Pop-up hygiene units: paving a way for crowds to return to football matches

Disinfect Group has created the stations that could help make fans feel safe to go back to stadiums.

Disinfect Group was established during the coronavirus pandemic by professionals from the experiential sector to help post-lockdown events meet the hygiene standards now required.

Plough Lane, future home to AFC Wimbledon, is one of the first UK locations to install Disinfect's hygiene stations, but it is being marketed as something that can also work well at shopping centres, airports, large retailers and cinemas. The weatherproof pop-ups can be locked up at night and built directly into entrances to ensure use by every visitor.

Discussing how a solution like this could help live events get back up and running, Tom Eatenton, chief executive of Disinfect, said: "Ultimately, it’s the reassurance side of things. We hear that from the last research we saw 40% were happy to go out and gather again at beaches, bars and clubs, 40% were not certain about going outside and 20% were somewhere in the middle.

"We are certainly focusing on the percentage of people who are a bit unsure and giving them that reassurance. But I feel that even if people are happy to go out again, they will feel even more reassured knowing they everyone has been through these measures when they enter a site."

Although the units cannot stop the spread of coronavirus, the three-step process should reduce the risk of it by helping to implement the World Health Organization’s advice to "clean your hands regularly". They also have a temperature-checking facility to identify anyone with a potential fever, plus dry mist, which, as well as being a mild disinfectant, helps to reinforce the value of keeping good hygiene standards when inside a venue.

Utilising the facilities takes 20-30 seconds, meaning 120-180 people can move through a unit per hour, per lane. Additional units can sit side by side to allow for more people to enter a venue concurrently, but the hospitality sector is already planning to stagger arrival times to eliminate large queues or big crowds in the streets.

Premier League football has already made its return in England behind closed doors, but looking ahead to the completion of Plough Lane in October, Joe Palmer, chief executive of AFC Wimbledon, hopes with the right procedures in place football can return to south London with a crowd of fans.

He said: "I think from a sporting point of view, whilst people may be looking at more home-based media to view, I still think there is always going to be a need for people to be in the stadium. It is a different experience and I think people will come."

AFC Wimbledon is sitting near the bottom of League One, close in the table to rival Milton Keynes Dons, the former Wimbledon FC that changed its name when it moved out of London.

"Particularly for clubs in League One and League Two, matchdays income is critical," Palmer explained. "We don’t have benefits of huge TV deals to support us, so we need fans in the stadium to survive.

"There is a discussion at the moment saying we shouldn’t start the league until we are at a stage that we can allow some levels of fans in the stadium. That’s why we have to do everything that we can to make it easier for fans to get back in and actually feel a lot less anxious about doing so."

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