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How Aviva Stadium plans to open up behind closed doors



Back again: the Aviva Stadium will soon be open for action

Back again: the Aviva Stadium will soon be open for action

�INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Back again: the Aviva Stadium will soon be open for action

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of opening of the Aviva Stadium, but the only people present at Lansdowne Road to mark the occasion were the ground-staff who are working on the pitch on rotation and members of the Defence Forces who opened a Covid-19 testing centre.

Stadium director Martin Murphy celebrated the landmark on Zoom with some of the staff who have made the place a success.

Today, he should be handing the keys to the place to UEFA ahead of Euro 2020 but that project has been mothballed for a year.

Murphy's focus right now is on getting the stadium ready to host big matches again - albeit behind closed doors.

The FAI hope to stage a competition between the League of Ireland's four European qualifiers at the venue from July 20, while the IRFU are planning on hosting an interpro championship in August.

Both organisations are meeting government officials today to understand the next steps, but Murphy says the Aviva Stadium is ready to host matches behind closed doors as soon as it is allowed to do so. Here's how they plan to do it.

Rúaidhri O'Connor: How have you prepared to reopen the stadium behind closed doors?

Martin Murphy: "We've done some very intense planning. The IRFU have been working away on processes for players re-turning to training and then to play. And then as a follow on for that, matches behind closed doors are the logical next sequence.

"So, we've we've collaborated with the IRFU and the FAI to come up with protocols that deal with all aspects of it in great detail.

"Effectively, the stadium will be closed apart from the changing room area. Everybody would be checked in, everybody that's working there would have to make declarations about their history in terms of Covid and whether they've been exposed with it or been isolated.

"There will be contact tracing available.

"The place is cleaned the day before and sealed, it is cleaned again afterwards and sanitised. All of the equipment is sanitised. The pitch can be sanitised (with a spray) as well.

"Effectively, you minimise the number of people present. Our own staff would look after the infrastructure, but again they'd be isolated from each other.

"That's that's the way we're going to operate. We've looked at what the German FA produced, which is a very comprehensive document. We're in contact with other venues across Europe and including Juventus and Manchester United, watching what they're doing and the plans a foot for games behind closed doors.

"We won't be the first mover, it's likely that the Bundesliga will start next week and then the Premier League will follow. We'll be watching very closely and learning from them to see if there are any issues that we need to pick up on.

"The whole idea is that we would be able to present this plan to government having properly researched it to ultimately allow government make a decision with the confidence that games can go ahead."

ROC: World Rugby suggest 167 is the number of people needed to pull off a match behind closed doors, is that the number you are working off?

MM: "Guinness PRO14 have also done guidelines and their number is 168. The Premier League I think is around 400. We would think about 160 or 167 is doable and it could be even tighter than that by just being smart about who's in there what they do.."

ROC: If both soccer and rugby are given the green light, the stadium may well be in demand. How quick a turnaround would you have to have between matches?

MM: "There is a deep clean before and after each game so you could have games in quite close proximity to each other and be assured that you're minimising the risk. Certainly, there's no problem with one day after another. Back to back would probably present a few more challenges. There would need to be a gap between the games. Consecutive days would not be a problem."

ROC: Do you anticipate that the protocols will change if the stadium is given permission to host international sport such as the Euro qualifiers or the Guinness Series?

MM: I think the model will be very similar, regardless of the match. Ultimately, what you're doing is you're providing the cocoon and it doesn't matter whether it's an international team or a club team that's within that cocoon, you're just providing a protected, sterile area for the teams and for their management.

"The teams would be expected to bring their own food, possibly come togged out and go away in tracksuits and shower individually at home or in another environment - that sort of detail is covered in what we've envisaged."

ROC: The size and modernity of the stadium must be a huge benefit?

MM: "It is relatively easy for us to do it because of the size of the stadium. It means the broadcaster's would plug in to the camera positions that are already there. The whole key to it is just making sure that there's nobody that could compromise the event by coming into proximity with the cocoon.

ROC: Are there plans in place to try and replicate a full stadium in terms of atmosphere?

MM: "That's up to (the FAI and IRFU) in terms of the production. But, I know that that some venues have considered putting in a green backing on the far side from the cameras and digitally putting in crowds. I believe that that's possible. And we've talked about maybe putting crowd images along the seats, but having spoken to some of the broadcaster's they feel that the fact there's no crowd in the stadium, you will actually picked up a lot more of what the interaction between the referee and the players and it will have a different dynamic. They felt a canned crowd noise would not really work. So it'll be interesting to see if anybody does go down that road."

Belfast Telegraph