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7 Lessons Football Stadiums Can Teach About Crowd Access Management

Stadium, Football, Wembley

There is an art to efficiently controlling the safe and secure flow of large crowds into venues. Implementing key strategies for managing such gatherings, many of which involve technological integration, is essential for the effective management of public spaces like festivals, concerts, shopping centers, and sporting events.

Football stadiums across the globe welcome thousands of fans on a weekly basis. When it comes to best practices for crowd access management, we can learn a lot from these venues that process high volumes of attendees while ensuring smooth and secure access to huge spaces.

Football’s governing body FIFA states in its Stadium Guidelines that “All stadiums should be equipped with a Venue Operations Centre (VOC), from where safety and security operations at the stadium can be monitored and controlled”. Let’s examine how modern football stadiums comply with these requirements.

1. Evolving Stadium Entry Protocols

Football stadiums employ a variety of entry protocols starting with the purchase of tickets. The shift from paper to digital ticketing systems has streamlined entry processes. Also, attending fans can be issued time-based tickets straight to their personal smartphones, helping the event staff limit the flow of people accessing core facilities. This paperless approach also enhances security by cutting down on ticket touting.

Meanwhile, AI-informed technologies are also being explored to improve stadium access control systems. Denmark’s Brondby Stadium and Spain’s El Sadar Stadium use facial recognition to provide ticket holders with touchless access to stadium facilities. These biometric systems can also be used to prevent banned or unauthorized persons from gaining entry.

2. Optimizing Queuing & Flow Management

Fans attending football stadiums are given designated entry points clearly marked on their tickets to prevent congestion and ensure orderly entry. Providing clear signage and communication channels to guide attendees and convey important information regarding entry and exit points, safety procedures, and event guidelines all help with flow management.

Solutions for managing queues and controlling crowd flow also include automated double-leaf gates installed in strategic locations around stadium grounds, which are often sectioned off with crowd barriers. These devices can also help to separate crowds into smaller partitions while still enabling rapid crowd exits where appropriate, aiding staff in preventing surges and crushes.

3. AI-Enhanced Security Screening Procedures

Security screenings at football stadiums include bag checks and body searches (pat-downs) to detect prohibited items (such as flares and alcohol) and enhance safety within the stadium premises. This may involve deploying metal detectors and security personnel trained in crowd management.

Mitigating security risks it’s important to strike a balance between maintaining security and minimizing inconvenience for attendees, so they can access a venue speedily. To further aid security screening procedures, advanced video analytics software can also be integrated into existing commercial security camera systems.

AI-informed technology can continuously monitor key locations in search of suspicious activity. Smart cameras are able to detect common threats, like crowds forming in unusual locations or the presence of contraband items, with real-time alerts sent to on-site security staff to provide an appropriate response and speed up intervention times.

4. Training for Emergency & Evacuation

Football stadiums have contingency plans for responding to emergencies such as evacuations, medical incidents, fires or security threats. Trained stadium staff and security personnel are primed to activate emergency protocols and conduct regular drills. This is crucial to ensure readiness for any crisis and guarantee the ability of staff to guide crowds to safety and facilitate orderly evacuation procedures when required.

5. Streamlining Technology & Innovation

Along with facial recognition, membership apps and smartphone ticketing, other technology innovations are being deployed at football stadiums, such as cloud-based security management systems and smart sensor arrays.

Automated responses can be created by connecting data feeds from access control points, combined with crowd intelligence from CCTV systems, to a cloud management platform. Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including motion, sound and pressure sensors can be used to activate connected security tools, effectively providing an early warning system.

Security personnel can then be notified to respond in real time. Cloud-based management systems enable security teams to efficiently review all of this live information gathered from multiple sources. These types of tech integrations could be applied to a variety of crowd settings helping venue staff make efficient use of limited resources.

But not only inside the stadium: These smart technologies can reduce the risks associated with overcrowding in surrounding areas such as esplanades or parking lots.

6. Thinking About Customer Service

Positive customer interactions with a venue’s facilities and its staff can enhance the attendee experience. Customer service can be further improved by prioritizing cashless payment solutions designed to accelerate the flow of customers during breaks in play.

Food and drinks can be pre-ordered via smartphones during the game – an approach that can help organizers to reduce overcrowding during intervals by staggering order fulfilment times.

7. Real-Time Occupancy Data

When processes such as the ones we’ve outlined are coupled with video analytics tools, staff at any venue – not just football stadiums but concerts, festivals and more – can collect real-time occupancy data to inform in-person crowd control measures.

Effective crowd access management should be a top priority for all stakeholders invested in the delivery of safe and secure access for the attendees of sporting and cultural events. Also for the users of large public infrastructure such as airports and train stations or even shopping centers.

Remaining open to advances in technology will be a key factor in ensuring smart crowd control methods help security staff improve threat detection, provide smooth access and deliver positive user experiences.

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