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Venues urged to adapt to post-pandemic world

Stadia and arenas across the world need to rethink their business models as “all rules have changed” due to COVID-19, according to Aderassa CEO Olivier Mazé.

Headquartered in New York, Aderassa is a cost of revenue management company that advises the owners and operators of sports and entertainment facilities during construction or redevelopment projects.

With a portfolio of work including Singapore Sports Hub, as well as Groupama Stadium in Lyon and ParisLongchamp RacecourseMazé told TheStadiumBusiness.com how his company is currently focusing on how facilities will operate in a post-COVID-19 world.

He said: “Stadia and arenas are facing, and will face, two real challenges. Firstly, how to keep venues safe for attendees. If venues are not safe enough for attendance at least until 2022, authorities should not authorise them to be open. Quebec is already starting to give guidance on this and the WHO (World Health Organization) is starting to provide guidelines.

“And of course it cannot be as simple as just wearing a mask. All studies have shown this is not enough to guarantee safety – disinfection and social distancing are mandatory. Scientists are starting to agree that we should expect more smaller epidemic waves during the next two years. Venues with not enough safety related to the coronavirus will be the first to close during this period.

“Secondly, in terms of attracting attendees, this pandemic is a real trauma for all of us and will leave a footprint in our mind for decades. The fear of crowds will be in our minds for a long time, because nobody can guarantee it will be gone forever. We need to live with the virus and provide the safest places as possible, and communicate this to show attendees they can come, enjoy and be safe.

“Another big consequence of the pandemic is the economic aspect. Lots of fans have already, or will, lose their jobs in the coming months, or are not sure their company will still be alive. Stadia/arenas need to rethink their sales and offers to expect to be profitable.”

Mazé believes that venue owners, operators, investors and teams need to take five priority actions. These include integrating social distancing, deploying hygiene and disinfection measures, improving the quality of broadcast production, rethinking economic models and sales offers, and deploying communications and marketing initiatives relating to these actions.

In 2019, Aderassa started to integrate Artificial Intelligence and crowd simulation into its process to validate the visitor journey for new stadia, arenas and redevelopment projects. “These tools helped us to predict some issues and improvement in the project before construction and allowed our clients to save lots of money and create a qualitative fan experience,” Mazé said.

“With the pandemic we thought that these tools, along with our expertise, will be real assets to rethink usage of buildings that had never planned for social distancing. We quickly understood these tools will be more than ever the solution for us to help our clients with the challenge of integrating social distancing.

“We all need to go back to school and learn new behaviours. Tools and processes we developed initially to improve the visitor journey, today are helping us to model these new behaviours, test improvements and provide recommendations. Another important fact is that it is allowing us to provide full documentation to demonstrate to the authorities that all possible social distancing measures were taken before opening, and that they should work.”

Mazé believes that stadia and arenas need to think about adapting their venues to provide greater options to broadcast and media companies, with sporting events likely to be behind closed doors when they return.

“No doubt we will lose attendance in stadia/arenas for years, but fans will not stop enjoying sports and events,” he said. “The main outlet for them will be through TV, digital channels, VR etc. We always pushed innovations in this field as much as possible. With this crisis, innovation takes more value and initiatives and technologies such as embedded micro 5G cameras on players, 3D broadcasting and virtual reality should be prioritised and put forward to offer new experiences for fans who cannot attend.

“We also need to give more space to media and broadcasters. As attendances will be lower, we can also convert some parts of stands into temporary TV/radio sets to make the experience of the media more immersive. The media will be more important to relay events to fans, and we are not talking about measures for one or two events, but maybe for years.”

Mazé also believes the post-COVID-19 world will necessitate more creative marketing and methods to drive revenue, at a time when gate revenues will be depleted. He said: “To compensate the loss of attendees we have to extend premium offers and services. Based on the impact of social distancing measures we are supporting marketing teams of stadia/arenas/teams to provide new services and innovations to help them build new offers and economic models.”

While admitting that Aderassa has been severely affected by the pandemic, Mazé believes the company’s flexibility stands it in good stead to weather the storm and provide an upturn in fortunes, both for itself and stadia and arenas impacted by the global crisis.

He added: “Of course, as with everybody, we were severally impacted by this global pandemic as most of our clients have postponed their construction/redevelopment. Some of them are losing so much money during this period that they need to cancel their projects, and clients whose operations we support need to cut their external costs, even if it is to help them to improve their operations.

“Fortunately our strength in this crisis is the trust of our long-term clients, our expertise and the integration last year of artificial intelligence and crowd simulation in our toolbox. These tools allow us to offer today this major new expertise in social distancing integration related to this global pandemic.

“Before our clients rethink their business we had to rethink ours to be able to provide them with more support in these difficult times for all our industry. Our business is no longer to improve fan experience during construction/redevelopment and operations of our clients; but to help them to rethink, as we did our business, in the most efficient way as all rules have changed with the pandemic.”