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Sports and Coronavirus: How Stadiums Reopen While Keeping Fans Safe

2020 was a year of sacrifice for sports fans with the coronavirus pandemic forcing stadiums to cancel live events and limit in-person fan attendance. Now, after nine months of mostly empty seats, stadiums around the world are slowly beginning to allow fans into sporting events, with new precautions and technology-driven solutions in place that include contactless ticketing and mobile ordering, time-slot based entrance, crowd-density measures, and in-seat concessions.

What Are Stadiums Doing As They Welcome Back Fans at Sporting Events During Coronavirus?

As coronavirus restrictions are slowly lifted in all corners of the world, UK stadiums have had to learn to adapt to the new normal, in order to welcome fans back at sporting events. With limitations in place, such as no approaching players for autographs and face masks are required as fans enter the stadium and walk to their seats, stadiums are getting innovative with their modifications to keep safety in mind. “Every component of events will be supported by digital, touchless communication. Designing for safety will be an essential strategy,” says Jaci Badzin of TechTable when asked about her expectations for the future of in-person events.

Tottenham Hotspur Football Club recently welcomed 1,000 fans in the North London Derby against Arsenal, Northern Ireland's Windsor Park admitted 1,060 people for the Euro 2020 playoff against Slovakia in November, and fans gathered at Brunton Park to watch Carlisle United play Salford City on December 2. Luton and Wycombe's matches limited attendance to 1,000, with Luton fans excitedly waving banners that proclaimed, "We're Back!"

London’s O2 Arena recently announced that it will be reopening at full capacity with a ‘Welcome Back’ series of events starting in August, running through December 2021. These events will be the venue's first full-capacity shows since March 2020. Their anticipation is that 2022 will be their busiest season yet.

Edgbaston Stadium was one of the first venues to welcome fans back, aided by the use of a digital ticketing and contactless ordering solution. Warwickshire cricketer Chris Woakes says “Playing in front of a full house at Edgbaston is up there with one of the best feelings going...The quicker we can get them back - and safely - the better.” 

In the U.S., it was mostly empty seats at NFL stadiums. Despite Florida giving the Dolphins clearance for full capacity, the team has limited attendance to 13,000 fans for its home games. The NFL has plans to fill stadiums to capacity starting in the fall with the help of Cisco Systems Inc. Their hope is to create a league-wide structure to keep all stadiums on the same network in an effort to improve traffic flow and security. This network improvement can also open the league up to possible application upgrades for teams and fans.

With the upcoming Indy 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has decided to do away with temperature checks and to instead implement contactless ticketing and mobile app ordering for their nearly 135,000 expected guests. 

With such a range of policies across stadiums, what is the path ahead? Along with testing and mobile ordering, new opportunities through technology are reasons for hope.

New Health and Safety Measures

Testing

Swallow Events has developed a COVID-19 testing kit created specifically for the event industry. They claim test results from their kits will be available within 15 minutes. While this may be ideal for large sports arenas, it may be cost-prohibitive for smaller venues because of the cost of setup.

Concessions

With restrictions around restaurants and pubs lessening in most areas, expectations for venue food and beverage solutions have only become even more important. Mobile app ordering is now becoming the norm. With targeted concession push notifications, venues can keep better track of the flow of their visitors. Plus, advanced database integrations are allowing for a smooth, contactless food and beverage delivery and pick up system.

Technology

  • Contactless ticketing is available at the O2 and The SSE Arena, Wembley via Realife Tech-powered mobile applications.
  • Ticketmaster has developed a tool called SmartEvent that will use algorithms that factor venue size and distance between seats when selling tickets and a timed entry tool. Contactless ticketing mobile apps, a contactless box office, in-seat concessions, and merchandise pre-order are also features of the SmartEvent tool.
  • Manchester-based VST Enterprises has developed the V-Health Passport, a "digital health passport." The mobile application features contact tracing using anonymized data and will store COVID-19 test results and vaccination status.

There's Hope in New Technology

Advancements in new technology that drive sales and maintain health & safety could be the silver lining for stadiums and venues: Visa has found that fans at live events spend 25% more when using cashless payments. Realife Tech’s Platform can make fans comfortable at every step in their journey with heat maps and density locators for social distancing and real-time message alerts triggered by fan location.

Learn today how Realife Tech is working with stadiums to create a better experience for fans.

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