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

As the anticipation for UEFA EURO 2024 in Germany mounts, the football community eagerly awaits the grand spectacle. Behind the scenes, Daniel Nolte, the Director of Organisation at HSV, is orchestrating a symphony of preparations to ensure that Hamburger SV's stadium stands ready to welcome the world.

An interview with Daniel Nolte, Director of Organisation at Hamburger SV

In an exclusive interview with ESSMA, Mr. Nolte offers an in-depth look into the multifaceted responsibilities he oversees within the club. With a tenure at HSV since 2013 and prior experience in stadium development, including the transition to a new venue in Essen, Nolte brings a wealth of expertise to his role.

From infrastructural upgrades to logistical challenges, Nolte shares the intricacies of HSV's journey towards EURO 2024 readiness. With meticulous attention to detail, the team has tackled renovations ranging from the renewal of the roof membrane to the installation of state-of-the-art LED floodlights and a cutting-edge Public Address system.

Moreover, Nolte sheds light on HSV's commitment to inclusivity, highlighting initiatives such as the expansion of wheelchair positions and enhanced sanitary facilities, ensuring a welcoming environment for all spectators, including those with disabilities.

From Airforce to football

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

Mr. Nolte: I am Director of organisation at HSV. I am responsible for the conduct of all our major events here in the stadium, which is mainly the games of Hamburger SV, our club. The stadium belongs to the club, so we are all employees of the club.

Apart from that, I'm responsible for the technical department as well, who is maintaining and modernising the stadium. Greenkeeping is one department which belongs to my responsibilities. Some others include service areas, customer service, volunteer management and of course the EURO’s preparation, so we are with a small team including our project management department responsible for preparing ourselves for the EURO’s.

I am with HSV since 2013. Before that, I worked for RW Essen. My task was to help the club build a new stadium and move from their old stadium to the new stadium in 2011-2012. And before that, I was not in the sporting business. I was an officer in the German Airforce for 12 years.

Preparing the Stadium for the Spotlight

ESSMA: We are getting closer the start of UEFA Euro 2024 in Germany. What's the current situation of the infrastructure? What modifications and renovations have been carried out up until this point?

Mr. Nolte: We are in the final phase of all those infrastructural modifications.  The biggest topic was the renewal of our roof membrane. This is not a topic which was due to the EURO 2024, but of course we wanted to have it done prior to starting the matches here because we wanted to be at the best possible status. But that was something which was necessary because our stadium is now 25 years old. That's the normal cycle where you have to renew your roof membrane.

We also upgraded to an LED floodlight. And for the Euro, you need Elite level A lighting. So, we now have the highest standard here in our stadium, more than we normally need in league matches.

We also have a brand-new PA system, which is really state of the art. UEFA has already tested it and was really pleased. This is up and running since end of last year.

We have increased the capacity of our sanitary facilities by about 50 percent, especially in the public sector where we had some deficiencies.

We installed air conditioning in our hospitality areas. These will also be tested in the upcoming weeks. We have built in more wheelchair seats, increasing the capacity from 75 to 130 wheelchair positions. Which is less than the EURO normally demands. that was something we negotiated with them. We didn’t want just a temporary infrastructure measure,
but something that we can keep using for our matches. Those are the major topics we had to tackle.

ESSMA:  Did you see the UEFA Euro tournament as a kind of catalyst to do all these renovations that helped you to fast-track those projects?

Mr. Nolte: It's a mixture. The roof membrane and the PA system would have been something we had to tackle independently from the EURO anyway. But of course, some topics like the sanitary facilities, the air conditioning of hospitality areas, you're absolutely right. The EUROS is sort of a catalyst that facilitated those projects.

This is something which helps our stadium a lot, which increases the value of our venue. But to be honest, we would not have done it all in such a big package. It would have taken a little bit longer in order to do all those projects. But it is something which is really helping us create a better experience.

Accessibility and Inclusivity: Opening Doors for All

ESSMA: Talking about upgrading the sanitary facilities: did you treat that differently (in terms of male vs female) because of the different type of crowd for the EURO tournament compared to league games?

Mr. Nolte: In fact, when we built our stadium 25 years ago, the attendance and the type of crowd was different. So, we have – for HSV – an increase in female attendance leading to deficiencies in sanitary facilities. Also, for disabled people, we have created a more specific offer. We will have something called “Toilet for Everybody”, which is a type of toilet that is really accessible for everybody, no matter the severity of your disability.

To be honest, we were already pretty well-prepared to host people with a disability in the stadium. We had offers for blind people. We have a guidance system implemented where blind people without any guide can have signals which they can feel to find their way. We had an offer for blind people with commentaries. So, that is nothing new. I think the main step we made is regarding the wheelchair positions and the additional sanitary offers for all disabilities.

Preparing the Team

ESSMA:How are you preparing your team at the moment to host this special event?

Mr. Nolte: The project EURO started already about seven to eight years ago with the application process.  When Germany was selected as the host, we were lucky enough to be part of the ten stadiums. Of course, you have different steps in order to prepare yourself. It starts with site visits once a year. In this last year, we had three site visits where a lot of people from EURO 2024 come to the stadium to make their plans.

Since January, we have a permanent team from the EURO here on site. They started with a small team of four persons. Meanwhile they have increased to the size of 17, two weeks ago. Now they are going up to 30 - 40 people and for the tournament there will be more than 150 people here and taking care of the implementation of the overlay and the conduct of the tournament. Most of the things we do for our club will be taken over by the EURO team. For example, our media department will not have an active role because of course the media and communication will be done via the EURO team. They bring their own people while we will support with technical, operational and organisational things. Greenkeeping and all those functionalities for example will stay with us.

Advancing Sustainability Initiatives

ESSMA: The UEFA EURO 2024 wants to be a green tournament. What kind of eco-friendly practices have been implemented in the stadium to work towards that goal?

Mr. Nolte: We have already been looking into sustainability matters as a club and UEFA will take over some of the things we already implemented. For example: our renewable cup system.
We talked to the EURO team in order to implement a different kind of waste management and disposal system. We have our own system in place, but of course, there is always something to improve and we talked about the measures which can be taken.

I think in the end, what is most important is the mobility of fans coming to the stadium. That is not related to the stadium directly, but UEFA is collaborating with Deutsche Bahn in order to have a sustainable travel for all fans.

Final Milestones

ESSMA: Then as a final question, with now just around two months to go until UEFA Euro 2024 kicks off. What are the key milestones and the remaining tasks that are leading up to the start of the tournament?

Mr. Nolte: We are really in the last stage of some infrastructural topics we still have to finalise. That will be the key for the next two to three weeks because the stadium handover to UEFA is planned on the 21st of May.

We need to have finished everything from our side infrastructure-wise. Then the implementation of the EURO overlay will start. So, cabling and pre-cabling will already be prepared and then the big topics will come.

There is a possibility for HSV to play a promotion match after our regular season, if we finish third. If that is the case some handovers could have to be a little bit delayed. So we might lose one week of preparation if we have a promotion match but I’m sure we will manage to get everything ready well in time.

We are really thrilled to be part of EURO 2024. It's a big adventure for everybody working here. Some older colleagues were lucky enough to be part of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, now the younger colleagues also have a chance to experience this unique type of event. We have the Netherlands here against Poland on our first match, so that will be thrilling! They are expecting around 100,000 Dutch fans coming over to Hamburg, with only part of them owning tickets, so I think the city will be in orange in the end, but we are definitely looking forward to a unique atmosphere.

Posted on 23/05/2024 in: