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COVID-19 venue news: Premier League, NASCAR and more

Premier League

Liverpool is poised to avoid the threat of clinching the 2019-20 Premier League title at a neutral stadium after the city council today (Wednesday) gave the green light for Anfield and Goodison Park, home of Merseyside rival Everton, to stage their remaining home games.

With the 2019-20 season due to resume on June 17, there had been concerns that some games, including the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park (pictured) on June 21, may need to be held at neutral venues due to safety and security fears over the potential for fans to gather outside the stadia.

However, Liverpool City Council’s Ground Safety Advisory Group (GSAG) has today recommended that both Liverpool and Everton can play out their remaining home games “safely and securely” behind closed doors.

Deputy Mayor Wendy Simon, chair of the GSAG, said in a statement: “A lot of factors have been taken into consideration, especially the safety of the players, match officials and staff in attendance.

“We are confident the measures in place will allow the matches to be held behind closed doors without any detrimental impact to all concerned and recommend to the city council that the safety certificates for both grounds be amended to allow this to happen.”

Liverpool can clinch the title by beating Everton, if second-placed Manchester City loses at home to Arsenal on June 17.

Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur and Watford have become the latest Premier League clubs to detail plans to enhance the experience of games played behind closed doors. Tottenham has unveiled the ‘Summer of Spurs’ venture for the remaining five home games at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Spurs have called on its 221 supporters’ clubs to submit flags and banners to have on display at the stadium on home matchdays. ‘Create your own matchday’ will allow fans to download a party toolkit featuring bunting, posters, fan favourite food recipes and games.

The club said it is also working closely with Premier League Productions to find a way for fans to join a live video wall during home matches that will be broadcast on big screens within the stadium.

Watford has asked fans to submit an image and/or a message of support for a banner which will be displayed at Vicarage Road stadium during home games.


US motor-racing championship NASCAR has detailed plans to readmit fans at select NASCAR Cup Series races, beginning this month with Homestead-Miami Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

NASCAR has been one of the few US sports bodies to resume action amid COVID-19, with the historic circuits of Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway commencing the hosting of events behind closed doors from May 17.

NASCAR’s new plan will start with the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on June 14, followed by the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on June 21. NASCAR said its modified event procedures, protocols and number of attendees have been finalised with guidance from public health officials, medical experts and local, state and federal officials.

All guests in attendance will be screened before entering, required to wear face coverings, mandated to social distance at six feet, and will not have access to the infield, among other revised operational protocols.

Military members will be the first guests allowed entrance to a NASCAR Cup Series event since March 8. Homestead-Miami Speedway will invite up to 1,000 South Florida service members as honorary guests for the Dixie Vodka 400, representing the Homestead Air Reserve Base and U.S. Southern Command in Doral.

Talladega Superspeedway will allow up to 5,000 guests in the frontstretch grandstands/towers for the GEICO 500. In addition, there will be limited motorhome/5th-wheel camping spots available outside the track. Tickets are open exclusively on a first come, first served basis to fans who purchased tickets or reserved camping for the originally scheduled GEICO 500 on April 26 and live within a designated proximity to the track.

“We have tremendous respect and appreciation for the responsibility that comes with integrating guests back into our events,” said Daryl Wolfe, executive vice-president and chief operations and sales officer at NASCAR.

“We believe implementing this methodical process is an important step forward for the sport and the future of live sporting events. The passion and unwavering support of our industry and fans is the reason we race each weekend and we look forward to slowly and responsibly welcoming them back at select events.”

NASCAR said it will continue to adapt and improve its procedures to ensure they are effective and can be scaled to support an increased number of fans in the future. “We’re going to have a lot of hand sanitising, hand washing,” added John Bobo, NASCAR vice-president of racing operations, according to the Associated Press news agency.

“One of the things that I’m kind of proud of to see is we’re going to have a clean team, a clean team that’s at track constantly cleaning everything very visibly for every guest that’s there to know we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe. We feel confident in the plan.”

Banc of California Stadium

Major League Soccer (MLS) club LAFC and its Banc of California Stadium have expanded their partnership with Patriot One Technologies to launch The Stadium & Event Safety Strategic Alliance.

The venture will seek to utilise groundbreaking security technology to turn Banc of California Stadium into a global showcase venue to advance the vision of safety and security for public gathering spaces.

The Alliance will seek to work with other professional sports organisations and stadia around the world to share information on safety and security strategies.

“The objective of The Stadium & Event Safety Strategic Alliance is to establish a consortium of professional sports, and stadium security professionals to evaluate and pilot new physical security technologies, including those focused on health and safety due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown,” said Phil Lancaster, senior vice-president of business development and government relations at Patriot One.

“The group will also invite thought leaders within the event and professional sports safety and security space to participate and discuss ways in which these new innovations can help shape the future of large-scale events, while mitigating acts of terrorism, active shooters, and viral and contagious threats.”

Patriot One will this month implement its PATSCAN Multi-Sensor Threat Detection Platform modules at Banc of California Stadium. In addition, Patriot One will deploy its newest health and safety threat identification and detection modules – PATSCAN VRS-T Thermal Elevated Body Temperature and PATSCAN VRS-HS Facial Mask Detection modules – during this same period.

Christian Lau, chief technology officer for LAFC and Banc of California Stadium, added: “Our venue in the heart of Los Angeles will become the centre for new and innovative physical and health threat identification and detection technologies, and we are looking forward to facilitating direct collaboration with other venues and teams around the world.”

Vejle Stadium

Danish 1st Division football club Vejle Boldklub has become the first in the country to welcome fans back into its stadium.

Vejle, which currently sits top of the second tier of Danish football, granted access to 500 fans for yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) match against Skive IK. Vejle, which lost the match 2-1, offered some of the tickets to commercial partners which had supported the club through the COVID-19 crisis, with the remainder being issued to season ticket holders through a lottery process.

Vejle Stadium has a capacity of just over 10,000 and director Henrik Tønder has expressed his hope that for forthcoming matches the club can split the stadium into sections of 500 seated fans, up to a capacity of 3,000 for the final games of the 2019-20 season.

Meanwhile, Telia Parken, home to Danish top-tier Superliga club FC Copenhagen, has laid out plans to welcome 10,500 fans to the 38,065-capacity ground.

Currently, Denmark has a limit on gatherings of up to 500 people as it gradually reopens following closures due to COVID-19. The club has planned to circumvent this by creating 21 sections of up to 500 supporters throughout the stadium.

The proposed plan to host 10,500 fans would account for up to 27 per cent of the ground’s capacity and would see approximately every fourth seat occupied.

Telia Parken allows each floor to have its own entrance, toilet facilities and food and drink stalls.

Lars Bo Jeppesen, director and chief executive of stadium owner Parken Sport & Entertainment, said: “If this succeeds, then it is a unique opportunity for us and Danish football to take a big step out of a serious crisis and help the entire ecosystem under the FCK and the Superliga.

“We understand that it may cause some people to be disappointed not to get a seat, but we will go for a combination of fans and partners at the stadium. How the distribution will be, we do not know yet, but one thing is certain, and it is that nobody gets the right to an empty seat. It must be understood in the way that you have to announce whether you are coming or not, so that we ensure full utilisation of the seats.”

Meanwhile, another Superliga club, Aalborg BK, saw strong demand for fans to return after its 250 home tickets sold out in five minutes on the Roboticket platform this morning (Wednesday).

The club’s Sydbank Cup semi-final match against Aarhus Gymnastikforening tonight will host a  maximum spectator crowd of 280 people at the 14,135-capacity Aalborg Stadium, with 28 tickets made available to away fans.

Image: Everton FC