Aviva Stadium

Aviva Stadium has confirmed it is currently working on the development of a COVID-19 testing centre at the Dublin venue.

Brian Cleary, brigadier general of the Irish Defence Forces, is said to have told the Irish Daily Star newspaper that up to 40 of his staff would test thousands of people at the stadium.

When contacted by TheStadiumBusiness.com, Daniel Wynne, operations co-ordinator at Aviva Stadium, said: “On the outbreak of the COVID-19 emergency, Aviva Stadium, on behalf of the IRFU (Irish Rugby Football Union) and the FAI (Football Association of Ireland), offered the facilities at the stadium to the government.

“We are currently working with the Defence Forces’ Joint Task Force on COVID-19 to plan the set-up of the test centre.”

Wynne stated that at present there is no information on timelines for implementation. Regarding the potential for wider use of Aviva Stadium during the pandemic, he added: “Not at this point, but we see this as a national effort and we are pleased to assist in any way we can.”

English Premier League football club Watford has established the ‘TeamWestHerts Sanctuary’ at its Vicarage Road stadium, with its local health authority stating the venture has really helped to “lift the mood” of staff at the frontline in the battle against COVID-19.

Watford last month offered all of its facilities for the exclusive use of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) during the pandemic. With easy access straight into the Watford General Hospital site from Vicarage Road’s Graham Taylor Stand, the Sanctuary venture has evolved from an initial request for meeting rooms so the hospital could plan its COVID-19 response.

All staff – including nurses, doctors, managers, cleaners and porters – can swap busy wards and offices for the stadium’s conference facilities and the stand overlooking the pitch, for free. WHHT also manages hospitals in St Albans and Hemel Hempstead and the free shuttle bus running between the three sites, means that all staff can also make use of the Sanctuary.

Breakfast and lunch is provided and there is overnight accommodation, seating areas where staff can chat together after a tough shift and spaces to reflect and be alone. There are also counselling rooms for staff who want help with the emotional trauma that comes from working during such a difficult time. For anyone who wishes to remember loved ones who have died during the outbreak, the chaplaincy team from WHHT has created a memorial room at the club.

WHHT chief executive Christine Allen said: “Watford General is only a few yards away, but the environment is so different and really seems to lift the mood. Of course, football fans want to see the pitch full of players, but for us, the empty green space has a very calming effect. And whilst our sole focus is our patients, the ability to get away makes all the difference.

“The demands on staff, especially those caring for our sickest patients, have been huge. Having a space to talk about the day or just sit and reflect after work and before going home can really help staff manage their stress. This in turn helps them provide the best care for our patients.”

As of Tuesday, 1,000 staff were being fed by the club each day, more than 200 hours’ worth of meetings had taken place and there have been 10 overnight stays. The club has also laundered more than 10,000 pairs of scrubs. The facilities are on offer for at least the next month.

Watford’s chairman and chief executive, Scott Duxbury, said: “From the football club’s perspective, there is really no need for any thanks. It’s entirely our privilege to feel we can in some way help the hospital during this difficult time.

“I think it wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the staff at this football club. It’s often said we are the first family club; the words are easy and the actions are sometimes a little bit harder, and I really do need to pay credit to the staff that work with me every day because it was them who came to me insisting that we do something, it was them that said they would volunteer every single day, 24 hours a day on a rota to make this happen.”

Image: Aviva Stadium