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High profile theft – What puts sports stars and other celebrities so at risk?

Few weeks go by without us hearing of the regular occurrences of sport personalities and other celebrities being mugged, robbed or victims of home burglary. London in particular experiences a high-volume of street robberies, including moped related incidents. Alongside the obvious monetary loss, these criminal acts cause emotional and physical trauma to the victims and/or their relatives.

One of the most recent high-profile cases involved Amir Khan, former WBA and IBF light-welterweight champion, who was attacked and robbed at gunpoint of his £72,000 diamond-encrusted watch by two individuals – while walking in East London with his wife. Khan later went on to explain that this incident has led them to renounce moving permanently to London with their children, “because of increasing crime, terrible traffic” in the city, which they describe as “not safe”.

This incident alone serves as a reminder of the importance of being constantly aware and cognisant of your surroundings to increase your own protection. In terms of security, self-awareness means being constantly aware of your safety and having the ability to identify potential threats.

What makes footballers such an attractive target?

Within the sports industry, footballers are by far the most targeted by criminal activities. In some instances, players can be physically assaulted, such as Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli in 2020. Often, players’ families are also present during these home burglaries – this is what happened to on loan Everton goalkeeper Robin Olsen last year, who was threatened at knifepoint when he was with his wife and children.

Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba, Joao Cancelo, Gabriel Magalhaes and Victor Lindelof were just some of the footballers on the receiving end of burglaries and violent theft during the 2021-2022 season

So why are footballers such regular targets? Football is an extremely profitable industry that generates billions in revenue. As a result, players are offered tremendous wages and sponsorship packages by clubs who compete to attract and retain them. Salaries are an open secret, meaning this information is available to the public and to criminals. In other words, we are talking about wealthy, young men who often do not hesitate to show-off their wealth.

We only have to look at the average social media profiles of top sport stars to see part of the problem. There is a very fine balance between publicity – remaining in the public eye and placing too much personal information in the public domain.

Another key factor is that footballers have a distinctive timetable throughout the year. Professional football is very easily tracked, and locations are known months in advance. Club fans are often at the training grounds and if the team is active in European competitions, criminals will know when players are away from home.

It is alarmingly easy to track down the private residence of footballers in many instances with just a simple search using Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) tools may suffice. Sometimes all it takes to extract valuable information is a friendly conversation and a generous tip to a taxi driver. Combined with the fact that everyone knows where clubs training grounds are, working out the timing and routes is very easy.

The curse of the “away day robbery”

For years now, criminal gangs have become experts in home burglaries while footballers are playing in games or tournaments. These incidents have become so commonplace that the press has labelled them “away-day robberies”.

In the case of home protection, the first and immediate instinct would be to safeguard your perimeters. Which, in the case of our footballers, often translates into moving into a gated community or a luxury flat with a 24/7 concierge and security. These are just two of the many choices available.

Alternatively, the risk of a burglary can be considerably reduced, if not prevented, with the correct systems in place to boost your home security. These include layered security, with state-of-the-art CCTV in place – some modern-day providers offer systems equipped with AI and video analytics – ideally backed up with a dedicated Residential Security Team (RST) to monitor ongoings. Installing a safe is a no brainer, but many also install dummy versions as deterrents. Another extreme is having a panic room within the home.

Alongside considering the above, it’s important to continuously review and upgrade alarms, locks, and fortifications as technology continues to evolve and improve. Add-ons such as smart locks, including AI and fortified doors, is constantly evolving and may be a wise investment.

In a recent blog piece, we offered our views about the five top tips on ramping up your home security.

Are players being put at risk by their clubs?

One final point that is worth discussing is whether clubs should be doing more to protect their players. Can stars reasonably expect their employers to provide a level of personal protection? From a purely legal perspective, the answer is usually no. But where should the line be drawn when it comes to what constitutes a reasonable duty of care?

Clubs are, of course, responsible for the physical well-being, health, and fitness of the players they employ. As such, they supply a fitness coach, dieticians but also purchase insurance to cover such risks. However, the players’ houses, cars and other personal possessions are their own responsibility.

Having said that, as any employer, clubs will want to keep their staff happy and feeling safe. For this reason, there are instances in which some take a more proactive approach in protecting players. For example, following a violent robbery against the homes and families of two its players – Angel Di Maria and Marquinhos – French club Paris Saint Germain paid for security guards around the clock for the entire squad.

Conclusion

Footballers and other sport celebrities are an interesting case study, in the sense that they illustrate just how vulnerable these individuals are at the hands of the determined robber. Of course, not everyone, even among the Hight Net Worth demographic, reaches such levels of wealth and public exposure. However, these examples evidence just how susceptible certain groups are and highlight the importance of taking the correct security precautions.

To make the right decisions, it is critical to first understand what you perceive security to be. Gone are the days where protection simply meant burly men in shades following you around all day impacting your personal life. The most effective security will always add value and is intelligence-led.

For more information on our specialist protection services for the UHNW or high profile, get in touch or visit our dedicated physical protection page.

 

 

 

 

 

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