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Testing testing: Emirates Old Trafford shines light on future of live events

As the Test Match series between England and the West Indies drew to a close at the Emirates Old Trafford, the events team at the venue reflected on what they hope will be the first of many more live events to come.

As was the case for many event venues, 2020 was set to be a big year for Emirates Old Trafford, but when Covid-19 caused a nationwide lockdown, “everything completely stopped”, Angela Hodson, sales director at Emirates Old Trafford told M&IT.

“Last year we delivered around £8.59m in hotel and conference and events revenue alone. When it got to March, when Covid really hit, everything completely stopped.

“What we found was that all the conference organisers, all the business on our books basically for the next four or five months, completely rescheduled their events to the back end of the year, so effectively between September and December.”

However, reintroducing events to the venue, namely one of the biggest cricketing events in the world, has allowed Emirates Old Trafford to see, in action, how successful business meetings and events could run in the future, as Emirates Old Trafford operations director, Steve Davies explained.

“Emirates Old Trafford became the first venue in the UK to welcome overseas visitors when the 39-strong touring party from the West Indies touched-down in the UK on 9 June,” he explained.

“Covid-19 created a completely new set of challenges; we have reimagined every stage of a typical event hosting operation and added a bio-secure health filter safeguarding all visitors to our world-class facilities.”

Steve Davies

Davies explains that, like many other events venues, creating a safe environment was of the utmost importance. “We have re-written our risk assessments and standard operating procedures for all departments, including rigorous deep cleaning measures, providing PPE for all players and staff on-site, putting social distancing measures in place, adhering to Government guidelines and increased hand sanitisers at every touchpoint for all on-site.”

On addition to these safety measures, the venue has also launched the  ‘Safe in One Place’ campaign aimed at sharing the knowledge and best practice gained from hosting behind-closed-doors Test Matches with the wider events industry.

As the England-West Indies Test Matches look to be a success story of welcoming events back to Emirates Old Trafford, the events team are already fielding other methods to ensure the future of safe and successful events.

“This has been an uncertain time for everybody in the £70billion events industry and Covid-19 has had more of an impact than any of us could have anticipated,” Emirates Old Trafford CEO, Daniel Gidney said.

“What we are doing at the moment is industry-leading and this has provided us with a blueprint to move forwards and understand what events will look like in the future. We are effectively currently the only large events venue in the country that is operating and have developed strong operational discipline. I am extremely confident that we will be able to deliver events in the safest possible way at Emirates Old Trafford and whilst it’s not confirmed, we would be very interested in running a pilot event with one of our clients before the Thursday 1 October.”

While speculation and anticipation around the full reopening on the events industry remains firm in the UK, the Emirates Old Trafford team are positive.

“The events industry is born out of people who are very organised, meticulous planners and with the right processes and procedures in place we can very much deliver events in an organised way,” added Hodson.

“If we can work effectively with organisers, and get some kind of guidance from the government, I totally believe we’re an industry that is able to do this successfully.”