Surrey Cricket to trial Bluetooth spectator tracking in DCMS pilot

The Kia Oval during a night game in the Vitality T20 Blast.

A selection of spectators will be provided with Bluetooth tracking ‘fobs’ to manage social distancing and control crowd capacity as Surrey County Cricket hosts their opening match in the Bob Willis Trophy against Middlesex at their Kia Oval stadium this weekend.

200 fans out of the 2,500 expected to attend the match will carry the tracking technology as part of a pilot study backed by the UK Department for Culture Media and Sport. This follows an initial pilot match featuring Surrey at the Oval last week attended by 1,000 spectators and also approved and monitored by DCMS.

The Bluetooth fobs and a network of sensors will be provided by British technology company Restrata which also worked with the England and Wales Cricket Board to create a bio-secure environment for players, officials and operational staff during the recent series of spectator-free test matches between England and the West Indies.

For those matches, all of the 450 people allowed on site were fitted with “Bluetooth badges” and a network of sensors were installed throughout the two venues for the matches that allowed the company to track everyone on site.

This location data was transmitted back to a proprietary cloud-enabled platform which alerted stadium operators if somebody enters the wrong zone or too many people congregate in one room.

In an interview with SportBusiness at the time, Restrata said the technology allowed the ECB to track and trace any suspected outbreak of Covid-19 within the match environment and claimed it could also be used to allow rights-holders to safely allow spectators back into sports venues.

Richard Gould, chief executive of Surrey CCC, said: “While is it is hugely exciting to open our doors once again to cricket fans, our priority has to be the safety of everyone visiting and working at the ground.

“We have been working closely with DCMS and other governing and safety bodies to develop a safe environment for spectators, staff and players and are delighted to have been allowed to extend the Kia Oval trial – under the Government’s guidelines. We are excited to better understand what role technology can play in this process.”

Chris St. George, chairman of Restrata, said: “I think technology has a crucial role to play in enabling the safe return of supporters, in increasing numbers, to major sports this summer and into the autumn, not only cricket but also Premier League football.”

Surrey is playing Middlesex in the Bob Willis Trophy, a special one-off red-ball competition that is separate to the County Championship and will be played this summer only following the delay to the men’s domestic season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.