Colin Farquhar (pictured below), chief executive of IP video and digital signage technologies provider Exterity, discusses how sports clubs and venues will need to adapt when fans are able to return to events.

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting global lockdown meant that the majority of events, including sports and live entertainment, were forced to cancel or postpone. While some international events, such as the Olympics and Wimbledon, were rescheduled to next year, many sports leagues have been able to return to play.

The English Premier League, Spain’s LaLiga and the National Basketball Association in North America for example, have all resumed play in some capacity. Yet the return of live sports does not mean a return to normalcy. .

All leagues and teams are hoping for fans to be able to return to stadiums and arenas soon, and preparations for strict hygiene, social distancing and other safety measures are already being put in place. According to a recent survey by ESSMA around 70% of fans expect free availability of hand sanitiser, doors to open earlier and an obligation to wear face masks.

To effectively meet fan demands for a safe matchday environment, stadium operators will need to deploy or extend the use of video-based communications. This means that the role of IP-based technologies, which have been traditionally used for streaming live action and communicating with fans as events unfold, will be key in ensuring fans are kept continually informed and as safe as possible during their visit.

Digital signage will play a pivotal role in assuring fans that all necessary precautions have been taken to ensure a facility is safe. Displays will be used to encourage everyone to abide by the rules, while still enabling the venue to drive revenue from sponsor advertising, promotion of merchandise, bar and restaurant deals and other activities. Signage screens can be frequently updated with eye-catching safety messages and changing information about catering areas, toilets and other shared facilities, as well as signposting one-way systems and exits to promote safety precautions further.

IPTV and digital signage systems are already playing a critical role in keeping players, staff, media and the limited number of other visitors allowed safe and informed about procedures. For example, where sports journalists are currently unable to congregate in the press box, in some clubs they are being seated around the stand and therefore need to have all the close-up action and replays streamed to their mobile devices or nearby screens, which has led to an increased investment in IPTV technologies.

Expanding and updating these capabilities will be even more important when spectators are allowed back to venues – even in limited numbers – to protect everyone and ensure smooth match day operations. By implementing a broader digital signage and IP video technology strategy now, sports venues will be equipped to welcome fans to safe spaces – giving them full confidence in their well-being so they can relax and enjoy the game.

To hear more about how IP technologies and digital signage can help stadiums open safely, tune into Exterity’s presentation on day 1 of TheStadiumBusiness Summit, Tuesday 1st December at 13:30 GMT.