Smart technology for stadium safety

Mark McCormack

The experience of being in a sports stadium – the noise, the anticipation, the connection with fellow and rival fans – can often be as important as the actual event itself (and sometimes more so). The Covid-19 pandemic reminded many of us how we’d taken the pleasure of watching sports live among fellow fans for granted. Now we’ve returned, we relish the experience even more.

2022 is a big year in football. We’ve already seen a hugely successful women’s Euro tournament taking place in England, and the World Cup in the men’s game will be held in Qatar during November and December. With the women’s tournament attracting record crowds and the World Cup sure to be well attended, fan safety and comfort continues to be a priority for organizers.

The lessons learned during the pandemic have led to stadiums making some significant changes in order to ensure the health and safety of live sports audiences. Here are just some of the practices that sports stadiums are starting to implement or consider.

In the parking lot

A big part of the game day experience for many fans has been the pre-event activities in the parking lot. Network surveillance cameras can give security a comprehensive view of the car park. With the addition of video and audio analytics and speaker horns, security can be alerted when a party grows larger than desired or exhibit any anti-social behavior likely to make other fans feel uncomfortable pre representing a safety risk. Staff would have the option of physically intervening or broadcasting a warning to revelers before events get out of hand.

At the gate

Even before the pandemic, many stadiums were moving to e-ticketing, saving themselves the cost of printing and mailing fans their tickets. While the loss of souvenir ticket stubs may disappoint some, scanning a fan’s smartphone is far more sanitary than exchanging bits of paper at the gate.

Stadiums are also looking to smartphones to help them stage entry times into the stadium. Instead of the traditional stampede when the gates open, stadiums can notify fans through a smartphone app when it’s their turn to queue at a specific gate.

With the addition of queue management analytics stadiums can address bottlenecks at the entrances in real-time and automatically alert staff when they need to move some fans to a less congested gate.

Inside the stadium

Eager to keep their fans and staff protected, stadiums are shifting to touchless, cashless operations. To avoid crowded concourses, with fans lining up to purchase food and souvenirs, stadiums are adopting their own version of ‘click and collect’. Instead of congregating to eat on the concourse, fans place and pay for their orders through their smartphones and are notified when they’re ready for pickup. Once they pick up their order, the new norm will be to return to their seats to eat.

As a result of creating a touchless experience following the pandemic, stadiums have fitted bathrooms with touchless door controls, faucets, and towel dispensers. Some are also using video analytics and network speakers to track and limit how many people can be in a bathroom at a time.

In the VIP lounges and bars, occupancy management analytics are also being used to enforce assembly limits dictated by local guidelines. If a gathering crowd reaches a threshold, stadium personnel automatically receive an alert to disperse the group into smaller parties.

Beyond health and safety, stadiums are using intelligent network video technology to improve situational awareness across their entire operation. For example:

  • Alerting security when motion analytics detect an unauthorized person attempts to enter a restricted area like the players’ dressing room, press boxes, VIP suites, catering kitchens, etc.
  • Monitoring the kitchens to assure the staff follows proper health and safety protocols when handling and preparing food
  • Oversee activity at merchandise kiosks and retail shops to detect pilfering and unsanctioned giveaways
  • Record loading dock deliveries and provide forensic evidence to reconcile discrepancies

Managing event exit

If the home team is losing or it’s such a one-sided match that the final result is inevitable, fans want to exit early to beat the traffic. Stadiums are exploring strategies that will allow them to maintain health and safety standards without feeling too restrictive to fans. Technology solutions can help manage the movement of a large crowd to maintain health and safety, along with the all-important audio communications to keep everyone informed.

New norms, new challenges

While a lot of the conversation following the pandemic was about getting fans back in the stands and centered on operations, stadiums haven’t lost focus on security. Any operational improvements meant to address the new norm of heightened health and safety need to be reviewed from the perspective of security to ensure they don’t create any unintended consequences.

As stadiums have returned to full capacity, they have faced new challenges they hadn’t previously anticipated. But with help from intelligent network technology, stadiums are delivering the full fan experience in all its exciting glory.

More information about Axis solutions for stadiums can be found here.

Stadium and venues