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How could life in stadiums change after the coronavirus?



Header Image by Eric Alonso via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic will have a big impact in society, business and also sports and even life in stadiums. How will football adapt to it?

The impact of COVID–19 keeps on undulating through the world’s well-being and business establishments. The sports ecosystem is no different. Games, competitions and even the Olympics are being dropped or deferred, upsetting groups, competitors, mentors and alliances. Proprietors, telecasters and promoters are attempting to make sense of the downstream effect of event abrogation’s and alterations.

Stadiums are built for full capacity, taking in enough income to counterbalance the obligation of operations and payrolls. The duration of the coronavirus crisis will have the most critical effect. On the off chance that the pandemic endures longer than a year, all the stakeholders should think about perpetual increases to fields, which will influence capital upgrades. With all this in mind, let’s analyse the possible solutions to such big impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the life inside sports arenas.

Short term

Fan relationships

Teams, owners and sponsors would need to rethink the fan experience. Germany’s Bundesliga has become the first top international football league to return to the pitch after stopping its season due to the coronavirus pandemic in early March, but no fans have been allowed this time. The Bundesliga’s strict health protocol, which was developed in collaboration with health officials, means only players, staff, team officials, broadcasters and security personnel are allowed to be inside the stadium during games. All the top tier leagues can follow this protocol for a limited period of time, but not for long.

Meanwhile, what teams can do? Can they leverage the suppression of sports activity to raise public awareness about health officials? Certainly yes. Campaigns like #Culerathome by FC Barcelona have led to spectacular figures for the club.

Barcelona coronavirus stadiums

Going forward, certain principle changes must be made to maintain social distancing inside venues if that’s the plan top tier leagues go ahead with.

Long term

Note: Considering spectators are allowed within venues but with massive reduced overall capacity. But in such case we are literally talking about bringing down to quarter or less.

Egress and ingress strategies

Due to social distancing norms coming in, design and operational principles for the sporting venues would require a rework. Contactless services have transitioned from convenience to a considerable necessity. As a theoretical exercise, a combination of the following could prove effective:

• Restriction on supporter buses and public transport to sporting venues. Limiting the attendance within stadiums to home fans, putting restrictions on international attendance.

• Tech-enabled contactless parking.

• Phased – time-based – ingress and egress activity in groups, according to ticket status – like pattern or colour-coding. Entry points must have disinfection stations and, having a PPE should be mandatory to enter arenas.

• Meals within the venues can be provided with e-tokens to avoid long queues – e.g. cashier-less outlets. Else, in-seat delivery model can be adopted.

Just Walk Out technology by Amazon Go

Also, clubs megastores and museums are responsible for major revenue generation. Last year Barcelona earned €58 million in revenue just from museums. To increase the footfall post lockdown, the adoption of technology could be a way ahead. A similar model of Just Walk Out Technology which is used by Amazon Go stores can be adopted, with some additional rules for the customers. Like, providing remote access for shopping with pre generated e-tokens. With this, customised jersey’s that fans look for can be taken care of. Amazon themselves are looking to expand their reach of this technology into other markets.

❛ Amazon wants to bring its cashier-less Go technology to other places, like airport stores and movie theatres, in a bid to expand its reach and potentially win more cloud customers ❜

Dilip Kumar
vice president of physical retail and technology at Amazon

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Optimising siting arrangement to maintain social distancing norms

Seating arrangements can be optimised to maintain social distancing in venues. Let’s take the Camp Nou stadium plan as an example. According to the plan, there are 71 exits and 549 different seating plans, for different views, each seating box plan containing a certain number of rows and columns.

Camp Nou Barcelona coronavirus stadiums

Camp Nou map

Assuming section 549 has eight rows by eight seats, we can find an optimal seating solution for the case where each spectator is seated within an acceptable distance between them.

coronavirus stadiums

This case is very simplified and static assuming all spectators remain seated at their given seats. But if we increase the complexity – say, we need to provide tickets in a group of 1, 2, 3 and 4 and also people coming together are made sure to be seated together – we can come up with a robust model, with the help of analytics and optimisation, and with real data in hand.

The above strategies are structural and need of the hour. In history too, there have been quite a few examples. For instance, the great disasters in England changed stadiums with people standing up to people sitting down, and seating capacity was reduced by 30 percent. Additionally, after the September 11 attacks in 2001, the entire process of security changed. This pandemic also is going to bring the necessary reduction of capacity. But it could be a sustainable and saleable challenge.

A different game

More or less, a part of all these strategies coming into play will be based on the assumption that people coming to watch a match will behave in a very responsible way.

Seating arrangement solutions could also be used by transport operators to work out the social distancing capacity of buses, trains, and also by educational institutes. Usage and dependency on technology will be a way forward.

❛ Football, like life, in general will never be the same after the coronavirus ❜

Lionel Messi

What about the economic impact? Perhaps any occupancy is better than none, but such low attendance is unlikely to cover the costs of many sports and entertainment organisations. Clubs would also lose their allure to broadcasters if the situation doesn’t improve.

At last, the most significant thing for the media and entertainment industry is to help hinder the spread of the virus and keep people informed about what people should do to stay safe. With luck, these disruptions will just be temporary. Beyond this, the industry is in uncharted waters.

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