In less than two months’ time, the British & Irish Lions will run out for the first game on their tour of New Zealand. While events on the pitch will obviously be the main attraction, the work going on behind the scenes to ensure each game proceeds smoothly will also be incredibly important in determining the success of the tour.
The hectic tour schedule will see the team play 10 matches in little over a month. While events on the pitch will obviously be the main attraction, the work going on behind the scenes to ensure each game proceeds smoothly – whatever the score after 80 minutes – will also be incredibly important in determining the success of the tour.
Given the difficulties in rehearsing large-scale evacuations, stadium operators are increasingly turning to simulation software to develop contingency plans – by predicting the flow of fans around the stadium, identifying potential bottlenecks and where associated safety risks are likely to arise.
This is just one of the large number of risks surrounding the use of stadiums during high-profile sporting events. QBE, which is a principal partner of the Lions, is providing insurance for five out of the seven stadia being used for Lions matches.
Even though risks faced by stadium operators are well known, managing a set-piece event the size of the Lions tour still presents a unique challenge. More than 35,000 Lions fans watched their side’s final Test victory against Australia in the 2013 tour, and stadia will be expecting to reach full capacity again when Warren Gatland’s side face-off against the All Blacks.
Ensuring that large numbers of fans can move quickly into and out of the stadia, particularly in an emergency situation, will be front of mind for stadium officials, particularly against the background of heightened security at prominent public events.
However, while risks around fire evacuation and working safely at height, for example, have always been present when preparing for stadium-based events, recent advances in technology mean that insurers and stadium operators alike are having to re-think the risk profile around holding sporting events like this, and how those risks can best be managed.
One novel example of this can be found in the growing use of drone technology. This means that modern technology can enable a single flying orb to throw a match into chaos.
In October 2014, a Euro 2016 qualifying match between Serbia and Albania was abandoned after a drone with a political banner was flown into the stadium. Months later, Albania were awarded a 3-0 victory in the match by a court of arbitration. If a similar incident were to occur in the final of a major competition, the liability incurred by stadium operators for loss of profits and irrecoverable venue hire charges, alongside associated reputational damage, would be severe. Such risks are increasingly being factored into insurers’ calculations when providing risk management solutions to high-profile events.
By the time the 37 players lucky enough to be selected as part of this year’s Lions squad fly out to New Zealand, preparations will have been underway for months to ensure that stadia are ready to meet the myriad of risks associated with hosting the tour.
With the development of new technologies and security threats making risk management for such occasions as complex as ever, the performance of the ‘team behind the team’ is becoming as vital to the success of major sporting events as that given by the players on the pitch.
This blog first appear in Stadia Magazine