It is Christmas, the season of wishes, and the return of fans to the football fields and basketball halls is one of the most repeated in Spanish homes. Why sport is not understood without supporters in the stands, whose breath drives the athletes and contributes to improving the show, and because there have been many months with orphaned and soulless stadiums. Absence that has plunged the clubs into financial difficulties and that seems to have, at last, its days numbered. Thus, within the slow de-escalation of the pandemic, the inevitable return of fans to sports venues in Spain is getting closer and closer. Irene Lozano, president of the Higher Sports Council (CSD), confirmed a few days ago that in January the possibility of allowing a staggered return of followers in professional leagues, which have been empty stadiums for ten months, will be studied. Green light that will still have to pass several filters and that requires a previous preparation of the stadiums, adapting them to the new needs of sanitary security, but at the same time providing them with new tools that help the teams to obtain more benefits despite having a smaller capacity. They are the stages of the post-Covid era, in which they have been working for a long time and whose measures will forever change the experience of the followers within the fields.
Going to a stadium will never be the same again. The coronavirus has forever altered part of people’s habits and live sport is no stranger to these changes. «Many of the measures that will be launched in the coming weeks come because of Covid-19, but most will stay forever. Because beyond those implemented for health safety, many others will improve the fan experience and they will not go back with them. They were ideas that were perhaps intended to land within five or ten years and what the pandemic has done is advance them, “explains Fran Carrasco to ABC, CEO of Molcaworld, a Spanish company dedicated to the revitalization of stadiums and their adaptation in times of crisis.
Among those measures to which Carrasco alluded, the most important, the ones that the clubs must comply with if they want to see the public in their stands again, are the sanitary ones. The arrival to the field and the entrance to the enclosure is the hottest moment, in which both the Government and LaLiga and the ACB must take more care. Thus, the facilities will have to be equipped with temperature control systems, medical rooms to isolate and treat followers suspected of being infected or ozone nebulizer arches to disinfect belongings or vehicles. «The turnstile area is one of the most important, because there you control who accesses the site. Our recommendation is the installation of thermal control cameras, which have proven to be an inexpensive and very effective instrument and quickly detect any anomaly without having to force the hobbyist to pass an individual check to see if it is suitable. Then, the ideal in the rest of the stadium is for the fan to avoid contact, so it is preferable to install elements that do not require interaction such as automatic doors, scheduled refreshment toilets, or faucets with sensors. One of the keys to the new architecture is to avoid contact, which is something that is perfectly developed in the industry and perfectly applicable “, he tells ABC Mark Fenwick, managing partner of the architecture studio Fenwick-Iribarren, responsible for dozens of sports projects around the world.
Within this transformation of the stadiums, everything will be designed to help improve the fan experience. The capacity will be reduced, of course, but that does not have to be a negative thing. Today, the distance between seats is minimal, which often means that you have to live the game “side by side” with the person next to you. «The seats will tend to be more widely spaced
This will help reduce the risk of contagion, but also give the fan a series of services that make match day more enjoyable.. It is time for this revolution, ”says Carrasco, whose company has revitalized most of LaLiga’s stadiums and whose projects include the remodeling of Azteca de México. Fenwick agrees with this idea, convinced that this is the future and that it is already here. «In the stadiums that we are renovating, the important thing is to create restaurant areas, commercial areas or simply places to be. If we take into account that the fan will arrive at the stadium earlier, since the entrance must be staggered, we must give them things to do inside. In these first months, still marked by the pandemic, they will be activities away from contact, but then there will be experiences of all kinds, “says the architect.
Less capacity, more income
Thus, it is already working with mobile applications that allow you to order from the bar while watching the meeting or having any merchandising item delivered without having to go to the store or queue at the checkout. «They are technologies that already exist although until now they were rarely used, at least here in Spain. Now it is something that will accelerate and that will end up reaching the stadiums sooner rather than later, ”both experts acknowledge.
One of the concerns of the clubs is the reduction in revenue per match day as there are fewer fans. «New experiences must be introduced that help make the business profitable and increase the average ticket per follower. So, It will be possible to pay to see how the players come out of the locker room, how they interact with each other in the tunnel before leaving or attend the press conference and the mixed zone after the match in person», Says Carrasco. It refers to the possibility – which already exists in some stadiums – of experiencing the exit of the players from the dressing room tunnel in situ, of listening to the press conference or sitting next to the substitutes on the bench. In addition, in one of their latest projects, they have devised the creation of a 360 room that will allow fans to see the locker room door, the exit tunnel, the press room and the mixed zone. “It is like an opaque ‘fishbowl’ for the players, but it allows fans to see their idols coming out onto the pitch or giving their explanations to the press. It is something unprecedented in the world of sport, for which many fans are willing to pay, because it makes the experience much more special, “he says.
Furthermore, the idea that sports venues are just that should be abandoned and also opened outside of match days. «They have to be spaces that have a use of seven days a week and even that they fulfill a function for the community, with areas for the elderly, nurseries, medical areas … They have to be multipurpose, multifunctional. Like a swiss army knife“Says Fenwick, whose studio has been responsible, among others, for the design of several stadiums for the Qatar World Cup.
In short, a revolution that will transform the way the parties live and will help alleviate the economic blow that the pandemic has caused for many teams, which have had to carry out drastic economic measures for their workers.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.