Stadiums have been forced to adapt during the pandemic, from being out of use during shutdowns to hosting matches without fans to now introducing new procedures and innovations allowing fans to attend matches safely.
Aderassa Sports & Entertainment specialise in advising sports venue owners and operators.
CEO of Aderassa, Oliver Mazé told TheStadiumBusiness.com the business models for stadiums have changed due to COVID-19.
“Stadia and arenas are facing, and will face, two real challenges. Firstly, how to keep venues safe for attendees. If venues are not safe enough for attendance at least until 2022, authorities should not authorise them to be open,” Mazé said.
“In terms of attracting attendees, this pandemic is a real trauma for all of us and will leave a footprint in our mind for decades. The fear of crowds will be in our minds for a long time, because nobody can guarantee it will be gone forever. We need to live with the virus and provide the safest places as possible, and communicate this to show attendees they can come, enjoy and be safe.”
There are several areas in which stadiums have adapted and will continue to be managed during the pandemic and into the future.
Stadiums have moved to becoming contact free – contactless payment at food and merchandise stalls via tap and go has become the norm during the pandemic. Online ordering of food and beverages is another innovation which has become important, allowing for people to order their food whilst avoiding large crowds at stalls.
At some stadiums, contactless technologies are being introduced for doors and bathrooms.
The installation of hygiene stations with sanitiser also help to keep fans and safe and minimise the spread of infection.
Chief Technology Officer of Los Angeles FC, Christian Lau recently spoke to fcbusiness of the technology innovations at the Banc of California Stadium
“Coming into the stadium, we’re installing new access controls via our partner Axess Control based out of Austria. We’ll be adding a thermal scanner to check people’s temperature along with mask detection,” Lau said.
“So upon arrival visitors will have their ticket scanned, temperature checked and checked if they have a mask on before the turnstile opens up.”
Michal Pyda is the Business Development Executive at Roboticket. In fcbusiness, he spoke of how the company is working to provide ticketing solutions.
“Pre-COVID, the normal situation is to maximise attendance whilst minimising the gaps between fans sitting together, so we already had the mechanisms to keep people sitting tight on the stands. In order to create an automatic buffer between each transaction we implemented a reverse version of the algorithm covering complex geometrical models allowing us to shape any buffer around each transaction,” Pyda said.
“Crucially, this mechanism is flexible so it can be adapted to work around any changes to social distancing rules that are created by law or the FA. This customisation is also required to be adaptable to the individual requirements across different territories. Today we may have a two-metre separation rule but tomorrow it might be one metre so the mechanism needs to be flexible.”
COVID-19 has also increased the use of mobile ticketing. Research completed by Juniper Research last year suggested that there will be a 64% increase to $23 billion in spending on mobile tickets for sporting events by 2023. This will be a major increase from $14 billion in 2019.
Staggered entry and exit times will also become common to avoid large crowds gathering at gates outside games, this also helps to spread the times at which people access public transport to get to and from matches.
Managing director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) for stadium architect Populous, Christopher Lee told SportsPro in May that there is potential for the in stadium experience to be recreated virtually.
“We’re anticipating the integration of some kind of remote audience, whether that’s VR (virtual reality), how they’re portrayed in-bowl itself,” Lee said.
“If you look at any of the big clubs, Manchester United, they’ll get a couple of million people physically through their doors [per season], but social media says they have 650 million fans around the world. A reasonable percentage will watch a game live somewhere, and it’s how you then bring that remote audience into a live stadium audience – so using screens and boards – and I think you’ll see more of that.
“We will see more sophisticated ways of watching your favourite team, whether it’s using VR, or AR [augmented reality]…and having that represented in the stadium. I think that is something that will stay much longer than just to do with Covid.”
Digital screens around the ground and scoreboards are being used to provide alerts and to remind fans of social distancing regulations that they need to follow.
Some football leagues are already using facial recognition technology, Serie A have previously used the technology to identity fans who are responsible for racist behaviour at matches.
Artificial intelligence and facial recognition can be used to monitor crowds at concession stands or look back and identity who has come into contact with a positive COVID case.
“There are more sophisticated versions that also add a track and trace overlay on top of that, so it tells you if you’re within two metres or eventually if you’ve been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the virus. [There is also] a lot of work on robots linked to CCTV cameras and central command posts where they can enforce social distancing,” Lee said.
Football Australia and stadium management will be looking to introduce as many of these innovations as possible to allow spectators to attend matches while ensuring the safety of those fans who do attend matches.