Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Sport Industry Group's partners have each taken steps to innovate, survive and excel during the lockdown period. From new product launches and pivots in strategy, to serving the market, clients and staff in innovative ways - we want to celebrate their work.
For the latest edition of the series, Working Through Lockdown, we spoke to Giles Stanford, Director of Global Events, CSM Live, about the work the agency has done in creating bio-seure venues for organisations across the sporting spectrum.
We have provided services primarily to the ECB and the Premier League. The principal objective has been to help the governing bodies implement their obligations to get their venues working securely as well as looking good on broadcast. This has included vehicle and pedestrian check points, hundreds of hand sanitiser points, health screening stations, re-routing and segregation in venue, new wayfinding signage, additional facilities (such as toilets and changing rooms) and acres of 'seat kill' to brand the seating bowl captured on camera.
How difficult was it to deal with such an unprecedented situation when creating bio-secure venues? What experience or knowledge did you have to lean on, or was it a complete unknown?
We worked closely with the venue and governing bodies as well as the relevant medical teams, and health and safety specialists also considered the plan (with guidance from the DCMS & Sports Grounds Safety Authority [SGSA]). Our role was the practical implementation of their strategy.
It was unprecedented but perfectly sensible, some of methodology for operations and segregation was copied from the NHS as we had been involved in the construction of the Dragon’s Heart Hospital in the Millennium Stadium, which was a very beneficial learning experience.
How much freedom did rightsholders give you to create the necessary precautions? Were they happy to ‘give you the keys’ in essence?
We worked very closely with medical teams, and our practical experience and resources helped execute simple but effective solutions.
How difficult was it as a team to be at the frontier of the COVID response?
It required considerable discipline to ensure that our teams could operate safely and continuously. Two or three completely separate teams were required, each one working in a 'stand-alone' way to eliminate any cross contamination therefore being able to continue working. Local accommodation was not available so many long days travelling in individual cars to all the various sites were required.
Outside of the bio-security, how have you had to adapt in your approach to major events post-COVID?
The only way forward at the moment is to consider bio-security, the whole industry has had to adapt. Currently there really is no 'outside bio-security'.
What new challenges did you face when approaching empty stadia and how did you overcome them?
It was proven possible to host and operate sports events behind closed doors with a limited attendance (of 300), however making it fit for broadcast was the challenge: what would the venue look like, would sound be required, how would the players celebrate.
In the end the simplest solution was the best: to, scope, design, approve, print, and install 150,000m2 of branding.
To do that in just two weeks, across 20 stadiums, was extremely challenging. But due to the circumstances our supply chain was delighted and appreciated the volume of work.
What opportunities do you think have arisen from both bio-secure venues and empty stadia?
The circumstances have proven that the event sport industry is resilient and resourceful, all stakeholders will adapt to entertain and host an event. This lateral thinking should be expanded to ensure we all continue to create new opportunities.
Has the 'seat kill' project in the Premier League proved to be more valuable than the pitch side LED, for example?
Enhanced cleaning will also require more resources; concessions will need to adapt to cashless payments and pre-ordering, perhaps seat delivery. In the short-term more stewards will also be required. In terms of branding, too, more signs will be needed to operate within the 'new norm'.
Once a vaccine is found and fans begin returning to stadia, will we see a complete revert back to the pre-COVID normal or do you think certain aspects will remain in place for the long term?
We will return to normal, humanity lives with lots of diseases and we cope.
But contingency plans and stadium operations will need to be re-written to allow the quick deployment of bio-security measures depending on the level of threat - similar to anti-terrorist operations already in place.