Premier League counting on digital 'health passports'

Premier League counting on digital 'health passports'
The Premier League is back and while the underlying message from the government remains to stay at home, having a regular football fix will undoubtedly boost the morale and spirits of the nation. Ultimately, the end game is to get the fans back inside stadiums, but with strict social distancing measures in place, matches will take place behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.

Following the science has got us this far and it will dictate when the government should take its next steps in a bid to suppress the coronavirus and prevent a second wave of the disease which would be catastrophic.

While preparations and travel arrangements for matchdays will take some time to get used to, the early signs suggest no stone has been unturned. Logistics have been carefully thought out to safeguard the players. The bio-secure stadiums have adhered to medical protocols, but now thoughts are quickly turning to the next phase of how to plot a route for the return of fans.

Prenetics, the company behind the Premier League's £4million testing programme, has been developing a health passport prototype which will be used across football and other industries. At present, this will be tested out by players and staff members. They will be sent a personal code to their phones which they will need to scan to show they have tested negative for Covid-19.

The intention is to roll this out to fans next season to enable them to return to stadiums sooner than expected but in a safe environment.

In many respects, the idea is groundbreaking and Prenetics' chief executive, Avi Lasarow, believes the health passport is significant.

In an interview with i, he said: "This is the first time it's being used in sports. It has the possibilities for scaling it up in a sport context to stadiums and fans in a much bigger capacity. I think that's where the future is in terms of Covid-19.

"Today it's being used for access control, it can link to accreditation and biometrics. Ultimately the future is how you can scale that up to fans to get them into stadiums.

"The capability is there for us to facilitate the safe return of fans to stadiums."

Clubs have suffered huge losses of revenues over the past few months and the financial impact of the coronavirus has been unimaginable. Getting fans back into stadiums will alleviate pressure on clubs, but it is very difficult to put an exact timeframe on when this might happen.

The health passport system has the potential to be a game-changer if it is given sufficient support. A lot of hard work has been done over the past few months to ensure the return of the Premier League and we shouldn't take this for granted. For the Premier League, there has been a paucity of good ideas on the table with regards to fans.

Having video walls or creating mosaics inside stadiums is no substitute for an authentic match day atmosphere. The Premier League still has a long way to go. They may need to count on Prenetics' innovative suggestion if they are going to get fans back through the turnstiles sooner rather than later.


Written by Charles Perrin

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