Brace yourselves football fans – this could be the future. The sci-fi way we experience the game from now on in these COVID-19 stricken times. You stroll up to the stadium with your mask on. Facing you is something that looks like an airport security portal. That is your ‘Entry Point Disinfect Tunnel’.
You step in, push a button to turn on the dry spray, disinfect your hands, and look into a screen that takes your temperature. If the green light buzzes and you pass the temp test, you then step into the disinfection chamber where the dry mist envelopes you and kills all the bacteria on you and your clothing – and then you are through, match ticket in hand.
Sound a bit ominous? Actually, after experiencing it on Monday down at the site of AFC Wimbledon’s new 9,000 stadium at Plough Lane, it feels weirdly cleansing and reassuring. Your reporter came through unscathed – and disinfected.
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The Dons are currently trialling the brand new COVID-19 screening system – which could be a major boost in getting fans back into stadiums.
If the sessions at the new stadium work, the League 1 club aim to install one of the £18,000 units at their training ground to test players and staff when they come out of lockdown in time for the new EFL season.
AFC Wimbledon chief executive Joe Palmer said: “We wanted to be one of the first to give this a go.
“If we can make inroads into the processes to get games going again, anything that can help is good for a small club like ours.
“The fact that it is all in one unit makes it all a lot easier to utilise. We are testing this here first, see if it meets the needs, then hopefully put it down at the training ground.
“It feels more like airport security. Players and staff all go through the same process.
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“If it works there, and then we will look at using it in the stadium. The EFL are watching our trials.
“If we are looking at behind closed doors games then these units will be fine. When we get into crowds, or limited capacity crowds, then you will obviously need a lot more.”
Disinfect UK group chief executive officer Tom Eatenton, whose company produce the units, are in talks with the EFL, as well the NFL in the USA, the PGA European Tour, and Formula E motor racing.
Eatenton said: “Our three step process will help prevent the spread of coronavirus and other viruses. We hope it will give confidence to people so they feel more comfortable gathering in large numbers.”
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The process takes around 20-30 seconds – which means two to three people a minute can be processed through each tunnel. The units can come in, single, double or multiple tunnels.
One NFL franchise in the USA already has them on site – and is planning to install four eight lane units in their stadium.
The Dons are aiming to open their new more modest – and disinfected – Plough Lane home in October.
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