How the FBA Candidate Taylor Adler experienced the ESSMA Pitch Management and SMART & Sustainability workshops at Amsterdam ArenA

Taylor Adler, a Candidate of the FBA Professional Master in Football Business, about his experience and learnings of two ESSMA Workshops. The FBA, an ESMMA Partner, offers its students a Professional Master in Football Business with the objective to deliver them all the necessary tools and an optimal learning environment in order to succeed in the passionate and dynamic football industry.

As part of my internship experience with ESSMA, I had the opportunity to take part in two of ESSMA’s 2018 Workshops, the Pitch Management Workshop and SMART & Sustainability Workshop, which took place over a three day period, hosted at Amsterdam ArenA. 

Pitch Management Workshop

Prior to attending this workshop I barely knew how one of the most important assets of the sport was managed. The experience of being around some of the best European grounds managers from PSG, Arsenal FC, FC Bayern Munich, etc. was certainly eye opening and insightful. 

Amsterdam ArenA, host of the Pitch Management Workshop, began with discussing the multifunctional use of their pitch and the process of turning a football pitch into a concert venue while maintaining a high-quality pitch. Followed by a behind-the-scenes tour of Amsterdam ArenA grounds maintenance area and the opportunity to walk on the pitch and examine the grass up-close. 

“During the pitch visit I quickly came to the conclusion that the Amsterdam ArenA grounds team left Ajax players with no excuse for a bad first touch.”

Next on the programme were presentations related to the impact of weather on pitch management. Grounds managers from FC Utrecht, SV Werder Bremen, and the Algerian FA shared knowledge and learning experiences on how they deal with weather scenarios like heavy rain, snow, and in the case of Algeria, heat.

On day 2 we visited the AFC Ajax training center ‘De Toekomst’, located next to the Amsterdam ArenA. Knowing the history of Ajax’s youth system, the visit was of course a privilege but also insightful as I, and all participants, were able to see how they manage the use and maintenance of their training pitches.  

I found the cooperation between Amsterdam ArenA and AFC Ajax to be top notch. It was obvious both parties work together very closely. This was most evident when seeing the quality of the pitch. 

Moreover, I realized the importance of stadium design. The main challenges of maintaining a perfect pitch at Amsterdam ArenA are the lack of sunlight and air flow. Future stadiums can use this as an example towards design phase in order to create the best possible pitch conditions. 

The opportunity to take part in the workshop was an unique experience and left me with a tremendous amount of respect for grounds managers. In addition, the Pitch Management workshop was very fulfilling. Seeing these industry experts come together with different ideas, experiences and knowledge sharing is what ESMMA is all about.

SMART & Sustainability Workshop

The second ESSMA workshop organised at Amsterdam ArenA was the SMART & Sustainability Workshop. Participants had the chance to learn more about the technologies implemented at Baku Olympic Stadium and the transition of London Olympic Park into a venue with a lasting and sustainable legacy. Furthermore, Michael Lloyd, Deputy Stadium Manager of Arsenal FC and FBA Stadium Operations course lecturer focused  his presentation on operational efficiency, sustainability and the challenge of how to approach becoming a more sustainable club. In relation to the sustainability case of Lord’s Cricket Ground, which took place on day two, it was interesting to compare and contrast the approaches of both venues.

For me, the highlight of my time at the two ESSMA Workshops was the ‘into the future’ stadium tour of Amsterdam ArenA. This tour offered participants in-depth insights on how Amsterdam ArenA is approaching and acting on their mission to become the most sustainable stadium in the world. The tour started with a visit to the soon-to-be operational battery storage center which will be home to recycled Nissan Leaf batteries. This development will allow for Amsterdam ArenA to increase operational efficiency throughout the year and the possibility to supply energy to the surrounding community. 

Next stop on the ‘into the future’ tour was the Amsterdam ArenA Innovation Centre, where many of these innovative ideas are born, tested, and brought into operation. This center focuses on leveraging data in six areas: Fan Experience, Customer Journey, Safety & Security, Sustainability & Circular Economy, Facility Management, and Digital Connectivity. For me this came full circle when shown the application of ideas from the innovation lab to the pitch. A handful of sensors are placed in and around the pitch to record data related to pitch management. This data is gathered, interpreted, and directly applied to decision making processes. For instance, Amsterdam ArenA is able to track the recovery time of the pitch with in depth metrics after on field events. This allows them to analyse multifunctional pitch use in a way never done before and to make business decisions based on these findings.

“For me, the highlight of my time at the two ESSMA Workshops was the ‘into the future’ stadium tour of Amsterdam ArenA.”

The SMART and Sustainable workshop left me with a handful of learning experiences and key takeaways. I found the approach of Amsterdam ArenA to be fascinating. As many venues in Europe and around the world are focused on expansion, Amsterdam ArenA is focused on using innovation to improve their bottom line. The challenge of implementing sustainable practice into stadiums, and sport in general, is also something that stood out. Will fans want to take part in it? Do they want this to be a part of sports? Are they willing to be educated on the subject while in a sports setting, or do they even care at all? These are all questions many stadium and club operators face when it comes to sustainability and it can often times become a balancing act. In the end, this is why ESSMA offers such events to stakeholders in the industry. It provides a setting for these topics to be discussed, questions to be asked, and knowledge to be shared. 

Go to our ESSMA Flickr account for more pictures.

Posted on 03/05/2018 in: