December 10, 2013
AFA Plus, the system to fight violence
To be introduced at Colón’s stadium this weekendThe new system (AFA Plus) for the admission to the stadiums will start this weekend. This is a project which AFA (Argentine Football Association) has been working on since 2007 along the UTN (National Technological University), and since 2009 with Telecom (the major local telephone company) to fight the violence surrounding the sport.
AFA Plus will be officially introduced in Argentine soccer on Sunday at 4.15pm in the match between Colón (Santa Fe) and San Lorenzo for the eighth round of the Initial Tournament at the Brigadier General Estanislao López stadium in the city of Santa Fe. There’ve been some pilot tests at this stadium in 2009 and it was chosen to begin with this new project as it has all the system installed and completed.
Fernando Casalla, the engineer in charge of this project in AFA, told the Herald that the original idea was to start in all the stadiums at the same time, but there were bureaucratic problems with some cities.
“Telecom has to install this system in 23 stadiums. It started with the stadiums that had fewer bureaucratic problems, and Colón’s was one of them. Today, it’s the first stadium that is finished. That’s why we start there. We will continue making some tests with the biometrical readers,” said Casalla.
“We didn’t have much trouble in implementing the system in some cities, but in others they demanded specific plans and documentation that stalled the project. For example, the requirements from the Buenos Aires City government are too demanding and that delayed the installation of the system.”
He added that AFA has a contract with Telecom and the “deadline is already exceeded”, and that the installations “should have been finished last year.”
AFA signed a contract with Telecom and UTN. Telecom has to fit the biometrical system in the stadiums, while UTN is in charge of the registration and the cards.
“Apart from the registration, UTN has to buy the cards, record them and deliver them. At this point, the cards are in a process of purchase and production, but I know there are problems with the import of the chips to make the cards. That’s a very complex issue,” said Casalla.
There are around 320,000 people from the whole country registered in the system. The registration started in Buenos Aires and the city of Buenos Aires. Then it was expanded to Santa Fe, Córdoba and Mendoza.
“The idea came up years ago when the society began to ask the state and the AFA officials to find a solution to the security problems in soccer. Since we are not specialists in the security issue, we searched for a solution with the National Technological University, which studied the issue and gave us a project. This project was evaluated for some time and then we signed a contract with Telecom, which invested in and carried out the project,” said Casalla.
“It will take some time for the people to get used to this, because it will control not only the fans but also the club employees, the vendors, the police. Everyone will have to use the card and pass through the turn-stile. The players, referees, everyone is involved.”
Colón President Germán Lerche said: “If the pope wants to come and see San Lorenzo, he must be registered with AFA Plus.” Pope Francis is a San Lorenzo fan and Lerche said this to give an example of the seriousness of the project.
“We are going to try it at the Colón’s stadium, where there are going to be local fans only. And if everything goes right, we will keep using it in other games,” Lerche added.
The hooligans, known as barrabravas, are the ones responsible for the violence in the stadiums and the sport. Six persons were killed in 2013 due to violence in soccer. The idea is to fight violence with the introduction of AFA Plus and Casalla explained how it will work.
“The system will detect who is authorized to enter and who’s not. Hooligans have to be registered too. The security agencies have to give the list of people who have the right of admission to the stadiums,” said Casalla.
“We are trying to get more tools to give more information to the security agencies so they can find those people we don’t want in the stadiums. We have a lot of projects which are related to AFA Plus.”
There isn’t any other security system like the AFA Plus in the whole world, but there are some countries that have some similar systems. In Italy, the stadiums use the turn-stiles, while in Spain they use the biometrical readers by fingerprints.
As to when the AFA Plus system will be introduced in all the stadiums, Casalla said: “This has to start in a gradual fashion. After Telecom is done with the installation of the system in the stadiums, we are going to conduct some tests first and then we are going to explain to the people how the system works. We can’t change everything overnight. In Colón we spent six months explaining to the people how the system works and they are used to it now. We don’t have a specific deadline because we depend on Telecom, and Telecom depends on each province’s government.”