By: Jesse Davis West May 04, 2017

One of the best things about being a sports fan is joining other fans at live games to cheer your team to victory. But each year, hundreds of fans are arrested or ejected at professional sports games for bad behavior. Sometimes fans run onto the field and disrupt games. Sometimes they drink too much and cause a raucous. Other times, fans get into fights with those who support rival teams (like the unfortunate Opening Day incident at Dodger’s Stadium in 2011). Let’s not forget that in 2009, Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino was hit by a beer cup while catching a pop-fly ball at Wrigley Field.

These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. For example, pro athletes and cheerleaders are often pursued by stalkers. In order to ensure that games are safe environments for the whole family, it’s crucial for event security teams to prevent individuals who might pose a safety risk from entering games. But the reality is that it’s quite difficult to ensure that banned fans don’t return.

In a recent Washington Post article an anonymous fan who was banned from Giants Stadium in New Jersey for fighting with other spectators stated “I’m pretty sure that if I put on a different hat [and] different jersey and behaved they wouldn’t see me.” The truth is that he’s probably right. But thanks to facial recognition technology, it’s now possible to virtually ensure that banned fans don’t get back into stadiums without alerting security.

How Facial Recognition is Revolutionizing Event Security

The Washington Post recently called facial recognition “The Holy Grail of crowd management.” But the publication speculated that it will be years before widespread deployment of the technology at sporting events. But there is no reason to wait. FaceFirst is ready to improve event security right now.

Imagine if the moment that a banned fan entered a stadium, security would get an instant alert with an actionable directive (e.g. eject fan or call police). This is now possible with the FaceFirst biometric surveillance platform.

Security professionals are only human. They can’t always recognize banned fans. But FaceFirst can match faces to photos in a database with a very high degree of accuracy in seconds (even if the suspect is wearing a hat). Best of all, FaceFirst is designed to work extraordinarily well in crowded spaces, making the solution perfect for outdoor stadiums and indoor arenas.

Facial recognition technology is frequently used by law enforcement agencies, commercial buildings, retail superstores, banks and other organizations to maximize safety. An early form of face recognition has already been used at The Superbowl. And eventually, this technology will be omnipresent at sporting events.

Joe Abernathy, vice president of stadium operations for Busch Stadium in St. Louis and a former president of the Stadium Managers Association told The Washington Post that facial recognition is not only feasible but imminent. “We have camera systems in the right places, and we’re watching fans as they enter the park. We don’t have facial recognition capabilities [yet], but it’s definitely coming.”