The “new normality” that brought the covid-19 pandemic extends to football, with the suspension of leagues or closed stadiums. KPMG, an international consultant, has been using its Footbal Benchmark platform to assess this impact on sport-king, now focusing on the new characteristics that stadiums of the future will have to comply with in order to comply with health standards in force.
The 2011 “UEFA Guide to Quality Stadiums”, developed in conjunction with the architectural studio Fenwick Iribarren, points out “the need to create suitable structures for people who provide maximum comfort and safety” as a first recommendation. In 2020, and given the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus, the definition of “security” involves two new factors that, in 2011, would not be relevant: social distance and the need for contact with as few surfaces and / or objects as possible . Thus, a new study by the aforementioned studio, entitled “Architecture for a post-viral era”, provides a general analysis of how the pandemic will affect our use of public and private spaces, from the city's infrastructure, public transport or the very remote work environment, as well as recommendations on how to design future sports complexes, especially football stadiums.
One of the main aspects that brought about the pandemic was the need for social distance, which also affected the perception of individuals of their comfort space, which is now much wider. The recommendation to keep two meters of distance between people means that spaces to be created in the future have to be wider, or that the capacity of existing ones be reduced. On the other hand, the issue of touching objects on surfaces will also have to be minimized. Fenwick argues that, for this purpose, technology will play a decisive role, with the use of sensors to open and close doors or to operate hygiene equipment such as toilets or taps. Mobile technology will also be key in both aspects, with virtual tickets or the possibility to order and pay for food and drink at break without leaving the seat (which also avoids crowds at stadium food stands). Other relevant aspects are related to the need for screening at the entrance of the stadiums or greater ventilation of the infrastructures, in order to circulate the air, the main means of spreading the virus.
The implementation of these measures will represent a cost for the clubs, which have already seen their ticket revenues, an important source of income, suffer considerable leaks with the suspension of the leagues and the resumption without fans at the stadium. With the 10 richest clubs in the world making an average of 17,79% of their operating income from ticket sales, it is immediate that the impossibility of having spectators at the games represents a considerable financial hole. For these 10 clubs, the estimated loss of box office revenue is, on average, 20,53 million euros. And the losses may not stop here, if sanitary restrictions are maintained for a longer period.
Mark Fenwick, the head of Fenwick Iribarren, is optimistic about the implementation of the solutions presented, recalling that, during the great disasters in English football that forced the establishment of seats, the clubs adapted quickly, as well as the need to new security procedures after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Also Andrea Sartori, the head of the sport division at KPMG, also shares the optimism regarding the demand behavior, stressing that, despite the lack of a metric that allow for a data-based prediction, "experience shows that when a direct or indirect threat of crisis disappears, people tend to resume their routine activities - especially if this is their passionate hobby". On the other hand, if a considerable percentage of fans are reluctant to return to the stadiums, this will lead to a greater demand for television broadcasts of the games and, therefore, to a greater appreciation of the clubs' television rights.