Johan Cruijff ArenA, the home of Dutch Eredivisie football club Ajax Amsterdam, has become the focus of what is being described as a “groundbreaking” scientific research project into how sports venues and other buildings can become safely accessible during COVID-19.

The project is being led by the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) with tests carried out at Johan Cruijff ArenA, along with other venues. Those involved in the tests, which started yesterday (Thursday), will chiefly be investigating the spread of aerosols in stadia and other locations to measure the risk of COVID-19 contagion in a crowd environment.

Scientists are hoping to determine aerosol density, and how long a virus can survive in the droplets. In the Johan Cruijff ArenA, measurements are first being taken without an audience, using artificial aerosol generators in the stands. These generators disperse a comparable amount of aerosols as avid football fans. Various sensors have been placed in between to get a good picture of the distribution of very small saliva drops. It is then investigated whether aerosols can be filtered out of the air using an air cleaning system placed next to seat rows.

The ArenA said it is hoped that trials can be conducted using spectators as soon as January, depending on government clearance. The researchers are also looking at the dose and lifespan of the virus in aerosols, as well as the risk of infection, droplet and aerosol transmission by individuals, aerosol concentrations in sports buildings and the movements of crowds in venues.

In addition, a general risk analysis methodology is being developed that aims to help the sports sector and the government to further refine their guidelines and protocols. The first results are expected to be available in early 2021.

A spokesperson for Johan Cruijff ArenA told Dutch broadcaster NOS that the scientific research is “groundbreaking”, adding: “We are the first football stadium to work with these tests to map the risks for the public and athletes. In the Netherlands anyway, and, as far as we know, also abroad.”

Image: Johan Cruijff ArenA