Euro 2020 at Wembley Stadium: COVID-19 Mitigation Measures

As eleven European venues prepare to host one of the first major international sports events since the pandemic, we explore some of the operational measures in place to manage COVID-19 related risks.

2m distancing sign
Organisers at Wembley Stadium have implemented and tested a series of COVID-19 mitigation measures.

Euro 2020 begins on 11th June, with eight games set to be hosted at Wembley Stadium. This was recently increased when matches scheduled to be held in Dublin were moved to London and St Petersburg, after authorities there were unable to commit to the minimum 25% capacity required by UEFA.

The team at Wembley Stadium are some of the most experienced in the world and will be doing everything possible to ensure the safety of visitors and staff. Nonetheless, due to COVID related rules and measures, organisers must react at short notice to changes and challenging circumstances requiring careful co-ordination and planning.

Just a few weeks before the event, Iventis’ home city team of Lincoln City FC played at the League One Play-Off final at the stadium. This provided some interesting insights into the measures in place and their effectiveness, as well as the challenges faced by the organisers.

Reduced Capacity and Seating Bowl Management

UEFA requires that Euro 2020 matches must allow a minimum 25% of the full stadium capacity to attend. For Wembley, that means approximately 22,500 fans in attendance, though the stadium is said to be working with local authorities to maximise capacity – particularly for the later stages of the tournament. Despite the lower capacities, these will be some of the largest events to be held since the pandemic presenting a major test for operators and authorities during a critical time as the UK hopes to emerge from the pandemic.

Capacities are expected to be kept at lower levels during group-stage matches but may be increased if those are successful and authorities allow it. No doubt various scenarios and contingencies have been prepared for.

In some areas, fans appeared to disregard the advice by moving closer together and forming larger groups

Current UK guidance for large, outdoor events where "crowds can be safely distributed around the venue" allows for up to 10,000 in attendance or 25% of the seated capacity (whichever is lower). These restrictions are expected to be relaxed from 21st June, assuming the UK government's COVID roadmap stays on track.

During the recent League One Play-off match, official attendance figures stood at 9,751. Spectators were distributed around the lower seating tier and for the most part adhered to the rules. Groups were allocated seats together, but even within groups individuals were spaced one seat apart. Every other row was unoccupied, and plenty of space was given between each group. Fans were chaperoned to their seats by stewards on arrival.

Despite these measures, in some areas, fans appeared to disregard this advice by moving closer together and forming larger groups, without the recommended spacing. The weather was warm which did also lead to some fans understandably changing position to stay out of the sun.

2m distancing sign
Enforcing social distancing as attendance increases may present a challenge.

The message was enforced via visual and audio announcements around the stadium. Wembley has plenty of capacity to accommodate higher numbers, particularly if the upper tiers are also in use, but enforcing social distancing during a match may prove challenging as attendance increases. That being said, the issue may be less pronounced for international matches compared to club level football where groups are more likely to know each other or co-ordinate their movements.

Around the Stadium

Visitors to Wembley Stadium are required to wear face coverings at all times. During the recent match, the majority of fans appeared to follow the guidance. Once again, the message was regularly re-enforced. However, the weather was hot so some spectators were tempted to lower their masks. Stewards were seen to ask fans to raise their masks to cover their mouth and nose, or in some cases provided exemption badges.

No alcohol was served inside the stadium, with fans requested to remain in their seats as much as possible even during half-time. Some food outlets were available, with well managed queuing systems.

Limiting crowds in internal circulation spaces could be challenging.

Despite the messaging to encourage fans to stay in their seats, the hot weather meant many retreated inside the stadium to escape the sun during half-time. One challenging area to control was the toilets, which were observed to have queues and become busy particularly at half-time. Euro 2020 matches will have a similar policy, but limiting crowds in internal circulation spaces could be challenging.

For Euro 2020, fans will be given a 30-minute arrival window to stagger ingress. This measure was not in place at the 10,000 capacity event, but did not appear necessary. Staggered ingress is a sensible mitigation measure, but cannot easily be enforced and similar staggered approaches are notoriously difficult to achieve after the match during the critical egress period. With bars and concessions largely absent, there was not a lot to keep fans entertained outside of the match itself.

At the recent match, it was announced there would be a staggered egress but this did not materialise. It may be because the winning side (unfortunately not Lincoln) remained to see their team get the trophy, which naturally reduced a rapid, simultaneous egress.

Outside the Stadium

Outside of the stadium, arguably where crowds are more likely to come into closer contact, masks were not mandatory and in the warm weather most fans opted not to wear them. However, the lower capacity mitigated the risk due to the adequate spaces designed to accommodate much higher volumes. Signage and messaging was excellent throughout the stadium and surroundings.

As expected, cleaning regimes will be reinforced across the stadium. According to the operators, approximately 800 hand sanitizer stations are in place.

Wembley Hand Sanitizers
Around 800 hand sanitizer stations are in place, according to organisers.

Very few concessions were available outside the venue which created queues at those few available such as the McDonalds restaurant. Venues and events are investing heavily to bring events back, but it can be difficult to attract commercial operators with lower numbers.

Transportation

Transport is always a challenging area of event planning, requiring close collaboration with several stakeholders. For the recent match, one of the places where social distancing was unachievable was on the train platforms and carriages.

It was necessary to clear the platform between trains, so passengers were encouraged to board every service rather than wait for quieter trains. The operational constraints of such areas mean options are limited, though one possibly approach is to limit entry to the station itself. This could be achieved by queueing people in the larger, outdoor areas which can cope with far higher volumes. This is a common technique used at Wembley to manage station capacity but requires additional resources, and possibly assets such as barriers, to manage.

Wembley Crowds
Transport hubs are particularly difficult to manage, and require close collaboration with partners and stakeholders.

Overall, despite the immense challenges, the team at Wembley have done an excellent job in preparation for Euro 2020 and other events. We have only mentioned the front of house measures. The team will have many more operational measures in place to protect staff working at the event and in back of house spaces.

Using collaborative planning tools like Iventis can be extremely helpful for a team faced with changing requirements, regulations and circumstances to develop the best possible plan.

Using collaborative planning tools like Iventis can be extremely helpful for a team faced with changing requirements, regulations and circumstances to develop the best possible plan working closely with stakeholders and partners. This enables teams to react to changes, communicate plans and mitigate risks.

Iventis can help to create and share health and safety plans with stakeholders, inspiring confidence in plans. Any contingencies or last minute changes can easily be made and communicated across all relevant parties. Costs and budgets can also be monitored - even more important after a difficult period financially.

If you're interested in learning how Iventis can help, get in touch to speak to the team.

Wembley Iventis
Iventis helps event organisers create, manage and share operational places.

We look forward to seeing the return of major international events such as Euro 2020, closely followed by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and wish everyone involved the best of luck.

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