May 23, 2016 / 6:10 PM / 4 years ago

France vows to fix stadium security before Euro 2016

PARIS (Reuters) - Security failures exposed at France’s soccer cup final over the weekend will be sorted out before the start of Euro 2016 contest in three weeks’ time, the government said on Monday.

Logo for the upcoming Euro 2016 soccer championships. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

The month-long tournament opens across France on June 10 with a state of emergency still in force after Islamist militant attacks last November that killed 130 people in Paris and targeted multiple sites across the capital, including the Stade de France.

Saturday’s match between arch-rivals Paris St Germain and Olympique Marseille at the Stade de France had been deemed a high risk event and a first test for organizers of security measures required for the Euros.

Fans threw firecrackers and flares inside and outside the stadium and banned objects were brought into the grounds despite close searching, security officials said. There was also serious overcrowding.

“The system cracked a little. There are weak points that are not acceptable,” Philippe Galli, prefect for the Seine-Saint-Denis region that is in part responsible for security at the stadium, told Le Parisien newspaper.

“We will have to correct what didn’t work.”

Local authorities, the French Football Federation and Europe’s governing body UEFA met on Monday to assess the security lapses and what should be done to correct them.

Speaking after the meeting, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said a series of measures would be finalised in the coming days to resolve the problems encountered on Saturday.

“It was decided to rapidly correct the failings to guarantee the flow of supporters at entry points to the stadiums, to make security checks by private security firms reliable and to make end-of-match exit points for fans safe,” he said.

The French soccer federation (FFF) said on Monday that it was launching an investigation into the incidents.

“The FFF wants to make clear that the security system in place for the Cup final was not the final plan expected for Euro 2016,” the FFF said in a statement.

About 2.5 million spectators are expected for 51 soccer matches involving 24 teams in games played at 10 stadiums across France. There will also be “fan zones” for crowds watching games on big screens in major cities.

The state of emergency still in force following the deadly Islamic State shooting and bombing attacks in November grants extra powers to police and security forces.

UEFA, the Euro organizers, have drafted in 10,000-15,000 security staff for over 110 sites, including stadiums, team hotels and other tournament sites. High-tech equipment will be used to monitor crowds.

The head of the private security companies’ union, Claude Tarlet, said on BFM TV that public authorities were responsible for the lack of organization and coordination.

“If this set-up is kept for the Euros then private security firms will not be able to ensure security for the event,” he said. “Private companies are there to work alongside the police, gendarmes and military, and cannot alone be responsible for all the security.”

One of the main issues on Saturday appeared to be overcrowding caused by a second security cordon that was in place to reduce the number of entry points into the stadium from 26 before the Nov. 13 attacks to four.

“When the system was under pressure, it collapsed at a certain number of points,” Galli said.

Patrick Calvar, head of France’s DGSI internal intelligence agency, told a parliamentary committee last week there was a risk of new attacks by militants placing numerous explosive devices in different crowded places to create maximum panic.

Reporting by John Irish, additional reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Mark Heinrich

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