Culture secretary

Culture Secretary launches expert task force to work on getting fans back at elite sports venues

An independent team of sports, health and technology experts have been brought together to explore a range of high-tech solutions so fans can be back at elite sports venues when it’s safe, announced Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.

Chaired by David Ross, co-founder of Carphone Warehouse and non-executive director of the British Olympic Association, the Sports Technology and Innovation Group (STIG) met for the first time today (24 September).

Also attending will be Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, who has been instrumental in producing government guidance on the safe return of elite and grassroots sport, alongside representatives from the Premier League , Microsoft, Innovate Finance and the Scientific Council. Emergency Group (SAGE) among others.

The group will work closely with sporting bodies and the Sport Grounds Safety Authority to explore the full “fan journey” – from home to venue – such as fan travel to and from stadiums, as well as reducing the crowd inside and outside these sites.

He will recommend technical solutions to the government that could help bring crowds back to elite sports venues when it is safe to do so.

This announcement follows the Prime Minister’s announcement earlier this week that the planned return of socially distanced supporters to sports stadiums from October 1 has been postponed, due to rising infection rates in coronavirus across the country.

Following test events in football, cricket, snooker and basketball, the pilot scheme for returning spectators to sporting events has also been postponed. The government is now working at the pace of sports to understand the issues facing organizations facing the most difficult circumstances and the support they may need.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

Due to rapidly increasing transmission rates, we were unable to bring fans back from early October, and are therefore looking for support to help the sport through.

But I won’t give up on finding ways to bring fans back safely. STIG will work on innovative ideas and technologies that could help get fans back to where they belong, in stadiums and pitches, faster. This is vital work that will continue rapidly.

Sport Technology and Innovation Group President David Ross said:

We must do everything we can to get fans back to the sports fields and cheer on their heroes as soon as it is safe to do so. This group of sports, health and technology experts will work at pace to identify any smart innovations that can help speed up the process of getting fans back into stadiums.

We know how crucial sport is to the social fabric of our communities as well as to the local businesses that depend on it to make a living in cities and towns across the country. This group of experts will do everything possible to find solutions that can help bring the sport back live for the millions of fans who miss it as much as we do.

The government continues to work closely with the sports sector and others on a range of innovative solutions to get back to business as usual, including through the government’s ambition to deliver rapid mass testing across the UK, which would encourage the return of spectators on a significant scale. when it is deemed safe to do so.

The Sport Technology and Innovation Group will report its recommendations to the Culture Secretary in due course.


Notes to Editors

Members of the Sport Technology and Innovation group:

  • Chair: David Ross (co-founder of Carphone Warehouse and non-executive director of the British Olympic Association)

  • Professor James Calder (sports physician, DCMS adviser)

  • Natalie Ceeney CBE (Vice-Chairman of Sport England and Chairman of Innovate Finance)

  • Professor Nick Gent (SAGE Spi-M, epidemiologist)

  • Gary Hoffman (Chairman, Premier League)

  • Derrick McCourt (General Manager, Customer Service, Microsoft UK)

  • Sally Munday MBE (General Manager, UK Sport)

  • Professor Jonathan Van-Tam (Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England)

  • Shashi Verma (Chief Strategy and Chief Technology Officer, Transport for London)

Other members should be announced in due course. The group will also include a number of observers, including staff from ministries and sports governing bodies.