A year of unprecedented challenges for the stadium industry ended on a high with TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2020 going virtual for the first time to host industry executives from across the globe as news broke of the world’s first approved COVID-19 vaccine in the UK.

On the evening of day two of the virtual conference, a number of English Football League (EFL) clubs welcomed fans to their stadia for the first time in nine months as new guidelines allowing up to 2,000 spectators at live sporting events were introduced. Some fans of Premier League clubs were then also able to return just days later, but professional sport in London swiftly went back behind closed doors after the English capital moved to Tier 3 of the country’s COVID-19 lockdown system.

The Premier League and the EFL also reached a final agreement on a rescue package and distress fund to address the immediate financial challenges faced by lower league clubs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A fund of £50m in the form of a grant and monitored grant payments has been agreed for League One and Two clubs while the Premier League pledged to provide a further financial commitment to assist the EFL in securing a £200m loan facility that Championship clubs will be able to utilise on an interest-free basis.

The official cost of Tokyo’s rescheduled Olympics rose to $15.4bn after the organising committee for the Games released its revised budget. Tokyo 2020 unveiled its ‘version five’ budget in conjunction with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Government of Japan. The budget comprises the OCOG budget, which is the responsibility of Tokyo 2020, and the ‘other entities’ budget, which is the responsibility of the city and national governments. Tokyo 2020 said the revised budget reflects the reduction of expenses arising from simplification measures that are being introduced amid COVID-19.

Doha was elected as the host of the 2030 Asian Games, while Riyadh was awarded the 2034 edition of the event, as the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) reached a compromise agreement between the fierce political rivals of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The contest between the two for the showpiece multi-sport event was established in April as the OCA announced that Doha and Riyadh would contest the hosting rights for the 2030 Asian Games. Doha hosted the 15th Asian Games in December 2006, but Saudi Arabia has never staged an OCA multi-sport event.

Qatar’s Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan was officially inaugurated exactly two years ahead of the country hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup final. The 40,000-capacity arena was the venue for the Amir Cup final between Al Sadd and Al Arabi, with 20,000 fans attending due to pandemic-related restrictions. All fans had to return either a negative COVID-19 test or a positive COVID-19 antibody test prior to being allowed access to the stadium.

The Municipality of Naples approved the renaming of Stadio San Paolo in honour of legendary Argentinian footballer Diego Maradona following his death at the age of 60. Maradona helped to propel Napoli to two Italian Serie A titles during a memorable seven-year spell in the city from 1984 to 1991.