Emirates Old Trafford and Lancashire County Cricket Club CEO Daniel Gidney considers the lessons learned during the pandemic and how the venue is preparing to help maintain the boom in attendance following the return of full capacity audiences.

July 20 marked the first time Emirates Old Trafford had hosted a capacity crowd in 681 days. It’s been a long wait and one nobody could’ve anticipated back then.

The entire global population has been impacted by Covid-19 and there is little doubt that the outdoor and live events industry has been one of the worst effected sectors.

We’ve had a couple of false starts followed by reduced capacities but now, finally, we are back ­– and  there is nothing like seeing a venue full of people living the moment of a live event.

In a typical year at Emirates Old Trafford we’d have welcomed more than 500,000 cricket fans and business and event guests to our historic venue. Like many other operators, the impact of Covid-19 has been significant.

That said, we look at the positives and the opportunity to host behind-closed-doors international cricket in a bio-secure bubble last summer enabled us to build a high level of expertise in successfully managing a Covid-safe environment.

“One key area that Covid has shown to be absolutely crucial for live event operators is communication.”

We completely re-wrote our operating procedures, completed more than 100 new risk assessments at the venue, hired a dedicated Covid-19 officer and installed the type of hygiene protocols that are now becoming standardised across the industry. We were eager to share some of these learnings with the wider industry in our Safe in One Place campaign.

Despite all the the pain, one positive aspect of the pandemic is that it has made all venues take a long hard look at their all aspects of their operations. And there is no doubt that it has accelerated industry-wide change.

Post-pandemic it’s clear that hygiene, health and safety will be key factors for event bookers and attendees, as will the overall customer experience; at a time when venues will need to work harder than ever to attract people and make them want to come back again and again.

At Emirates Old Trafford, in the last six months we’ve hired our first dedicated head of guest experience and taken the opportunity to go cashless to give visitors the safest and most efficient matchday experience when they return. I know we won’t be alone in instigating these type of changes.

One key area that Covid has shown to be absolutely crucial for live event operators is communication. Throughout the pandemic we’ve been regularly updating members, our database and our partners with the latest on the restrictions, how we are preparing for the return of events, what our refund policy is, and so on. That extends to the importance of communicating effectively at the venue to make sure there is a clear awareness and understanding of the new procedures in place to protect our visitors.

As we look ahead to our new normal, its crucial to use the lessons learnt to make our venues the best they can moving forwards and ensure that the initial excitement and boom in attendances can be maintained for the long-term as we all look to recover from the toughest period the industry has ever experienced.

This article was published in the August edition of Access All Areas. Read it here, and/or subscribe for free here