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Manchester United set to trial barrier seating in response to Covid-19

Manchester United has been given the green light by Trafford Council to go ahead with a barrier seating trial at Old Trafford.

United submitted a proposal earlier in the year, following changes to the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (Green Guide) and a feasibility study carried out by the club afterwards.

The approval was confirmed to fan representatives at last week’s Fans’ Forum and follows lengthy discussions held with Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) and the Fans’ Forum in recent years.

Trafford Council’s approval is an agreement in principle for the club to install around 1,500 barrier seats in the North East Quadrant, in sections N2401 and N2402.

United will discuss installation options with potential suppliers, following current UK Government recommendations relating to construction site operating procedures and social distancing. Discussions will also take place with the SGSA to ratify the required amendments to the club’s stadium licence.

“It should be stated up front that our overwhelming priority is to keep our people safe from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Richard Arnold, Group Managing Director, said.

“It may seem strange to talk about stadium plans at this time, but football and our fans will return when it is safe, and our preparations for that must continue in the background.

“This announcement is the latest step in what has been a long journey with our fans. We have listened to their feedback, in particular the representations made by MUST, and worked with Trafford Council to develop and approve this proposal.

“Our belief is that the introduction of barrier seats will enhance spectator safety in areas of the stadium where – as with other clubs – we have seen examples of persistent standing.

It also allows us to future-proof the stadium in the event of any changes to the current all-seater stadium policy. If the trial is successful, we may consider further implementation of barrier seating in other parts of the stadium.

“We will now move on to develop the installation, compliance and licensing plan for the trial with a view to having the new seats installed for when we can welcome our supporters back to Old Trafford.”

The barrier seating trial represents the club’s broader plans to develop the stadium in ways which enhance the match day experience for supporters. In February, United announced the extension of the atmosphere section in the Stretford End’s south-west corner as part of the season ticket launch for 2020/21.

“Both of these initiatives underline our commitment to the continued improvement of Old Trafford, with a focus on further enhancing the matchday experience, atmosphere and safety for all supporters,” Arnold said.

Liam Watson is the Managing Editor at Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

FIFA and Mexican Football Federation’s Supercopa Femenil to encourage growth in women’s football

FIFA

With the financial support of FIFA, the Mexican Football Federation has launched the FIFA | FMF Supercopa Femenil (Women’s Super Cup) as part of its women’s football development programme.

The five-day U-15 tournament (between 3-7 August) organised in Toluca, provided 206 players across 12 teams from Nuevo León, Tlaxcala, Chiapas, Mexico City, Sinaloa, Jalisco, Veracruz, Guanajuato, Estado de México, Baja California, Chihuahua, as well as a representative team from the United States, with an opportunity to have their talents detected by scouts from both Liga MX, and the Mexican national teams.

FIFA will provide technical support, equipment and funding for two years, as well as education and empowerment through seminars for coaches.

The FIFA’s Women’s Development Programme aims to provide all 211 member associations with the opportunity to apply for, and access additional resources and specialist expertise to develop women’s football at a national level.

Member associations can apply for support across eight key areas of women’s football development during the 2020-2023 period. In addition to financial assistance to cover the costs in selected programmes, the FIFA Women’s Development Programme will also provide access to women’s football experts, additional equipment and technical support within FIFA.

“The Supercopa Femenil was born from the dream of bringing Mexican youth players to a competitive showcase for women’s football in our country, attracting the best academies that are supporting the development of players in this category. This has resulted in a life-changing experience to be scouted by national team staff, and those of Liga MX Femenil teams,” Lucia Mijares, FMF Technical Sports Development Director, said in a statement.

Andrea Rodebaugh, FIFA Women’s Football Consultant, added via FIFA:

“Observing the Supercopa Femenil in Mexico has been inspirational. Its implementation is helping strengthen pathways by showcasing talent, motivating players and coaches as well as sharing knowledge and unique experiences so that growth continues where needed. There is so much talent, potential and support from everyone in the FMF. I am very optimistic for the future.”

Karl Dodd, FIFA Women’s Football Expert, stated via FIFA:

“The Supercopa has been well organised and provides a great opportunity for players to gain experience playing against top teams in their age group. It also enables scouts to watch these players, and for coaches to undertake development workshops to further improve the positive impact they have on players, supporting their personal and professional development.”

EA Sports to be the title sponsor for all LaLiga competitions

EA Sports & LaLiga

Beginning from the 2023-24 season onwards, a new multi-year agreement between EA Sports and LaLiga will pave the way for new experiences, deeper in-game integrations, enhanced broadcast communications, and commitment to grassroots initiatives.

The one-of-a-kind, multi-year partnership will allow both parties to deliver groundbreaking experiences for global football fans, with EA SPORTS FC securing title naming rights for all LaLiga competitions.

In addition, the deal will see a complete rebrand of LaLiga with EA Sports including all logos, graphics, fonts and other visual elements, while also delivering new in-game integration, broadcast highlights, and joint commitments to supporting grassroots initiatives.

This new partnership will encompass the first and second divisions of LaLiga (Spain’s top professional football competitions), LaLiga Promises (the league’s annual youth tournament) and eLaLiga.

“EA Sports FC is committed to delivering the most authentic and immersive experiences in global football. Our innovative new partnership with LaLiga further elevates that ambition and solidifies both organizations’ position at the centre of football culture,” David Jackson, VP Brand, EA Sports FC, said in a statement.

“The visible reach and scale of this partnership is deeply exciting, as is the opportunity to deliver incredible experiences for fans through in-game innovation, interactive entertainment and grassroots initiatives.

“EA Sports represents the cutting edge of interactive football experiences while LaLiga is at the forefront of actual football competitions with unmatched in-person, broadcast and digital fan experiences,” said Javier Tebas, President, LaLiga. “We have been strategic partners with EA Sports for years and this expanded agreement is a commitment to providing the next level of innovation to all football fans, a fusion between the virtual and real worlds of football.”

With this partnership, EA Sports and LaLiga will deepen their collaboration. Both LaLiga and EA Sports are committed to grassroots initiatives to grow the game which will include increasing accessibility, upgrading facilities, and many more initiatives to truly immerse fans into the world of football.

“This partnership with EA Sports is set to truly transform the way football is enjoyed around the world,” LaLiga Executive Director Óscar Mayo said via EA Sports.

“Moreover the alliance demonstrates LaLiga is a global brand, evidence of the success of our league to connect with fans internationally.

“We’re thrilled to partner with a worldwide leader in football fandom to better connect our fans to their favourite clubs, players, and LaLiga competitions,” said Nick Wlodyka, SVP & GM, EA Sports FC. “The contributions from LaLiga to our EA Sports FC portfolio will be immense, not only from a visual aspect, but across technological and game development improvements, further blurring the lines between the real and virtual worlds of football.”

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