Twickenham, Amex Stadium becoming testing centres as Two Circles highlights COVID-19 impact

Twickenham Stadium

A drive-through COVID-19 testing facility has today (Monday) opened for key workers and NHS staff at Twickenham Stadium, home of the England rugby union team.

The facility will be piloted for its first few days of operation and the opening comes after the launch of the government’s partnership with universities, research institutes and companies to begin rolling out a network of new labs and field testing sites across the UK.

To date, 32 testing sites have opened across the UK. The sites will provide thousands of PCR swab tests for critical key workers, starting with NHS frontline staff.

Bill Sweeney, chief executive of England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU), said: “We receive tremendous support from frontline services during match days at Twickenham and we are grateful for the opportunity to be able to support key workers during this severe national crisis with the use of our site and staff to support operationally.”

Professor John Newton, national coordinator for the UK coronavirus testing strategy, added: “New testing sites such as this one are a key pillar of our five-pillar plan to scale up testing, and are critical in supporting NHS staff and other frontline workers who are isolating at home to return safely to work if the test is negative.

“This is a brilliant example of industries and businesses turning their resources to creating and rolling out mass testing at scale, which will help to deliver on our aim of carrying out 100,000 tests a day across the UK by the end of the month.”

Amex Stadium

The Amex Stadium (pictured), home of Premier League football club Brighton & Hove Albion, has also been converted into a drive-in COVID-19 testing centre.

Testing is strictly for those who have a pre-booked appointment. The site is part of the government’s UK-wide drive to increase testing for thousands more NHS staff and other key workers. Like Twickenham, it will be piloted for its first few days of operation.

The Amex is already being used for storage of vital NHS supplies and, together with Brighton’s training centre, the stadium will be available for NHS training and local emergency services in order to coordinate their efforts in the fight against the virus.

Brighton has also offered up the stadium as a field hospital if needed but the club stressed that this would only be likely in a “very extreme” situation, with other venues in the city more suited for this.

Last month, Brighton and fellow Premier League club AFC Bournemouth joined forces to donate a minimum of 1,000 match tickets each to NHS staff for when football resumes.

Rafa Nadal Academy

The Rafa Nadal Academy has offered up its facilities for ATP and WTA tennis players to compete in a safe environment where possible.

The ATP and WTA announced earlier this month that their respective seasons would remain suspended until July 13 due to COVID-19 and Nadal’s academy has drawn up a proposal that would see the complex become a campus for players to reside, train and compete between themselves.

The proposal, which came from Nadal himself, would see matches televised to keep fans engaged in the absence of the main tours. The academy stressed that its facilities would only open “where the circumstances allow it”.

Carlos Costa, head of business development at the academy, said: “In recent weeks we have made our facilities available to chairman of the ATP Andrea Gaudenzi with the goal of possibly making the academy a centre for the coming together of players so that they can train in an environment that is ideal for first-class competition.

“While the priority is obviously for a resumption of play for the regular Tour, the ATP is evaluating all options, keeping in mind health & safety as the top priority.”

Costa added that the Rafa Nadal Sports Centre would have the capacity to host a “significant” number of players and coaches, who would be able to train and compete without leaving the academy. The complex also includes a fitness centre, a semi-Olympic swimming pool and a spa.

Two Circles: Sporting calendar halved in 2020

Projections from sports marketing agency Two Circles have found that only 53 per cent of the sports events originally scheduled for 2020 will be held this year.

Two Circles notes that 49,803 major sports events were originally scheduled for 2020 but the COVID-19 outbreak has led to the postponement of competitions across various sports. The most high-profile postponements have been the Tokyo Olympic Games and football’s UEFA European Championships.

Only 1,870 of the 5,584 events originally scheduled for March took place. As of today (April 20), Two Circles estimates that the global sports industry will generate $73.7bn (£59.1bn/€67.7bn) in 2020 – some $61.6bn less than the $135.3bn projected before the outbreak. The global sports industry generated $129bn in revenue in 2019.

Two Circles chief executive Gareth Balch said: “Sports properties are keen to return as soon as possible as the longer the sports calendar is on hiatus, the worse the financial impact will be. However, sport should – and will – only return when it is deemed safe to do so, and with the support of all relevant government and medical authorities. Even hosting sport without crowds poses a complex challenge.”

Two Circles’ modelling predicts that a staggered return of live sport in 2020 will result in a spike of 5,467 events in September.

Click here for Two Circles’ detailed look at how the number of sports events in 2020 has been impacted by COVID-19.


When sports do resume, many may be forced to stage more events in a condensed timeframe to ensure their seasons can finish and Stuart Pringle, managing director of Silverstone, has said that the Northamptonshire circuit would be open to hosting two consecutive Formula One grands prix if needed.

The British Grand Prix is currently scheduled to take place on July 19. The event has not been cancelled as yet and if it were to go ahead it is highly likely that no fans would be able to attend.

F1 was forced to cancel its season-opening Australian Grand Prix and has subsequently postponed events in Bahrain, Vietnam, China, Netherlands, Spain, Azerbaijan and Canada. The Monaco Grand Prix has also been cancelled altogether and it remains unclear when the season can start. F1 hopes to stage between 15 and 18 races in 2020.

“We have discussed all sorts of permutations including hosting two races over one weekend and two races over consecutive weekends,” Pringle said, according to The Guardian. “I have complete confidence in our ability to put on these events. We have a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge, we can turn that on definitely.”

Image: Brighton & Hove Albion