On July 29, 2017, 2 people were killed and 17 injured while trying to enter the soldout FNB Stadium before a match between the Kaiser Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. It was the third African soccer stampede in less than a month. Malawi, Senegal and now South Africa. As some individuals are in critical condition, the death toll is expected to rise.
With a capacity of 94,736, FNB stadium is the largest venue on the continent.
Before the game, an unexpected crowd surge occurred outside Gate J. Accusations of counterfeit tickets have emerged and an investigation is underway to determine the cause.
* Regardless of the chaos, the game went on as scheduled. Stadium management chose NOT to divulge what had transpired. At the very least, you’d think a brief moment of silence would have been appropriate. I’d contend that stadium officials are “playing with fire” when they deliberately conceal information that can easily be obtained. We’re living in 2017. Bad news travels fast. Word of mouth is just one aspect. Over the course of a 90 minute match and a half hour intermission, it’s reasonable to conclude that a significant number of fans would be interested in accessing breaking news via their cell phones. Some in the crowd might have had difficulty processing the notion that the entertainment proceeded as scheduled… even though fans, friends and family, had just been killed and injured in hideous fashion.
* Consider the possibility of any sold-out event. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a stadium. It could be an arena, amphitheater, ballpark, etc. It could be a rock concert, political rally, religious gathering, etc. Anything that inspires passion and solidarity. Anything where demand is high and supply is limited or nonexistent. It got me to thinking. In this day and age of easily xeroxed print-out tickets, it would be especially uncomplicated to just show up and start handing out pieces of paper to fans who are desperate for entry. At a bare minimum, it would create tremendous confusion and the potential for a “hostile bottleneck” at the turn styles. If you’re objective is to manufacture chaos, it’s a helluva lot easier than strapping on a suicide vest. Once again, if your objective is to kill and maim, the ROR (rate of return) is unprecedented. And the transaction costs (a stack of 8.5″ by 11″ paper) are fundamentally unfathomable.
So what’s the contingency plan? Where’s the situational awareness? What’s the plan to educate the general public about the prospect of something like this happening, or at the very least, being attempted? Whoops, I nearly forgot the catch-22. If you acknowledge the mere existence of a hypothetical problem, you own it. And if something bad were to ever happen, you’re totally screwed because you didn’t do enough to prevent it. This isn’t rocket science. It’s a very generic paradox. And even though the solution is free (discussing the undiscussable), please don’t be naive. It’s always about money. In this particular case, deep pockets and theoretical future litigation.
Imagine something like this transpiring at an NFL game. Would Americans be as tolerant or indifferent? I’m not so sure. Such a bizarre hoax, resulting in the weaponization of a human stampede, would certainly have reverberations in the court of public opinion.
So once again, what’s the contingency plan? If a direct link is established between the counterfeit tickets and the FNB Stadium stampede, I’m afraid we’ve got a larger problem which must be resolved. One that demands societal accountability. Ignoring the incident, and leaving fans oblivious to its root cause, would seem an immoral course of action.
The FNB Stadium stampede echoes my concerns about the prospect of an “artificially generated stampede.” After all, what does everyone in the stadium have in common? Well, they’re all carrying active cell phones in a wirelessly hyper-connective environment. There are roughly a dozen different ways to saturate a crowd with deliberately false information. Think in terms of wireless carrier hacking, opt-in notification abuse (Amber alerts, weather-related alerts, etc.), robocalls, bulk texting, deliberate misuse of social media platforms like facebook and twitter, phishing scams, cellular viruses, email hoaxes, the list goes on. If executed with a degree of cunning and malicious intent, the possibility of such information spreading in a convincingly decentralized fashion is very high. And in that case, the information would likely end up coming from those you trust. Those who fell prey to a hoax. Those concerned for your personal safety and well-being.
Like I said before, it’s 2017. Good news travels fast.
But bad news always travels faster.