The operational and management side of stadiums is becoming increasingly important as more and more events take place inside our mega-arenas. From security to technology, and from fan engagement to accessibility, stadiums in the 21st century are more advanced than ever. We sat down with UCFB’s Jarno Stegeman, a specialist in event management and safety, to discuss all of this and more…

How have mega stadiums like Wembley changed the game for big event management, whether sport, music or otherwise?

I’m not sure if mega stadiums have changed the game for big events or vice versa. There have always been big events; some took place in stadia – think of the gladiators in colosseums – and others take place in greenfield sites across the country. Big stadiums offer the opportunity to organise events more easily because most the infrastructure is already there. Mega acts, like an Adele or Ed Sheeran, can sell out a venue like Wembley but there are not that many musicians that can fill a stadium, so it’s a difficult question to answer. Have stadiums changed the game? No, I don’t think so. Do they add more to the choice of finding the right venue or location for an event? Yes, definitely.

How important and widespread is technology – CCTV, fan engagement tools etc. – in modern stadiums?

Incredibly important. Technology is widespread in stadiums, sport and event management. From a safety point of view, you can think of CCTV, communication, RFID (radio-frequency identification) payments and ticketing. From a marketing point of view we’re talking about fan engagement, social media, marketing, and data. Any business that has the consumer at its core is using technology to enhance its performance. A stadium, as it is a business, is doing the same thing.

In your opinion, how has the fan experience changed of going to stadiums to watch events in the last 20 years?

There’s a bigger emphasis on safety at large gatherings. Don’t get me wrong, safety measurements in stadiums had already increased after the Hillsborough disaster. The threat of a potential terrorist attack is now much more on everyone’s mind, so this means more security in and around a stadium. Technology is becoming bigger as well, in the form of involvement in the game or the event.

What aspects of modern stadiums do you think have improved the most for fans and staff alike over the years?

Accessibility, at least the stadiums I have been to as a fan. From using public transport to actually finding your seat in the stadium, the whole get-in-get-out system has become quite efficient.

What do you think the future of stadiums and major events looks like?

Fans want to be included in what is happening. They want to experience an event from multi-dimensional angles. Last year in Japan a hologram “artist” went on tour and had fans flocking to venues, so my guess is that we’ll see that much more in the future. And if it works in music then why not in sport? People come to events because they want to experience it and escape the daily routine. That’s what sport and music events have in common: you can forget your problems and step into a different world.

This article originally appeared in UCFB’s Future Sport magazine. See below to read the 2019 edition.