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Premier League Pyro Solution: AI to Identify Masked Ultras

In this post:

  • AI-enhanced CCTV is revolutionizing stadium security, helping to identify pyrotechnic offenders.
  • English clubs have successfully reduced pyrotechnic incidents using AI and sniffer dogs.
  • Scottish football explores AI solutions to enhance fan safety and deter troublemakers.

Scottish football clubs are exploring a novel approach to curb the rising issue of fans setting off pyrotechnics within stadiums. Drawing inspiration from their English counterparts, Scottish clubs are considering the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in conjunction with CCTV surveillance footage to identify ultras who attempt to hide their identities with balaclavas. A recent meeting involving representatives from various key stakeholders, including the Scottish Government, Scottish Football Safety Officers Association, Police Scotland, the SFA, and the SPFL, aimed to address this growing problem, which jeopardizes the safety of supporters.

Lessons from the English experience

Peter Houghton, a veteran of stadium safety with Manchester City, revealed how English clubs successfully tackled their pyrotechnic problem, particularly after the lifting of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in 2021. While incidents involving fireworks at matches had nearly doubled in the 2021/22 season, the use of pyrotechnics has become increasingly rare in the English Premier League. Houghton credited this decline to proactive measures, including sniffer dogs and sophisticated video surveillance systems.

The role of AI in pyrotechnic detection

To combat the smuggling of pyrotechnics into stadiums, English clubs began employing sniffer dogs positioned outside turnstiles. These dogs, which may specialize in detecting pyrotechnics or other contraband, deter potential troublemakers. However, it remains challenging to detect concealed pyrotechnics on individuals, as some smoke canisters can be as small as a cigarette packet. Here is where CCTV surveillance, equipped with AI, plays a pivotal role.

Artificial intelligence enhances surveillance

CCTV systems in English stadiums have evolved significantly, allowing them to track individuals from their arrival at the stadium until they depart. This extensive coverage aids in identifying those responsible for pyrotechnic offenses. Even if an arrest does not occur on the day of the incident, law enforcement can analyze CCTV footage and identify suspects later.

The incorporation of AI into these CCTV systems takes detection and identification to the next level. AI algorithms can analyze video feeds in real-time, making it virtually impossible for individuals to remain anonymous. A person donning a balaclava may alter their appearance, but their entry into the stadium—either through a ticket or a season card—leaves a trail that AI can follow.

Challenges and controversies

While AI integration into stadium surveillance systems has proven effective in tackling pyrotechnic offenses, it is not without challenges and controversies. Some individuals and privacy advocates have raised concerns about potential breaches of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other privacy laws. As AI technology evolves, so do concerns about how it impacts personal privacy and data protection.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has been monitoring these developments closely, and discussions are ongoing regarding the ethical use of AI in stadium security. Companies are actively working on AI solutions that, when combined with existing CCTV systems, can provide comprehensive identification of individuals within stadiums.

The Scottish perspective

Scotland, too, has grappled with similar issues in the past. In 2016, the SPFL sought financial support from Holyrood to introduce facial recognition technology to identify those responsible for various prohibited behaviors, including pyrotechnic use. However, the plan, which carried a £4 million price tag, was eventually shelved.

Now, with the advancements in AI technology, Scottish football clubs are revisiting the idea of using AI to tackle the pyrotechnic problem. While it remains in its infancy, AI shows promise in enhancing stadium security and deterring troublemakers. By harnessing AI’s capabilities and integrating it with existing surveillance systems, Scottish clubs hope to create a safer and more secure environment for fans.

The use of Artificial Intelligence alongside CCTV surveillance systems has proven effective in curbing pyrotechnic offenses in English football stadiums. Scottish clubs are now considering adopting similar measures to address this growing problem within their own stadiums. While AI presents challenges related to privacy and data protection, its potential to enhance security and protect fans cannot be ignored. As discussions continue and technology advances, Scottish football may find an effective solution to ensure the safety and enjoyment of its supporters while attending matches.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decision.

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