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How stadium technology will work after COVID-19

Stadiums have been forced to adapt during the pandemic, introducing new procedures and innovations allowing fans to attend matches safely.

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.

Hygiene

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.”

Ticketing

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.

Digitalisation

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.

Daniel Foley is a sports junior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and micro industry matters.

Valencia CF presents revised stadium upgrade plans

Valencia CF President Anil Murthy has stated the club will not deliver a “low-cost stadium” after holding talks with Mayor Joan Ribó over reviving the long-running Nuevo Mestella project.

Valencia CF President Anil Murthy has stated the club will not deliver a “low-cost stadium” after holding talks with Mayor Joan Ribó over reviving the long-running Nuevo Mestella project.

Valencia’s stadium, the Nuevo Mestalla, was originally under construction in 2009. However, over the last 12 years, due to financial issues and negotiation breakdowns, construction has never been completed and the situation has become known as one of the world’s most notorious stadium projects.

Murthy presented revised plans to a Council delegation led by Ribó, with the club seeking to recommence work on the stadium in order to ensure it retains the advantages granted to it under an ATE construction license given in 2012.

The plans presented to the council include a stadium capacity between 43,000 to 46,000, expandable to 60,000. The stadium would have a second ring dedicated almost exclusively to leisure and restaurant offerings, while the roof will be fitted with solar panels in an effort to drive sustainability.

Valencia Mayor, Joan Ribo:

“Initially it is proposed for a capacity comparable to that which the (Mestalla) stadium currently has (48,500), but expandable to 62,000 spectators. But I think this is not the fundamental element,” he said.

“The fundamental element is the novelty of this second ring that has seemed to me to be a remarkable element that is not in many football stadia. They propose a roof that is made of photovoltaic panels, which is an example at that level that I want to value.

“They have assured us that they have guarantees with the bank where they have the debt, which is now Caixabank.

“They have presented us with a calendar where in June 2022 the works of the sports centre would begin, in October 2022 the start of the works of the stadium and in August 2024 the inauguration of the new Mestalla. The calendar seems realistic and possible, but if it is not met, they will listen to us.”

In December, Valencia revealed plans to use funds from LaLiga’s strategic venture, with global investment fund CVC Capital Partners to help finance the construction of its new stadium. Valencia is reportedly set to receive approximately $189 million AUD from LaLiga as part of the LaLiga Impulso venture. $125 million of which is set to head to the stadium project.

Valencia CF President, Anil Murthy:

“The meeting has been very positive. After the two meetings with the Generalitat, today we have taken an important step by formally presenting the project we have to the important institution, which is the City Council,” he said.

“We have agreed on recommencing work as soon as possible, after presenting the project to the Generalitat and the City Council.

“Nobody talks about a low-cost stadium. It’s going to be a stadium that’s going to give a lot of people a lot of hope and it’s going to mean a lot of investment in the city. It’s going to be something different and something attractive.”

Tigres secures deal for new 65,000 seat stadium

Mexican soccer giants Tigres UANL have secured a deal to see a brand new 65,000 seat stadium ready by 2025.

Mexican soccer giants Tigres UANL have secured a deal to see a brand new 65,000 seat stadium ready by 2025.

The stadium will be based in the heart of San Nicolás de los Garza, Nuevo León, and will be replacing the old 42,000 seat stadium, known as Estadio Universitario, The previous stadia has been the home of Tigres since 1967.

The new stadium was presented on Thursday, January 13 at a meeting that included Governor of Nuevo León and Samuel García, through a Memorandum of Understanding to commence construction.

Tigres’ future home was designed by architecture firm Populous and envisioned to be entirely privately financed at a cost of $445 million AUD.

The stadium’s features will include a retractable pitch, as well as being able to host concerts and international sporting events like American football games.

As part of the overall plans, the stadium will include separate changing rooms for Tigres’ men’s and women’s teams, while the exterior stadia complex will complement with a hotel, shopping centre and restaurants. The venue is also intended to act as an incubator for local business, and will also have classrooms catering for the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL).

Juego de Pelota principle partner, César Esparza:

“There is going to be another setting for concerts and sport,” he said.

“It is a stadium prepared to host all sports, this stadium will be the postcard of Nuevo León.

“Stadium events will not be expensive for fans, as long as it has that capacity it will allow us to create different price levels for events, becoming inclusive for all people.”

UANL Tigres parent company member, Mauricio Doehner:

“Today Tigres is internationally recognised and we are always striving for more,” he said.

“Of course we deserve a new stadium, it will be the headquarters in this new era. Today, Tigres is not only a benchmark in Mexican soccer, but also on an International stadium. The Estadio Universitario has given greatness to Club Tigres and all the fans, we will honour it forever.”

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