A leading British security expert appointed by the MCG has warned that Australia’s biggest stadium remains vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
The warning came as stadium boss Stephen Gough confirmed an outer perimeter fence could still be built around the MCG before the start of the next football season, conceding the venue faces “unique challenges” in the face of Australia’s “probable” threat level.
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Sue Wilkinson, who headed the London Olympic Games anti-terrorism centre for the British government, was appointed to the MCG amid the AFL’s dispute with the clubs over who should carry the costs of the game’s beefed-up security.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has placed the terrorism threat as a key agenda item at this week’s two-day meeting of the 18 clubs, with Victoria Police’s new counter-terrorism assistant commissioner, Ross Guenther, to address the club chief executives.
Fairfax Media understands the AFL is hopeful club chiefs still refusing to foot the increased security bills presented by the MCG and Etihad Stadium could be persuaded by Mr Guenther of the need for the costly new practices.
While the AFL remains lukewarm on the prospect of a “ring of steel” surrounding the MCG on match days, Mr Gough said he remained determined to explore an improved structure to the temporary fencing put in place over the most recent cricket season.
Mr Gough said that Ms Wilkinson, who quietly came on board in a newly created senior security role in June, had recently told the MCC committee members and trustees that Australia remained a probable target for a terrorist attack and that the MCG remained vulnerable.
“We are not locked into an outer perimeter,” said Mr Gough. “What we are locked into is taking our security to a level that is required in the current environment.
“We need to adopt the best possible practices in line with the threat level in this country and we have unique challenges because we are in parkland, which makes us more vulnerable.
“We share concourses and foot bridges and we host daily tours and visits, and we have public railway lines nearby. We are exploring various structures and whether they be temporary or permanent, and the cost and whether any fencing would be 10, 20, 30 or 50 metres outside the stadium.”
An AFL dispute with the MCG and Etihad over the increased commitment to security has placed the financial results of some Victorian clubs in doubt, with match payments delayed.
The clubs have been angry at having to carry some of the costs of the game’s intensified security on match days, which could come at a cost of up to $100,000 for some clubs.
The AFL, having initially withheld match payments until a resolution could be reached, has now started paying clubs with the view to settling any financial discrepancies at the end of the season.
Mr Gough said the MCG security review was expected to result in more staff appointed to work under Ms Wilkinson.
From 2010 to 2013, Ms Wilkinson headed the Olympic Intelligence Centre for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, before moving to Australia where she has served in senior police roles.