How Will Football Stadiums Enforce Social Distancing?
It was a disappointing moment for football fans when Boris Johnson announced back in September that a phased safe return to football stadiums from 1st October 2020 was no longer on the horizon.
COVID-19 has prevented millions of football fans from cheering on their beloved teams from the stands since early March, shortly before UK lockdown commenced.
Leicester v Aston Villa was the final Premier League game to hold spectators on 9th March, with all remaining games for the 2019/20 season taking place behind closed doors.
Without a doubt, football fans are desperately keen to get back into the UK’s football stadiums to show their loyalty and support for their teams. However, many will be curious as to how football stadiums will enforce social distancing and ensure that crowds are kept safe.
Here we will examine the proposed health and safety regulations for football stadiums to keep spectators safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
When can football fans return to stadiums?
It is currently unclear as to when UK football stadiums will reopen. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, abandoned plans to return from 1st October following rapidly rising COVID-19 cases. It is thought that the return to stadiums could be delayed for six months.
The return to football stadiums was set to be dependent on several successful pilot events, which initially included the World Snooker Championship, Glorious Goodwood and County Cricket matches. Many of these pilot events sadly had to be cancelled as the rate of infection rose.
Responding to criticism on the delayed return, Oliver Dowden from The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) stated that “we are doing things that are positively hateful, but the reason we are doing it is to secure public safety.”
What will be the new capacity at football stadiums?
Football stadiums will have to operate at a significantly reduced capacity to adhere to government health, safety and social distancing guidelines.
A draft document from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) entitled ‘Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds: Planning for Social Distancing’ has revealed that capacity at football stadiums could initially be as low as 17% with a maximum of 33%.
It was hoped that operating at 50% capacity could be a possibility. However, it was deemed that this would cause an issue with spectator safety as well as the ability to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Professor James Calder commented, “I would be surprised if we could get full stadia back this year. Realistically I think it probably will need a vaccine and also a high take-up rate of that vaccine before we can see full capacity stadia.”
What other health and safety protocols will operate at football stadiums?
In addition to reduced capacities, there will also be several other health and safety protocols in place to help keep football stadiums safe for spectators.
- Socially distanced seating arrangements – keeping several seats within the same row unoccupied as well as alternating rows.
- Operating COVID-19 officers to ensure spectators follow safety and social distancing guidelines
- Tickets designed to allow for contactless entry into football stadiums
- Varied allocated arrival and exit times and different entry and exit points to reduce queuing
- One-way entry flow systems
- Potential temperature checks on arrival
- Hand sanitiser stations throughout football stadiums
- Spectators to remain in seats at all times where possible
- Spectators to take care when shouting, signing or celebrating
These rules will provide a very different matchday experience for football fans following COVID-19. Although it will take some time for operations to revert to ‘normality’, authorities are dedicated to ensuring that the phased return of spectators to football stadiums will be a safe experience for all.
When does the 2020/21 Premier League season begin?
The Premier League has confirmed that the 2020/21 season will commence on 12th September 2020, ending on 23rd May 2021. Fixtures will be announced shortly before the season is due to begin.
The schedule means that the new season will remain behind closed doors until the government deems it safe for fans to return.
While the health and safety protocols in football stadiums will provide a temporarily unusual matchday experience for fans, the protocols mean that a phased safe return to football stadiums can be possible amid COVID-19.
Eventmasters are looking forward to welcoming back our clients to the very best match day experiences within top-flight football as soon as safe to do so. We offer first-class hospitality packages for Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.
To register your interest, please give us a call on 0121 233 6500 to ensure you don’t miss out during the 2020/21 season. We can’t wait to soak up the dynamic atmosphere once again that only football stadiums can provide!