Many of the nations competing at next summer's World Cup will use private security firms — including war-zone specialists who operate in Iraq and Afghanistan — to safeguard their players and officials.
Sources within the private protection industry have said that high-profile football associations from Europe and South America have already hired firms that will use ex-military personnel — some of them special forces veterans — to look after players and their families during the tournament.
These companies will provide round-the-clock armed bodyguards, bullet-proof vehicles, hijack prevention advice and “crisis management” squads that can handle kidnap situations. Kidnap insurance is also offered by some agencies but by nature is ultra secretive; public knowledge that a specific party is insured typically means that policy becomes nullified.
These revelations come amid fears there could be “gaps in the coverage” provided by the organisers. A number of football associations from around the world and senior figures within international administrative circles have ongoing concerns sparked by lapses at this summer's Confederation Cup, which was effectively a small-scale test event for 2010.
“There was no single major mishap but some worrying gaps were noted, suggesting there won't be enough properly trained security at every place they'll be required [at the World Cup],” one source said.
South Africa has a notorious crime problem with high rates of murder and car-jacking in particular. Private security firms are consequently common, and many will be employed during the World Cup by visiting VIPs, corporate guests, sponsors, and some teams.