Honigstein article from The Athletic about how we're exploring ways of getting fans back in the ground next season
Liverpool are exploring the use of German technology that could allow the partial re-opening of Anfield for supporters next season.
The artificial intelligence system, developed by Berlin-based company G2K, combines automated temperature and mask checks with computerised crowd management, ensuring that social distancing is adhered to in the stands and other public areas.
G2K’s solution has already undergone a series of successful tests at Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin, and is expected to become part of the Bundesliga’s plans of gradually allowing fans back into the grounds when the 2020-2021 season starts in September. La Liga are also testing the system at Real Sociedad’s stadium, on the recommendation of the league’s sponsors Microsoft.
The Athletic understands that Jurgen Klopp has personally taken an interest in the technology, having become aware of its promising trial implementation at former club Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park two weeks ago, and that Liverpool will hold talks with G2K this week.
Implementation would, of course, need Premier League and government approval. The Premier League have learnt from Germany’s example that the provision of a concrete safety protocol will help win approval from the authorities, as was the case with the initial restart of the Bundesliga. The German league came up with the restart protocol and lobbied politicians to agree to it. The plan is to do the same in order for fans to return to stadiums.
Dortmund approached G2K with a view to using 30 per cent of the 81,365-capacity Signal Iduna Park safely next season. For every game played behind closed doors, the 2019-20 Bundesliga runners-up lose up to €4 million in tickets, food, drinks and merchandise sales.
G2K is a software specialist that has devised similar coronavirus control measures for clinics, shopping malls and transport hubs.
The system requires the installation of temperature-sensitive cameras but otherwise utilises existing CCTV capabilities, which makes its use relatively cost-effective and fast. According to the company, the technology could be installed in stadiums within two weeks at a price of roughly €100,000 per game.
Tests with media and staff members before Dortmund’s game against Hoffenheim on June 27 revealed a high degree of accuracy (98.3 per cent) of the automated temperature check compared with the more time-consuming individual tests. The system does not use facial recognition, collects data completely anonymously and can also accurately detect raised temperatures and people not wearing masks among bigger crowds, which is considered crucial: manual safety checks at the turnstiles would lead to lengthy queues and thus defeat the purpose of social distancing.
The second pillar of the concept pertains to crowd management inside a ground. A test run with 40 extras showed the algorithm could reliably identify fans who are sitting too close together. An automated system alerts stewards to the problem or can issue a warning on the stadium’s big screen.
The technology can be adapted to the requirements of each club, which could vary due to local health regulations. RB Leipzig, situated in the state of Saxony, have announced they’ve been given the green light to utilise 50 per cent of the Red Bull Arena capacity (42,000) in the coming season, if safety measures are in place.
Temperature checks and social distancing will only be the first step in that regard.
In a joint-venture with a German biotech company, G2K is also working on the integration of an inexpensive and rapid coronavirus test into its concept.