Back in June, London’s Wembley Stadium hosted more than 60,000 football fans for the England versus Italy 2021 UEFA Euro final – a number that seemed unimaginable just a year earlier at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent summer games in Tokyo also saw up to 10,000 domestic spectators in the venue during the various events. More widely, in the US, UK and other markets, we are beginning to see restrictions around spectator sports and other live events start to ease as organisers start to slide back into their pre-COVID schedules, but there remains a sense of uncertainty as vaccination rates stall and the threat of new variants continues to lurk.

The upshot is, as fans enter stadiums, arenas and other venues, event organisers must be prepared to enforce and communicate new safety rules and guidelines to provide a safe experience. Even with a comparatively small number of fans, live events must ensure COVID-19 regulations are at the forefront to keep everyone safe – and that everyone attending knows what the guidelines and rules are in each venue. To ensure that fans know what is expected of them and how to follow the rules, sports leagues, concert venues and events, organisers need to deploy IP-based technologies, such as digital signage and IPTV – which are already playing a critical role in helping fans feel safe in many stadiums, arenas and theatres.

Traditionally, IP-based technologies have been used to welcome fans to stadiums, stream live match footage around the venue and drive additional revenue by providing visitors with information and special offers on merchandise, and bar and restaurant promotions. An example of the value of digital signage in a stadium environment is at the Matmut Stadium de Gerland in France, home to Lyon Olympique Universitaire Rugby (LOU Rugby).  Digital signage is used throughout the stadium, including the LOU Shop, the VIP lounges and event halls. Matmut Stadium offers interactive information and promotion about new merchandise, upcoming games and other events, as well as the local weather forecast and public transport timetables. This keeps fans well informed while keeping staff safe by reducing face-to-face interaction.

Stadiums that have employed digital signage technologies, like Matmut, will be leading the way in demonstrating its added value and ability to adapt to COVID-19 regulations. Fans can now expect to see signage screens frequently updated with clear safety messages relating to catering areas, toilets and other shared facilities requiring restrictions in numbers, as well as signposting of one-way systems and exits. The technology is designed to share special moments with the fans, like a goal, in real-time, but could easily be expanded to flash up important messages that grab visitors’ attention, such as reminding them about mask-wearing, social distancing or changes to concourse flow direction.

Not only is the use of digital signage extremely beneficial to spectators, but it can also be an essential tool to display branding across the venue. For example, motorsport venue Goodwood’s 12,000-acre estate deploys audio and visual elements supporting many of the events held on-site each year. These include video feeds displayed onto 11 large LED screens and hospitality areas for the Festival of Speed, one of the world’s greatest motorsport and car culture celebrations. The IP video network deployed at Goodwood provides easy-to-use software that enables screens to be dynamically changed to fit the needs of the event, including information on hand-washing stations, one-way travel inside the venue and wayfinding. Whether event organisers want to market different brands across the site or, as during the pandemic, leverage screens to serve as a reminder of the latest hygiene measures, digital signage is a convenient and easy to implement solution.

Many sports stadiums and venues had already deployed end-to-end IP video and digital signage technologies pre-pandemic, like Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. Venue staff can quickly and efficiently add more screens anywhere on the network, presenting a consistent message across the site. The system allows staff to schedule or update signage screens remotely and provide a long-term benefit to any venue. For events currently taking place at a reduced scale, with signage and screens located inside the venues, visitors can watch the event while sitting at the venue’s bar, catering areas or lobby, creating a 360-degree match-day experience anywhere across the grounds. 

The critical value of digital signage and IP video in the current environment is that it helps stadiums and venues to safely open to smaller crowds and assure fans that all necessary measures are being implemented to provide a more secure and comfortable experience. IPTV and digital signage systems play a critical role in keeping players, staff, media and the growing number of other visitors allowed onsite in many cases now, safe and informed about procedures. Expanding and updating these capabilities will be even more critical as we see live event venues open up to more people. By implementing a broader digital signage and IP video technology strategy now, venues will be equipped to welcome fans to safe spaces while allowing them to feel confident, confident in the knowledge they are investing in a longer term strategy for digital communications.

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