During one of the UEFA Euro 2020 rest days ahead of the weekend’s quarterfinals matches, Access spoke to Jack Morton production director Jim Donald about how the brand experience agency worked on the official UEFA Fan Zones for the Greater London Authority (GLA) at London’s Trafalgar Square and Potters Field.
How have the events gone so far?
This feels like day 30 in the Big Brother house. We’ve been open since the beginning of the Championships at Potters Field and we’re 20 odd days into it. We’re pretty much live every day for 31 days at Potters Field. We’ve also been up and running at Trafalgar Square when England have been playing. On Saturday we’ll be screening the England match against Ukraine. We’re then screening the semi-finals and finals so we will have done nine screenings there by 11 July.
How many people can you have at each site?
When we kicked off we had plans for two Trafalgar Square events at a limited capacity because of social distancing and then we were looking forward to the announcement but obviously that didn’t happen, so we do have limited capacity there. The first three matches were for key workers with a mixture of groups from the fire service, police and NHS. We’ve been trying to increase the capacity in the Square by balancing social distancing and the density of tables. As we go into Saturday’s game, I think we’re going to be around about 1,100-1,200 spread across the Trafalgar Square site, because we’re opening up to Morley’s Hill on the east side. But the capacities prior to that had been sub 1,000. Tuesday [29 June] was the first time we had the public ballot open so rather than being key workers it was open to the public, which was great to see and there was a great atmosphere.
We’ve got tables at Potters Field which has helped us manage social distancing more, but it’s meant that we’ve reduced our capacity to sub 500 at any one time. But we’ve got good flow through there whether we’re on games days or non-games days and there’s a great mix of entertainment. One eight-piece band before the Italy game hadn’t played in a year and a half so that was great to see.
What other entertainment is there at Potters Field?
The football village has a family atmosphere – we’ve got a huge range of London buskers that have been brought in. We’ve had comedy nights, flamenco dancing, singers, guitarist, saxophonists. It’s a really good mix and there’s lots more to come.
Are there any other technical challenges you’ve had to deal with?
The main thing is the ever-changing weather but that’s normal for any outdoor site. We’ve had some torrential rain over the last few weeks, particularly when the Scotland match was on the other night. We had to close one night due to flooding, but it drained well and the equipment held up well.
What other specific Covid mitigation measures are in place? How have you enforced these?
All the team are lateral flow testing and we’ve got a daily health check that anyone coming into any of our sites are completing. We use an app, where you scan a bar code on the badge. There’s mask wearing, hand sanitiser, social distancing and we encourage football fans to sit back down again after they celebrate and not hug each other. So there are new elements that ordinarily in the old world you wouldn’t even have to consider.
Of course Trafalgar Square is capable of taking 8,000 and you’ve only got 1,000 people in there, all seated at tables, so it’s a different atmosphere. However, the experience is still good, they’re sitting at tables, they’re drinking their beers, they’re watching the game. In some ways, the fan experience is more comfortable for them than it would be if they were shoulder to shoulder in that more traditional fan zone experience.
What work went into organising the Fan Zones with the GLA?
I’ve been working with the GLA since 2004. We’ve built a very strong relationship through the work we do with them running London’s New Year’s Eve and designing and planning that since its inception – as well as Olympic homecoming parades, Royal Weddings and that kind of thing. So we have a good partnership with the GLA but it’s also about getting broader stakeholder groups like Westminster City Council, Southwark Council, Metropolitan Police to integrate our plan within the broader city coordination plan.
It’s a great collaborative team effort between not only the regular London agencies that we work with to deliver a mass event, but also bringing in UEFA and understanding their needs and making sure that we’re delivering sites that are within the regulations of consistency – whether it’s from a brand point of view and their sponsors point of view, or whether it’s the look and feel, because UEFA is doing the Fan Zones in ten other cities. There’s a consistent look and feel whether you walk into the one in Glasgow or if you walk into the one in Tobacco London. So our job is a balancing act to help support all, and deliver on everyone’s needs.
Were there any other venues you had lined up?
Before the championships got rescheduled, we were in the midst of delivering a much larger fan zone which would have been in Greenwich Park. We’d got planning permission for that in the early part of 2020 and obviously that got cancelled with everything else last year. When it got announced it was happening in 2021 instead the decision was made within the GLA that things needed to be downscaled. Trafalgar Square was always in the mix but it wasn’t going to be a core focus because of the size. Potters Field, which is an iconic location, was also always part of the mix.
Who are the key suppliers you have worked with on the project?
There’s a mix in how we’re contracting people. UEFA has a large part to play because when you get a fan zone they contract some of the infrastructure themselves, which is normally the screen and AV side of things. They’re working with CT for that, and Acorn is supporting them with some of the staging. For the rest of the site infrastructure we’ve augmented that through CT in terms of further AV kit.
We’ve got Pylon One doing our connectivity and entertee doing the T-shield and the hoardings and barriers. We have Delta doing our CCTV, we’ve got PTL doing the toilets. We’ve got a mixture of Studio Hall and CSM doing graphics because there’s a lot of branding that we need to do across our sites to make it a UEFA site. We’re working with Loud Sound Bites to help us with the catering side of things. We have Peppermint at Trafalgar Square running our bar operations, and Bar Serve at Potters Field. Then we’ve got Showsec as our stewarding and security provider who are doing an awesome job for our crowd management. Shift is doing the traffic management when we close our roads. For ticketing we have See Tickets.
Image credit: GLA