With many countries bringing lockdowns to an end, what are the key trends for the return to events?
1. Small is beautiful
A lot of effort is being put into bringing fans back to venues safely and quickly to help revive the dormant live events sector, many of which are now gearing up to reopen in the next month or so. One of the key approaches is to run events at a much smaller capacity to test the waters and slowly bring fans back into the fold. This is being tested by the Scottish Rugby Union at Murrayfield stadium where, “About 700 spectators are set to be allowed into the 67,000-capacity Edinburgh venue.” Though the capacity is small, the impact will help pave the way for more fans to feel comfortable with the new measures and increase the desire to return to see their beloved teams.
2. Cashless is key
From our perspective we are noticing an increase in demand for cashless – as a way of minimising queues and crowds, making transactions contactless and ensuring that revenue is maximised and events are as efficient as possible. Our recent partnerships with the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars have had a safe and profitable return to games as a key focus.
3. Keep the momentum
As a result of reduced capacity, sporting organisers are now looking to fill their calendars with more sporting events to compensate for lost revenues and offer fans more chances to see their favourite sports live. The football leagues in Europe have been focused more than ever over the summer months to finish their seasons, for example, LaLiga posted in June that it “hopes to finish the season by July 19, with 11 match days still needing to be completed. Matches are set to be played every day of the week to ensure that the season can be completed on time.” By achieving the completion of the season this summer and with next season starting in quick succession in September, football teams are maintaining the thread of fan engagement to encourage supporters to return to live viewership. Communication and engagement with fans is essential for sports teams to come out of the Covid period successfully.
Certain stadiums and sporting venues have used the “non-event era” to accelerate their plans to open new stadiums or simply offer alternative venues. Formula 1 have announced that, “Turkey’s Istanbul Park will host a Grand Prix for the first time since 2011 this year, after Formula 1 announced four more races have been added to the 2020 calendar.”
With the addition of this circuit, Formula 1 are pulling out all the stops, giving fans as much access as possible to their live car racing events – creating more opportunities to see races and make up for their loss in revenue over the lockdown period. Formula 1 are running their circuits for the autumn season in quick succession with back to back dates in locations throughout the Middle East, taking the number of total races for the year to 17. This is only slightly behind the 21 races last year.
Delving headfirst into the reality of live concerts post Covid has been Germany’s response to live event planning in the new era. Germany has decided to run an experiment “to understand how the virus could be prevented from spreading at large indoor concerts.” This experiment is helping to “identify a framework for how larger cultural and sports events could be held without posing a danger for the population” This research not only assists in bringing fans back to live events, thus making them more comfortable and make them want to repeat the experience soon after, but also explores how other venues can adopt the findings of the study to re-open safely with new measures and layouts to bring back revenue and a level of normality to live events.
5. Provide physical reassurance
In boxing and many other sectors, temperature checks on entrance are being used to screen and reassure fans and staff. Venue operators will not only be scanning visitors for physical weapons, but also an invisible one that has proved to be equally as harmful. Temperature checks will be a feature at the majority of sporting grounds to help identify people with symptoms of Covid. Putting these measures in place provides fans with more assurances of safety with people being denied access if they exhibit symptoms and that a plan is being put in place with their safety in mind.
6. Don’t burst the bubble!
Other sports have dealt with the return by working hard to keep the levels of transmission down for their players and staff to ensure that when sports do return, they are uninterrupted by players contracting Covid. The “NBA bubble” was employed by the NBA to combat transmission rates and it seems to have worked as, in August it was reported that “Among the 341 basketball players tested, zero were positive for the novel coronavirus.” The NBA have decided to tackle Covid by implementing measures for their players and staff which will in turn protect the fans attending the games by making sure there are social distancing measures in place.
Every sport, venue and country is focussed on ensuring a safe return – and it is useful to understand the approaches that are becoming considered the norm. Whilst there are many differences, the same common thread of ensuring staff and fan safety, social distancing and avoiding crowds is the main focus. Whether it’s through smaller numbers at stadiums or mapping out one-way systems or going cashless and access control – the fans are coming back.