Kick-off Countdown: Inside UEFA EURO 2024's Stadium Preparations

As the countdown to UEFA Euro 2024 nears its culmination, all eyes are on Signal Iduna Park, a venue steeped in history and primed to host one of football's most esteemed tournaments.

An interview with Felix Timpe - Head of Match Organisations for Borussia Dortmund

In this interview with Mr. Felix Timpe, Head of Match Organisations for Borussia Dortmund, we delve into the preparations and extensive upgrades undertaken to ensure an unforgettable and seamless experience. With insights into security measures, accessibility initiatives, and final preparations, this interview provides a comprehensive overview of Signal Iduna Park's readiness to welcome UEFA Euro 2024. 

Join us as we explore the journey of Signal Iduna Park, as it assumes its pivotal role as a host venue for UEFA Euro 2024, embodying years of dedication, innovation, and collaborative efforts to showcase the beautiful game.

ESSMA: Mr. Timpe, could you please start by introducing yourself to the ESSMA community?

Mr. Timpe: My name is Felix Timpe and I'm working as the head of match organisation for Borussia Dortmund’s home matches and as a “double-rolled” project leader for EURO 2024 representing Borussia Dortmund’s stadium operators' side.

Infrastructure Evolution: Preparing the Stadium for the Spotlight.

ESSMA: With just about two months to go now until kick-off of UEFA Euro 2024, what's the current situation of the stadium infrastructure? What projects are you working on at the moment? 

Mr. Timpe: On the 1st of April, we started our pre-setup phase. A lot of infrastructure had already been built behind the scenes.  We prioritised the projects that didn’t have such a big impact on our daily routines, as we still had a few Champions League and Bundesliga home matches to be played. Around mid-April we started covering the running track of our athletic area, where the 
TV compound will be installed. These are the first big and visible signs that there was something different from what we usually do for Bundesliga or Champions League matches happening.

A lot of smaller adjustments have been made like implementing a fixed, installed climatisation in our dressing room area. This is one of the only things which we will effectively keep after the tournament, because most of the adjustments are just temporary.

In terms of renovations or modernisations, everything we did so far, was linked to our Borussia Dortmund-home matches. Our idea is to develop the stadium in the long term  and not solely focus on EURO2024. That being said, any improvement for our own matches of course also benefits the EURO2024-operations as well. For example: we are just finishing our construction work for the new annex of our stadium. It's a huge project to improve our catering logistics, for Borussia Dortmund games, which is not specifically linked to EURO2024, but will also benefit fans during the tournament.

One more visible adjustment that is still on our agenda is covering the Signal Iduna Park logo, which has to be done in light of the “Clean Site” principle. This will be done at the end of May, after our last Bundesliga match. As we don’t have to carry out major renovations or modernisations, we are almost ready for the official handover on the 20th of May.

The most important things to be done right now are related to media matters. We have to dismantle a lot of chairs to gain space for additional camera platforms or the increased media tribune. And – of course – we have to install seats in our standing areas, as EURO2024 is requiring an all-seater stadium.

Accessibility and Inclusivity: Opening Doors for All

ESSMA: One thing that UEFA puts the focus on is accessibility and inclusivity for all fans. Did you have to take any measures to enforce that in the stadium?

Mr. Timpe: In Bundesliga matches we have 72 wheelchair positions. We nearly doubled the positions for the helpers, but it’s still 72 wheelchair positions plus 140 helpers. And for EURO 2024, we are installing another 72 wheelchair positions in the first rows of the south stand. This is only possible because we’re going to be an “all-seated” stadium during the tournament. And only due to these circumstances, we will be able to install wheelchairs positions at the bottom of the south stand.  We’ve received several questions as to why we don’t just keep those positions after the tournament as well, but it’s really only possible because the south stand has a reduced capacity from 25,000 to 12,000 due to the change from standing to seating.

ESSMA: For some fans it will be the first time that they visit the Signal Iduna Park. What can they expect in terms of fan experience when they first come to the stadium? What sets this stadium apart as a hosting venue? 

Mr. Timpe: The special thing about our Signal Iduna Park is that it’s not a modern arena, in fact its a 50-year-old stadium, but the stadium is so vibrant, it’s full of passion. You can really feel it, those thousands of fans all together, so close to the pitch. The infield of our stadium is quite narrow (120 meters by 80 meters) and the stands are quite steep so it creates this immersive environment. A traditional football-focused venue with the fans so close to the pitch, so close to the action. That’s what makes the venue so special.

Safety and Security: Measures for UEFA EURO 2024

ESSMA: At the last UEFA EURO tournament, we saw some problems with people trying to get into the stadium without having tickets. How are you preparing to avoid any of those issues? 

Mr. Timpe: First of all, for our Bundesliga matches or even national team matches, we as Borussia Dortmund haven't faced such problems, but the EURO is requesting the installation and implementation of an outer security perimeter. It's quite challenging to find the right shape of this outer security perimeter because we have three “obstacles” around our stadium.
On one side is the Stadion Rote Erde. On the other side is the hospitality and VIP parking area and in the south is a trail track and a swimming pool area, but we try to find suitable solutions where we can. We found some positions for the channel system from the stadium entrance.  

So we probably have quite a big outer security perimeter compared to other EURO2024 stadiums. We did it more or less the same way like for the World Cup in 2006. It went well back then. So we have a lot of experience in our team, even though it's already 18 years ago.

Countdown to Kick-off: Final Milestones and Readiness Checks

ESSMA: What are the key milestones, the most important remaining tasks that still have to be solved from now until then?

There will be a lot of last-minute requests. But normally today (April 30th) is the final day of getting people into the accreditation system for background screening, et cetera. 

The detailed planning for the operational organisation during the matches is now finished. We have ticked off all the boxes for those “large projects” and are now getting more into detail in every single unit.

The parking schedule for example: at what time are which target groups allowed to enter parking lots?

Or the OSP activation: we are jumping from a normal matchday OSP to matchdays where we the OSP will be a lot larger, so that brings with it certain adaptations.

Furthermore, we still have two security exercises in our agenda. One is called “the joint coordination group”, which will be carried out together with the authorities. The other one is more of an internal exercise between the EURO group and the stadium operators, where we are training the venue coordination center. All relevant information should be gathered during these exercises. Like detailed operational tasks, because we know with our (usually three to four thousand) staff members during Bundesliga matches how to operate the stadium, but this time it will be a different approach. We need to get them up to speed and able to run the whole system. This will be the main task now for the final days of preparation.

But everybody here is looking forward to the start of EURO 2024, we have a countdown clock here. We are ready to host fans around Europe and we are going to make every second count to make it an unforgettable event.

Posted on 17/05/2024 in: