How it was done
In June 2020 – at the height of the global Coronavirus pandemic – Emirates Old Trafford was selected by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) as one of two UK venues that would host a behind-closed-doors Test Match Series against the West Indies.
This was an unprecedented challenge that would see the venue transform its operational procedures to create a bio-secure environment and host the first elite International sporting competition following the outbreak of COVID-19.
With pressure on the ECB to salvage the summer’s International Cricket schedule – critical to securing £200 million in broadcast revenues for English cricket in 2020 alone – Emirates Old Trafford became the centrepiece venue within their plan.
As it became clear during Spring that there’d be little chance of supporters returning for the start of the season, the venue’s Operations Team began preparing for the possibility of behind-closed-doors events and compiled 50-page proposal outlining how the venue could operate a bio-secure bubble.
This proposal outlined how Emirates Old Trafford would utilise the 150-room four-star Hilton Garden Inn hotel situated within the grounds, plus over 700 car parking spaces and interconnecting bridges, to demonstrate to the ECB how it would create a safe environment for both teams and all stakeholders.
Emirates Old Trafford staff worked around the clock to implement safety measures across the venue aimed at protecting the 300 plus people – including players, support staff, media, operational and technical teams – who were on-site for every minute of the fixtures.
In an eight-week window ahead of the fixtures, the Operations Team completely re-drafted its Risk Assessment documentation and Standard Operating Procedures for all departments.
The venue’s dedicated COVID-19 officer carried over 100 fresh Risk Assessments outlining, amongst others; rigorous daily deep cleaning measures; PPE provision for all players and staff on-site; social distancing and one-way signage installation; introduction of zoned access areas; ventilation surveys carried out on every room in the venue; increased hand sanitisers at every touch point; provision of temperature checks, health questionnaires and daily COVID-19 testing.
All internal departments went above and beyond to make the venue secure and comfortable for guests. From catering teams delivering daily menus for all guests, to ground staff preparing the pitch and events teams making sure daily testing protocols were carried out. The objective was clear: ensure that the proper procedures were in place to minimise the risk of infection and enable the Test Matches to be completed.
To that end, the ECB undertook 702 COVID-19 tests between June 3 and June 23 with several stakeholder groups working at the Test Match venues, with all 702 tests registering as negative.
Having successfully delivered the two Test Matches against the West Indies, Emirates Old Trafford was entrusted with hosting further fixtures against Pakistan and Australia, meaning a record 21 days of cricket were played at the ground in total this summer.
Off the back of the Summer’s events, Emirates Old Trafford launched Safe in One Place - a campaign with the goal of helping UK venue operators as the events industry prepares to return. The initiative centred on sharing insights, guidance and best-practice with event operators who underpin a £70bn industry and help them bounce back from the devastating effects of COVID-19.