands from overseas."

Another source said: "South Africa has a fantastic reputation for sports events. It has staged the rugby world cup, Lions tours, and major international cricket – but its infrastructure is under pressure. Booking rooms and internal flights is already a struggle, and the security is just as susceptible."

Though the English FA routinely takes its own "immediate security" (bodyguards) on England trips to supplement local arrangements where deemed necessary, it has not ruled out boosting further its measures for South Africa. There has been no suggestion from the FA that it is unhappy with South African security but it will still make individual arrangements as it sees fit. No details will be disclosed, but an FA source said: "We always have more security than would appear the case to the casual observer."

Adrian Bevington, the FA's director of communications, told The Independent last night: "We carry out a full and detailed risk assessment of every destination to which we travel, many months in advance, and follow that with multiple site visits. We always have to make extensive security plans wherever we go in the world, not just at a World Cup, and we'll be doing that for South Africa."

Fifa, football's world governing body, says, in public at least, that it is satisfied the South African authorities have done everything they can to secure the safety of players, officials and fans. Around 41,000 of the country's 200,000 police officers will focus solely on World Cup duty next summer. A squad of 200 specially trained anti-terrorist officers with military hardware at their disposal will be on permanent standby.

South Africa has a notorious crime problem, with high rates of murder and carjacking in particular. Private security firms are consequently common, and many will be employed during the World Cup by visiting VIPs, corporate guests, sponsors, and some teams.

"People seek protection because South Africa has inherent risks, with high rates of commercial and violent crime ranging from robberies to hijackings to rape," says Jared Higgins, the managing director of Arcfyre International, one of South Africa's biggest specialist private security companies, based in Johannesburg.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine