Movement Strategies, a people movement and crowd dynamics consultancy, was commissioned by the SGSA (Sports Grounds Safety Authority) and EFL (English Football League) to assess the application of social distancing at professional football grounds, and this work has now been carried out.
Two EFL grounds, Charlton Athletic FC’s Valley Stadium and Cambridge United FC’s Abbey Stadium, were selected as the case studies, based on the age of the grounds and the mix of seating and terracing.
The project also provided the opportunity to stress-test the SGSA’s recently published guidance, SG02: Planning for Social Distancing at Sports Grounds, at these clubs. Movement Strategies then used their learnings to provide a “how to” guide for EFL clubs developing social distancing plans, including the process for calculating safe capacity, that other clubs can replicate.
The project considered a number of areas, including:
- Basic principles involved in social distancing at sports grounds
- Seated and standing capacity calculations
- Concourse capacity
- Entry and exit capacity calculations
- Zone Ex (the immediate public area outside sports venues) operations
- In-venue operations, including toilet facilities, food and beverage, hospitality, retail and accessibility
Following this project, two EFL test fixtures have now been confirmed to take place at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium on 8 and 12 September in line with the government’s pilot scheme, which supporters will be able to attend. Movement Strategies will be on-site to observe the spectator experience with social distancing measures in place as attendance increases.
In addition, Movement Strategies is supporting the SGSA on the evaluation of social distancing at a series of other pilot sporting events, with the team recently attending the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. At these events, the team will evaluate spectator behavior and venue operations in the context of social distancing and establish the impact of the measures on the viability of these events.
Dr Aoife Hunt, associate director at Movement Strategies, said: “The SGSA’s social distancing guidance provides venue operators with a much-needed planning toolkit to enable the re-admittance of spectators to live sport. The case studies at Charlton Athletic and Cambridge United were an important step to ensure this guidance can successfully be applied to real-life grounds, and we are looking forward to seeing the fans at Abbey Stadium at the upcoming fixtures.
There are so many factors that venues have to take into consideration when planning for the return of fans, and it’s our job to help make the process as straightforward as possibly by providing them with all the information and guidance they need to determine a new safe capacity and get the right social distancing measures in place.
We are proud to now be working alongside clubs from the Premier League, the EFL and the National League, as well as other venue operators across the UK, as they prepare to safely re-open their doors to fans once they are permitted to do so.”
Martyn Henderson, chief executive of SGSA, added: “This is a hugely valuable piece of work. We’re in unprecedented times and this study offers valuable insights that will help grounds anticipate and address the challenges involved.”