Former National Security Minister Gary Griffith, who was hired by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) as a security consultant, has promised football fans that the trip to their seats to watch the “Soca Warriors” tackle St Vincent and the Grenadines at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Tuesday March 29 will be a stroll in the park.
“It will be a totally different experience to what happened at the USA game,” Griffith told Wired868. “The biggest change is that we will have walk-through scanners, whereas the big problem then was they tried to scan thousands of fans with handheld scanners, which takes about three minutes per person…
“So because of walk-through scanners, it would be a continuous flow of traffic. If someone is red flagged, they will be asked to step aside for a second check. But it wouldn’t stop the stream of traffic.”
Only one of four entrances will be available to ticket holders for tomorrow’s World Cup qualifier, which kicks off at 7 pm. However, two of the remaining entrances will be utilised for vendors, media workers, football officials and VIPs.
Griffith, a former Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force captain and security consultant for the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) cricket competition, insisted that one entrance was sufficient to shuttle through as many as 20,000 spectators.
“You can look at venues worldwide like in the England Premier League,” said Griffith, who said he attended two Premiership matches in the last year, “and they have four or five gates for 70,000 people. If everyone wants to turn up at 6.45 pm, that is where we will have the concern.
“They don’t have to turn up three hours before the game but not with a few minutes to go either. Also, we are asking people to have their tickets in hands and don’t walk with coolers, metallic objects other than the car keys, large knapsacks, firearms and so on.
“These things will ensure that everyone moves quicker.”
Griffith said that, for the first time, there will be a venue operations centre or VOC in place for a World Cup qualifier, which will ensure that the head of each security apparatus is in constant contact with each other in an effort to have a seamless operation.
“I know people have concerns due to the USA game but for the last three weeks we have gone through meticulous security meetings,” said Griffith. “You will be seeing things different to what happened before. For instance, in accordance with FIFA and IOC standards, there will not be a visible presence of law enforcement officers with weapons at the game.
“From 11 am, there will be a lock down of the venue and the entire venue will be sanitised with bomb sweeps and so on. So what you will have (when the gates open at 4 pm on Tuesday evening) is more crowd control than law enforcement, although there would be armed quick reaction units available…
“There are very few police officers that you would see at the game. You will see more match day stewards. This is not a police operation, as (Inspector) Alexander would say.
“And what will make it a success is the venue operations centre or VOC which will be in a box in covered stand and will have the lead person from each agency. So if we need another gate opened somewhere or have to take immediate action, one hand always knows what the other hand is doing.”
Outside of the stadium, fans are on their own, though.
The wrecker will be in operation and is expected to be called upon to penalise motorists who block pathways inside the venue. But, on the streets of the capital, it will be used at the discretion of acting Port of Spain Mayor Keron Valentine.
“I was told that the traffic situation is exactly as it was for the last game,” said Griffith. “So I am not the person to ask about that. I know one of the concerns then was the improvised parking spaces where people were being lured into vacant lots. And then the same people they paid to park were responsible for breaking into their cars.
“So I would ask them to be very careful about using those improvised parking spots.”
Nobody at the TTFA was able to give motorists any tips for safe parking either.
Griffith preferred to speak, at length, about his own role in the going-ons at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
“Every single thing will be done to military timing and precision, and the key for us is proper communication and collaboration,” said Griffith. “It isn’t a matter of cutting the numbers (of lawmen) but making sure they will be used in an effective manner. This is not like when they try to fight crime by just throwing forces all over the place without any real structure or responsibilities…
“The safest place to be in Trinidad and Tobago tomorrow evening will be at the national stadium. But we are making sure we also adhere to the policy of the London Olympics, whereas people will be secure but without that frustration (in getting to the event).”