Ferencvarosi, a Budapest soccer team, appears to have figured out how to ensure fans with a track record of starting violence in its stadium never return.
It’s taken the invasive step of requiring home fans to have their hands scanned with biometric technology from the company BioSec. Each fan’s hand scan is linked to an ID card, which the fan scans — along with his or her hand — when entering the stadium. It’s an inconvenience for season ticket holders, who can’t resell their tickets. There’s also the hassle of having to visit the team’s office and have one’s hand scanned before the season. The benefit is that Ferencvarosi can be certain that hooligans who start fights are barred from future games.
Ferencvarosi’s Ultras, a male group of diehard fans, has boycotted all home games this fall, claiming the technology is an invasion of privacy. The group takes privacy seriously, to say the least. They black out their faces on their Web site, and wouldn’t agree to an interview with me via Skype or Google Hangout for fear of showing their faces.
All Ferencvarosi fans over age 16 are required to have their hands scanned to buy tickets. Supporters of visiting teams don’t have to have their hands scanned, but they must bring their supporters card, which is issued by their home team. Ferencvarosi instituted these changes as it opened a new stadium this year, which was partitioned off to prevent home and away fans from intermixing and fighting.
“It’s been like this since the 70s. We were already born in this atmosphere. Our parents were beating each other up in the same manner as we do,” a supporter of Ujpest, which is Ferencvarosi’s rival, told Copa90 through an interpreter.
The technology authenticates fans by identifying the unique array of veins in each person’s palm. Ferencvarosi chose to scan hands because it’s a quick way to use a biometric technology to determine a person’s identity. It’s possible for 22,000 fans to enter the stadium at its 36 gates in a 90-minute time frame. Using face-scanning technology would take even longer (not to mention raise additional privacy concerns.)
So far Ferencvarosi is the only Hungarian soccer team to use the technology. But ultras from a variety of Hungarian teams protested the technology in front of Hungary’s parliament in late October.
The team is optimistic fans will eventually embrace the scanning of hands, as the environment should become more family-friendly.
“As this is a totally new service, people are skeptical, but we believe those skeptics will come to understand soon that this move serves only one purpose: we can identify whether the cardholder who [is] entitled to access the stadium has the card,” a spokesman for the group that operates the stadium told me.