Leading-edge technologies can ensure efficient stadium operations and a pleasant visitor experience

A camera system monitors the crowd in front of the stadium and contributes to efficient routing.
Photo: Hertha BSC/City-Press

9 February 2022 – Operating a large sport facility with a huge seating capacity is a complex task involving numerous organisational challenges, from directing the flow of visitors at the entrances to controlling vehicle traffic, and from security and health management to maintenance. A “Stadium Innovation Project Group” headed by DFL and DFB has been formed to explore the potential benefits technical solutions from other business sectors might offer to sport facilities.

The project group was launched jointly with the clubs of Bundesliga, Bundesliga 2 and the 3rd Liga at the beginning of the season 2021-22. It provides a platform where experts from the clubs can explain their key challenges in stadium operations, and suppliers of industrial solutions can present suitable technologies and services. DFL’s role in this scenario is to contribute its own innovation expertise as a consultant, help the clubs identify compelling innovations, coordinate collaboration among the stakeholders, and generate value – with the ultimate goal of enabling efficient, cost-saving, visitor-friendly stadium operations.

Twelve clubs and fourteen suppliers were involved in the first complete innovation cycle, which resulted in six concrete pilot projects. The results of the first practical trials in stadiums look promising, as the following examples show:

  • Lufthansa Industry Solutions AS GmbH has developed a people counting and crowd control solution that can be deployed in and around stadiums. It comprises sensors and cameras as well as AI-based evaluation software and was tested at Berlin’s Olympiastadion during three Hertha BSC home matches. Following a review of the pilot project, the stakeholders are now considering ways to combine the system with various visitor interfaces, such as electronic information panels, mobile apps, acoustic announcements etc., to reduce waiting times and visitor queues. Another potential use of the system would be to control the flow of people to food kiosks and lavatories. Any implementation of the solution will be strictly in line with the GDPR.
  • Another trial took place at Dortmund’s SIGNAL IDUNA PARK in early November. Two suppliers had been invited to demonstrate their drone-based technologies to representatives of Borussia Dortmund, VfB Stuttgart and VfL Wolfsburg. The surveillance system offered by Dronivo GmbH detects drones entering the perimeter of the stadium within a radius of about three kilometres and can lock onto their control systems. It can force unauthorised drones penetrating the stadium airspace to turn back or land, and localise their pilots. The Berlin-based Security Robotics Development & Solutions GmbH presented a drone-based property surveillance solution. On days without events, a video camera-equipped drone flies around the stadium at regular intervals, filming relevant locations. This saves significant amounts of time compared with foot patrols of security personnel. The supplier plans to use Artificial Intelligence software to detect suspicious activities and objects automatically and alert the security service.
A drone records on the stadium grounds of SIGNAL IDUNA PARK during a flight.
A drone records on the stadium grounds of SIGNAL IDUNA PARK during a flight.
Photo: Security Robotics/Sunflower Labs
  • Infection protection is the subject of a trial at VfL Wolfsburg’s VfL-Fußball.Akademie where a durable antiviral and antibacterial coating for frequently-used surfaces such as door handles, hand rails, lavatories, offices, eating zones and catering stations sold by That’s it International GmbH is being tested. If successful, the coating could be applied in many areas used by the professional team as well as at the offices and in the stadium.
  • Two software solutions for event organisation planning are undergoing pilot tests: DSC Arminia Bielefeld, VfL Bochum 1848 and Karlsruher SC are testing a solution by ORGArena GmbH, and 1. FC Kaiserslautern is trialling the solution offered by VP Venue Planner GmbH. 

Dr. Christian Hockenjos, Director, Organisation at Borussia Dortmund and Chairman of the Federation of German Stadium Operators (Vereinigung der deutschen Stadionbetreiber), summarises these projects: “Being able to contribute to the project group was very beneficial for us as a club. Pre-filtering innovations is a good and helpful concept for the individual clubs. AT BVB we were able to try out the innovations we were interested in and are looking forward to hearing about the results of the other pilot tests, as well.”

DFL and DFB witness all pilot tests locally, document the outcome and offer advice to the clubs and suppliers. For additional trial opportunities, vendors of other technologies and services are welcome to apply for the second project cycle, scheduled to launch in the spring of 2022. The person to contact at DFL is Birger Naß.

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