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Maintaining Hygiene Protocols at Large Sporting Events

With attention focused on The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ Dr Lisa Ackerley, director, medical and scientific engagement, hygiene for Dettol Pro Solutions at Reckitt, considers the importance of hygiene protocols at major sporting events.

Helping prevent the spread of illness-causing viruses and bacteria at large-scale events is central to reassuring both fans and staff – as well as continuing to increase their confidence outside of the home.

By using a risk-based approach to hygiene at sporting venues which takes into consideration how fans and staff interact with surfaces within a physical space, a more measured and focused level of intervention can be taken to improving hygiene at large events.

This approach has been implemented with Dettol Pro Solutions’ partners such as Avis, British Airways and the Football Association, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games as well as at the UN Climate Change Conference, (COP26), which was one of the largest physical events to be held since the beginning of the pandemic.

The protocols put in place offer an example of an efficient and effective approach to hygiene intervention, known as Targeted Hygiene. Developed by Dettol Pro Solutions’ team of virologists, microbiologists, public health and medical scientists, in collaboration with London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the protocols and hand hygiene interventions implemented at COP26 helped reduce the spread of illness-causing germs across 50,000 hotspots in a conference space larger than 30 football fields.

The procedure is fully replicable in the environment of large sports events and as such was implemented at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games where Reckitt was the hygiene Partner; learning from our experiences, venue operators seeking to set best practice in Targeted Hygiene should consider the following takeaways:

Take a targeted, risk based approach

Rather than simply creating what can be seen as “hygiene theatre” by carrying out unnecessary – and sometimes ineffective – large-scale disinfection, venues should implement Targeted Hygiene protocols that are informed by science to help break the chain of infection.

Typically, after identifying frequently touched surfaces in different locations, an assessment about the  frequency and timing of cleaning and disinfection can be made thus developing a tailored, risk based approach which also encompasses the critical role that hand hygiene plays.

Identify hotspots

Typical hotspots would be frequently touched surfaces such as stair and balustrade railings, escalator rails, elevator buttons, door handles, front of house hospitality items such as tables, many of the surfaces in the bathrooms such as toilet flush handles, cubicle door handles, taps and any other high touch surfaces particular to a venue.

Consider timing and frequency

But it is not just about identifying hotspots! Once cleaning and disinfection protocols are established for commonly touched points in a venue, the critical element to reducing the potential for germ transmission is the timing and frequency of cleaning and disinfection.

So, for example, if concourse traffic within a venue is at its highest during half time, cleaning and disinfection of hotspots in this area should happen immediately afterwards. Elevator buttons may need more frequent attention from cleaning teams throughout the game day if they are in high use throughout the event. In hospitality areas, tables need clearing, cleaning, and disinfecting after each use.

Get personal – encourage healthy hygiene habits

Good hygiene is a result of a partnership between the venue and its occupants: it’s important to empower and encourage good hygiene habits for spectators, athletes, volunteers and anyone involved.

Don’t forget the importance of clean hands, and ensure that you work out where hands need to be washed or sanitsed to break the chain of infection. This means ensuring that consideration is made of what would encourage hygienic behaviour – how can we get people to sanitise or wash their hands at key moments? This means thinking about the types of messages that would be most effective in addition to positioning sanitising stations where they are most likely to be used. Also, make sure that hand hygiene supplies are kept topped up – there is nothing more infuriating than touching a sanitiser pump and nothing coming out.

In addition, sports venues can empower their staff and fans and build confidence by supplying top-up disinfection products in high-traffic areas. For example, disinfection products such as wipes can be placed in convenient dispensers to provide extra confidence for fans in their seating areas, or for staff to wipe down frequently touched surfaces like elevator buttons, or handrails.

Engaging, eye catching innovative approaches can help drive better hygiene habits at large-scale sporting events. For example, Dettol Pro Solutions’ dispensers feature voice activation that delivers ‘thank you’ messages to people as they sanitise their hands, plus a counter to show how many times the unit has been used.

 A healthy future for the global sports industry

Once a Targeted Hygiene program has been developed, staff need to be trained on implementation, and then managers need to make sure they check suitability during the event, refining measures as necessary. – for example, you may want to move sanitising stations to reflect any change in flow of fans through the venue.

At a time of heightened hygiene concern, a key to success at major sporting events is for fans and staff to feel reassured and comfortable while enjoying the games they love. People are excited to get back to watching world-class sport and Targeted Hygiene protocols can be used to inspire hygiene behaviour change amongst spectators, helping to build confidence not just in large-scale events like these but also in daily life.


  • Lisa Ackerley

    Dr Lisa Ackerley, CEnvH, FRSPH, is Director of Medical and Scientific Engagement and Hygiene at Reckitt, and a Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner and Professorial Fellow of the RSPH - as well as a Fellow of The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

CAMFIL HVAC Filtration Solutions

Lisa Ackerley

Dr Lisa Ackerley, CEnvH, FRSPH, is Director of Medical and Scientific Engagement and Hygiene at Reckitt, and a Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner and Professorial Fellow of the RSPH - as well as a Fellow of The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.
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