Skip to Content

Take me out to the ballpark!

Take me out to the ballpark!

I have to say I miss going to a sporting event and cheering on my favorite team, going to a concert, doing anything other than watching live events on TV! The energy and excitement of being there live, sharing in the moment with thousands of other like-minded people creates, hopefully, great memories. Unless your team loses, or the band stinks, but that is a different story!

For sports fans (me included), the sight – and sound – of fans back in the seats and organized sports such as baseball, football and hockey gradually coming back into full swing has been a welcome site, no doubt. And for the many SSN readers tasked with protecting these stadiums, ballparks and other sporting facilities that many of us will flock to and visit in the coming year, the challenges are more daunting than ever. Thanks, COVID!

Just in time for the NFL season kickoff, the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) published results from its Spectator Sports Safety and Security Survey in an Industry Report, the first of its kind published by the Center.

The purpose of this survey was to gauge sport spectators’ perceptions of safety and security practices, including those related to COVID-19, as the sports industry prepares to return to full-capacity stadiums and arenas. As the researchers point out, understanding spectators’ perceptions of safety and security practices, their sense of safety, and related technologies while attending events can help venue and event directors plan accordingly to ensure the optimal spectator experience.

“This is a timely publication as sports and entertainment facilities open to the public. Many sports leagues begin new seasons with enhanced policies, procedures, and measures to combat the usual risks and threats and consider the public health safety aspect with an evolving COVID-19 environment,” said NCS4 Executive Director and Professor of Sport Management Dr. Stacey A. Hall. “We are pleased with the research output and hope practitioners and technology solution providers find value in the results.”

Hall is right to laud the research here, as there are some great takeaways. Looking first at “Perceptions of COVID-19 Related Safety and Security Practices,” the study identified some key best practices:

  • 75.4% of participants plan to attend an event in 2021, and those who do not plan to attend an event selected COVID-19 as the primary reason (74.7%).
  • Approximately 68% have received the maximum number of available COVID-19 vaccines and two-thirds of those not vaccinated do not plan to get vaccinated.
  • About one-third (28.2%) of the participants have attended a sporting event without vaccination.
  • Participants selected high percentages of agreement or strong agreement for temperature checks, digital health passes (proof of vaccination or negative test), and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing services.
  • The most important policy for participants in their decision-making to attend future sporting events was a facility certificate of hygiene/disinfectant compliance (M=3.79), with 62.3% of participants agreeing or strongly agreeing.
  • 18 to 24 year olds trended more toward the importance of contactless/cashless operations, designated areas for drinking/eating, and mask requirements when deciding to attend an event than other age groups.
  • Most respondents would attend events with capacity restrictions. The indicated attendance for these respondents decreased slightly at 100% capacity.
  • Approximately 70% of participants were willing to pay a minimal ticket fee to offset the cost of safety and security measures, ranging from $0.50 - $5.00.

In addition, the report looked at “Perceptions of General Safety and Security Practices,” and provided some good insights:

  • 73.2% (agreed/strongly agreed) consider safety and security measures when deciding to attend an event, and 77% (agreed/strongly agreed) prefer security measures to be visible at an event.
  • Law enforcement presence, venue security personnel presence, screening detection technologies, bag searches, security cameras, security wands, ability to report an incident, and the use of K-9 units were highly supported measures.
  • More women than men indicated disagreement or strong disagreement with a no-bag policy.
  • Most participants were aware of their event’s safety and security measures before attendance (63.9% agreed/strongly agreed) and 76.8% know how to seek emergency help at an event.
  • Participants primarily receive safety and security-related information via the website, signage inside the venue, venue entry point, and venue announcements.
  • Before an event occurs, the preferred methods for receiving safety and security information were website, email and ticket.

A total of 609 participants completed the survey. The report outlines the results of the study in the following sections: Participant Demographics and Attendance Habits; Perceptions of General Safety and Security Policies, Procedures, and Measures; and Perceptions of COVID-19 Related Safety and Security Policies, Procedures, and Measures. Industry recommendations are also provided.

“We are excited to share NCS4’s first industry report and hope that its recommendations are impactful,” said Dr. Joslyn Zale, NCS4 Senior Research Associate and Adjunct Professor. “We plan to produce the report annually with the intent that it can become a resource for industry professionals to use when making safety and security decisions.”

Industry Recommendations

Researchers provided several recommendations, including first and foremost, communicate safety and security measures to spectators prior to the event via the venue/event website, email and tickets. "Continue to utilize venue signage and announcements to convey important information," researchers noted. "Effective safety and security communications ensure spectators’ awareness of policies, procedures, and measures. This can ultimately assist with expedited patron entry and less disgruntled fans as expectations are made clear prior to, during, and post-event."

Other recommendations:

  • Use visible security measures, e.g. law enforcement presence, screening technologies, to enhance spectators’ sense of safety.
  • Include temperature checks, digital health passes (proof of vaccination or negative test), and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing services as part of COVID-19 safety and security measures.
  • Obtain GBAC-STAR Facility Accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council. GBAC STAR is the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation for facilities.
  • Establish social distancing protocols within the venue/event, such as waiting in line for entry, concessions, restrooms, etc.
  • Consider cashless/touchless operations. This may include digital ticketing, food/beverage ordering, merchandise ordering, and restroom facilities transitioned to motion sensors.
  • Management may consider adding a minimal security ticket fee to offset costs associated with safety and security measures, ranging from $0.50 - $5.00.

The NCS4 will administer the spectator survey annually to investigate the general perceptions of industry safety and security practices and the potential impact of related current events among sports spectators, such as COVID-19 in 2021.

To view the full report, click here.


To comment on this post, please log in to your account or set up an account now.