This weekend sees England face Sri Lanka in the cricket World Cup and Wales in the football Euro qualifiers. For most non travelling England fans the most challenging thing to navigate this weekend will be setting their Sky+ to record on Saturday at 8:30am on Sky Sports 2 and then again at 2:00pm on Sky Sports 1. For the fans travelling to the stadiums, however, the challenges might be somewhat greater.

This week Figure it Out looks at the experiences of travelling supporters even before kick off or the opening power play has begun and then again after the final whistle, final runs have been scored or wicket has been taken.

Firstly we started by asking a sample population (a few of my mates) about their experiences of recent stadium visits.

Emirates Stadium
Location: Arsenal/Highbury, London

“I recall policemen on horses that funnel you into a long queue once you get out to direct people out of the stadium. It does take ages to get into the station after a match and onto the tube. You’re quicker walking a couple of miles and getting a neighbouring tube. They also have colour coded sections to help you get to the right place quickly. I recall on one occasion when I was minding my own business and was quite bewildered by how quickly a scuffle turned into a fight within the crowd. It all happened so quickly and the youths (obviously not true ‘gooners’) came and went without incident. I guess this highlights how easy it is for something to ‘kickoff’ and then perpetrators to melt into the crowd. Generally I feel quite safe at the Emirates but I’m sure managing security at other stadiums must be quite challenging”

Wembley Stadium
Location: Wembley, London

“I like the new Wembley stadium and the tube infrastructure that has been built around it. Although I found queuing to get back into the station after a game takes quite a long while. The stadium is cleared very quickly though and there are lots of exits. I think they could do with heating in your seats. Perhaps a coin operated heater in the seats. At the race of champions, there was frost on the ground and after 2 hours of sitting, I’d happily have paid a tenner to warm my behind on that day!”

Kenyan National Stadium
Location: Nairobi, Kenya

“I went to a football match in Kenya, never again! I was pick pocketed on the way in. My sister wanted to go but was not allowed, generally it’s not safe for women to go and I recall seeing only a handful when I went. The seats were broken and most people were standing. I noticed a bit of trouble a few metres away from me, I’m glad this wasn’t near me as those exits were blocked within seconds from a stampede.”

National Cricket Stadium
Location: Mumbai, India

“I’ve been to a lot of cricket matches in England, but nothing compares with the experience I had 2 years ago the watching the Mumbai Indians play live in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Firstly there seem to be only two entrances open for half of Mumbai to try and muscle their way through. I went with a group of friends and managed to lose all of them. I was actually quite scared. Nothing that resembled a queue could be seen and the police marshalling the event were quite heavy handed. When I finally got into the stadium, I realised that there was no chance to get to my seat as people were sitting in any available space they could find, on the steps, railings and on top of each other! Worlds apart from Lords – I will never complain about the stadiums in the UK again!”

O2 Arena
Greenwich, London

“I went to an American all stars NBA game here recently and actually found it to be a very slick operation. There are good entrance and exits and a good passage to the station after the event. There is a big tube station concourse there which is required as there are so many people wanting to catch the same trains. What I liked about the 02 in comparison to most other venues (appreciate this is not a dedicated sporting arena) was the number of bars and restaurants that remain open after the event finishes. This is helpful because it eases the flow of traffic out of the stadium so you actually getting a lower ‘throughput’ as you ‘OR’ guys would put it, immediately hitting the station turnstiles. Personally I think it’s a good model to be imitated. The only beef I had was the fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere and the tubes finish up at midnight, so you probably only have time for 1 or 2 drinks anyway! Saying that, even those 1 or 2 drinks are usually enough to allow the station to cope.”

So where are we going with this? Well, apart from the fact that I have some strange mates, these stories have all highlighted that when designing stadiums, various planning decisions must obviously be taken into consideration such as capacities, passenger volumes, transportation options, etc. However once the stadium has been built there is not much you can do to change the infrastructure or transportation networks that feed the stadiums without incurring a large cost. And trying out different ways to improve the experience in real life can create unnecessary chaos.

This is where Simulation modelling can help. Capgemini have created models using software such as Witness and Simul8 to replicate passenger movement scenarios into and out of queue generating locations such as stadiums and airports. Changes are tested inside a computer, not in the streets, and the insights lead to greater efficiencies in customer flows and improvements in the customer experience. We’re not claiming the pre-match experience is all due to OR – a good quality pie works wonders too – but you can be confident that in well-managed people movements, OR will have had a hand.

Extending the stadium experience to the Olympics in 2012, the UK will be faced with a much greater operational challenge, particularly at their ports and stadiums when hosting the multi city, multi sporting event. The challenges at a stadium level above will be felt at a city and even country level, and OR techniques will need to be at the heart of the operations. Let’s hope the organisers don’t have to fall back on the quality of the catering to make a wonderful experience.