Returning to UK Sporting Events During COVID-19 – Analysis of Spectator Experiences at Pilot Events

Anne Templeton, Kayleigh Smith, Jennifer Dang Guay, Nicola Barker, Darren Whitehouse, Aysha Smith

Research output: Book/ReportOther report

Abstract / Description of output

We surveyed 1,821 spectators attending pilot events in England between 26th July and 3rd October 2020 at basketball, cricket, football, horseracing, rugby and snooker events to identify spectators’ perceptions of large sporting events during the COVID-19 pandemic. All respondents except 3 participated since 26th August, after the UK government allowed pilot sporting events to reopen again.
Overall, the respondents had high trust in the event organisers to maintain their safety, and reported positive experiences of the events. The positive experiences were mainly due to regaining a sense of “normality”, the collective experience of attending live sporting events with other fans, and pride in their sports club and fellow fans for keeping one another safe. A recurring theme is that the events were important for mental health and mitigating the negative consequences of social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On average, the respondents believed all safety measures present were important in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. They also showed high trust in the event organisers to maintain safety, and reported high levels of adherence to the safety measures both for themselves and for other spectators.

Providing clear and actionable information about how to follow the safety measures was important to encourage spectator adherence to safety measures. A crucial aspect of this, however, was the spectators’ confidence in the event organisers to keep them safe. Effective sources of information included other spectators, events signage, stewards, announcements during events, online information, and pre-event communications. The respondents appreciated communication from organisers regarding safety measures being taken and guidance on how to adhere to those safety measures. In section 8.4, we suggest methods for effective communication to assist the spectators in being able to follow the safety guidance.

Respondents reported feeling safe in the events and this was highly related to the belief that spectators would keep one another safe. On one hand, seeing others adhere to the safety guidance led to higher expectations that the crowd members would support one another to keep safe, which led to feeling that everyone was part of the same group, and therefore higher own adherence. However, belief that the crowd members felt part of the same group was also associated with reduced perception that others in the crowd could put them at risk through germ spread. Together, this points to the importance of understanding social relations within the crowd when fostering safe behaviour. In section 8.5, we provide recommendations to encourage safe behaviour and minimise unsafe behaviour using group-based social norms. In section 8.6, we suggest specific areas that organisers should attend to in order to minimise the lower risk perception leading to increased risk-taking.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2020


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