Covid-19

Tech solutions to get fans back in the stadiums amid the covid-19 pandemic

IT giant NTT Data presented two products at the World Football Summit conference, with the aim of allowing supporters to watch live sport once again.

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Tech solutions to get fans back in the stadiums amid the covid-19 pandemic
MAXIM SHEMETOV REUTERS

Since the start of the covid-19 pandemic watching live sport has been basically impossible for almost all fans, with stadiums shut as part of lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

But imagine if a fan could upload their medical status proving they were free of covid-19 and that could be tied to their personalised ticket allowing access to the stadium, meaning for those fans with negative tests watching live sport could once again be a reality, despite the ongoing pandemic. That’s the vision of NTT Data, a global tech giant, who explained two of their products to help fans get back to the stadiums at the World Football Summit, being held virtually this week.

The need for products that will get supporters back in the stadiums is two-fold. Firstly, the current situation for the fans is “sad” in the words of Luigi Cardani, an NTT Data boss, stadiums are unsafe and supporters in general cannot watch their heroes in the flesh. But also from a club point of view the lack of fans is having a major impact from an economic standpoint. Just one example: Borussia Dortmund loses €4 millon euros per home game, according to NTT Data.

So the company is looking to get a 50% utilisation rate of stadiums, using two of their technology-based solutions, which are already in place they say at a number of airports, including Milan, Barcelona and Mallorca.

The first product, explained Athanasios Andreou, a lead consultant at NTT Data, is a biometric ticket that allows access to the stadium. Fans who have either tested negative for covid-19 or - in the near future - are vaccinated, can upload their medical status to a club app, which also scans ID to ensure the person getting the ticket is who they say they are. The app then generates an encrypted ticket with the personal details - name, photo, address, biometric information - that can be used to access the ground safely.

Covid-19 tracing with within stadiums

What happens if someone with covid-19 does somehow make it inside the stadium? NTT Data believe their tracing app could provide the solution. Their product, which can work on your mobile phone, or with a wrist band for those who don’t want to use their phone or don’t have one, is flexible to allow the current local guidelines on contact tracing to be input, meaning only those identified as being at risk will be notified of a possible coronavirus exposure, rather than the whole stadium. Those individuals will be advised to get tested after the potential exposure.

The session finished with NTT explaining to the clubs at the WFS that the technology can be deployed in just four to six weeks. It remains to be seen if the health authorities will accept such technology for stadiums, but if they do, a rapid roll-out means at least some fans could be back in stadiums early in 2021.