3 things we learned about the stadium industry in 2021

3 things we learned about the stadium industry in 2021


From the start of the year with restrictions already in place, to the reopening of stadiums in February, to the need to show Covid passports in December, 2021 has been a rollercoaster of a year for our industry.

With 2022 looking to be as unpredictable, are there lessons we can learn from this last year to help us through the next?

Throughout the year, members of the SwipeStation team have been talking to operators, visiting stadiums and working events on a freelance basis. Between us we’ve covered football, rugby, horse racing, motor racing and festivals, and three common themes have consistently emerged that will change the industry forever - and could lead to a profitable and successful 2022.

1. The digital wheels have started turning and they’re not stopping.

Paperless ticketing is becoming the norm, paving the way for other products and services to be offered on and off a matchday. In the meantime, the world has turned onto mobile payment. Whether it’s online shopping, a takeaway or food and drink in a pub, we are all ordering from our phones and no one is looking to go back to the “old ways”.

2. Fans can and will change behaviour overnight if they have to

Fans have accepted the move to digital as the only way to access and enjoy the events they have missed during the pandemic. Where there has always been a reticence in the past to force change on the fans, 2021 has shown us that they are actually more tech savvy and accepting than we ever thought. Going forward, introducing new ways to access, order and consume services should not be held back by “will the fans adopt it?”. Show the fans the need and how it improves their experience and the adoption will happen.

3. Staff retention has never been more important.

The staffing crisis in hospitality has been well reported and is a serious issue facing the industry. Staff are now expecting better pay, better conditions and can pick and choose the options that suit them the best. Trying to keep hold of staff with better pay is a short term, unsustainable solution. Yes, we need to pay a fair wage for the services received but the industry is also looking at how the work environment can be improved, with proper breaks, staff meals and other incentives. We all know that motivated staff work harder, smarter, have a great effect on customer experience and will return the following shift. Retaining staff leads to better performance, less training costs and reduced spend on recruitment and agencies.

Operators are also looking at how technology can reduce the burden on manpower. Mobile ordering is proven to reduce the number of staff needed behind kiosks, while automated ticketing can reduce the numbers of operators on turnstiles.

We believe that in 2022 we will see more automated systems in place that reduce the strain on staffing numbers but also take the pressure off the physical staff on site, creating a modern, happy working environment that staff return to time and time again.