2021 in review – May

Football fans returned to Premier League stadia for the first time since December 2020 as the turnstiles at four grounds reopened on May 18.

Manchester United, Southampton, Brighton & Hove Albion and Chelsea were able to welcome fans back at their respective homes as the latest phase of England’s COVID-19 reopening schedule incorporated the top division of the domestic game. The phased reopening of sectors allowed up to 10,000 people or 25% total seated capacity, whichever was lower, at large outdoor venues.

Fans also returned in Spain’s LaLiga as 5,000 spectators attended Villarreal’s 4-0 win against Sevilla and Valencia welcomed 3,000 supporters for its 4-1 win against Eibar. SoFi Stadium, home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, also staged its first event with spectators as around 20,000 people attended the ‘Vax Live’ concert.

Elsewhere, a new venue opened in Major League Soccer as FC Cincinnati debuted at TQL Stadium with a 3-2 defeat against Inter Miami.

The 26,000-seat stadium was built at a cost of $250m (£187m/€221m). Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only around 6,000 fans were able to attend the stadium’s opening game.

In naming-rights news, Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe was rebranded as Avicii Arena to honour the late producer and recording artist, while Stadion Gdańsk signed a six-year sponsorship deal with Polish telecommunications company Polsat.

Meanwhile, a William Hill sportsbook officially opened at Capital One Arena (pictured), home of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals, becoming the first sports betting venue at a US professional sports facility.

In other news, a consortium of Mitsubishi Corporation Urban Development (MCUD), AEG and Kanden Realty & Development was selected to develop and operate a new arena within the Osaka Expo Memorial Park.

The arena will have a maximum capacity of 18,000, which will make it the biggest indoor arena in western Japan and second biggest in the country to the 37,000-capacity Saitama Super Arena near Tokyo. The construction phase is scheduled to commence in 2023 and it is hoped the arena will be completed by autumn 2027.

Image: William Hill