Matchday Hospitality by Paddy Spicer Ward
A dull, scoreless first half may have made 45 minutes seem like hours when you are sipping a Bovril and munching on a pie at half time, but you may not know that the preparation for the match you’re watching has actually been underway for a number of hours.
It will usually be the chefs that are the first ones in, arriving at the stadium and starting work before daylight appears overhead. Grills are turned on, sauces are thickened and prepared ingredients are laid out for thousands of meals, or ‘covers’ to be cooked for guests.
A few hours later, staffing managers welcome the hospitality staff into the ground, still a number of hours before kick-off, so bars can be stocked and glasses polished. Stand managers and room supervisors then brief the staff in the room where they are working, having already attended a group briefing to lay out the plans for the day themselves.
The staff working in the kiosks on the stadium concourses filter in, and staff check in is then closed when everyone is allocated to their area of work. Ever wondered why you can’t buy a beer at European games? Under UEFA rules, alcohol cannot be consumed in the stands or concourses on a match day. This doesn’t however apply to hospitality lounges or restaurants in stadiums, so a more expensive ticket may be the way to go if you really want a pint at a Champions or Europa League game.
These matches can be quieter for staff working in the kiosks on the concourses, a far cry from the half time rush I am sure you have experienced at league games. To overcome this, some stadiums use hawkers who roam stadiums with back packs loaded with drinks to try and get a drink to everyone who wants one at half time as it can get very busy!
With the full time whistle and a sense of relief after a tight 1-0 win, supporters stream out of the stadium but the day is day is far from finished for many. Hospitality lounges fill up again post-match with supporters looking to grab some final food and a drink for the road, or to wait for the match traffic to dissipate and the staff are on hand to serve them.
A few hours after the match has finished and the only people around outside the ground are stewards in their brightly coloured jackets dotted around the entrances, the final few supporters hail a taxi and head home leaving the remaining staff to tidy up.
Tills and stock are checked in the kiosks, bars are cashed, uniform is returned and the rooms are broken down for the next event. Breaking down the room involves tidying away and washing glassware from the bars and clearing tables, peeling off the dirty linen and replacing them with crisp new table cloths.
If there is a function the next day, the rooms may need to be prepped for this at the end of the night. Tables and chairs are rearranged to cater for the event and the room is cleaned, ready to be set up again for guests the next morning. Remaining staff then sign out with the managers who have been on site all day and are the last to leave, and head home for a well-deserved rest.
Of course, some of them may be back the next day for the function, arriving well in advance again to set up the rooms and prepare for the guests. The evolution of stadiums from just sporting venues, to include multifunctional corporate event spaces means more and more hospitality events are held at stadiums; more food is served, more drinks poured and more hours worked.
Next time you head to watch your team play, spare a thought for all those you encounter throughout the day who are working to make sure you have the best day possible!
Paddy Spicer Ward