Monday 06 August 2012
It is not just the Barclays Premier League's footballers who are being put through their paces this pre-season. The summer is also an important time for other departments within the country's leading clubs as they gear up for the new season.
Premierleague.com caught up with Arsenal's Stadium Manager Mark Pearce to find out what the team responsible for the upkeep of the iconic Emirates Stadium have been up to over the summer.
What is the role of the Stadium Manager?
"The role of the Stadium Manager is to prepare the stadium for the advent of 60,000 people arriving at the venue on a matchday. The stadium manager ensures the stadium has all the necessary certificates and maintenance requirements in place and that all the testing has been done in order to ensure that when we hand things over on an event day, the safety manager can run the event. It's coordinating everything to make sure the stadium is fit for purpose every day."
"Pre-season is our busiest time"
- Mark Pearce
How many people do you have in your team?
"In the Stadium Management team, if you take out London Colney [training ground] and the Youth Academy, we have something in the region of 60 people that are full time. There are 93 in total in the Stadium Management department but 60 including sub-contractors and people who will work over the summer. That includes security people as well who I am also responsible for. We have 34 full-time guards within that number."
Is pre-season a busy time for you?
"It's probably the busiest time for us. The close-season gives you more opportunity to do larger building alteration work to the stadium where we have between six and eight weeks of time between the end of the season and the start of the new one. For us it's a matter of making sure that any large maintenance requests are dealt with when we have the time to do it and seal areas off."
What are your maintenance requirements?
"We have approximately 50 certificates that we have to prepare at the stadium and test so we're ready to go. Islington Council will verify that we have all these checks in place and each of the areas have been serviced, all our fire-fighting equipment, everything from the turnstiles down to the electrical intake rooms, the gas equipment, the boiler rooms, anything like that has been tested. It's a very heavily legislated industry."
"We have Junior Gunners camping overnight on the pitch"
- Mark Pearce
What are the differences between doing the role now and the one you did at Highbury?
"At Highbury when I joined 14 years ago we had an ageing 1930s stadium that had a corporate level of some 500 people. We didn't have all the other large events. Now we have an Arsenal Ladies match which can have between 7,000 and 10,000 people turn up and we have Junior Gunners camping overnight on the pitch for an annual event. This year we also had three Coldplay concerts over a weekend. So a good month into pre-season we still hadn't started our close-season works or had our testing done."
Over the last two or three years Emirates Stadium has sought to create more of a community feel for Arsenal fans by putting up banners reflecting memorable years, murals of players and statues. Have you been involved in that?
"About two or three years ago we began the process of 'Arsenalisation' of the stadium because the fans were coming over to a wonderful new facility, but the feel of the ground perhaps wasn't yet the visible stronghold of all things Arsenal. It was the home of Arsenal but it wasn't 'Arsenalised'."
What did the 'Arsenalisation' entail?
"The 'Arsenalisation' of Emirates Stadium is an ongoing process. Perhaps the most striking change initially was the imagery on the stadium's outside walls depicting 32 Arsenal greats 'embracing' the ground and its fans.
"We're trying to make Emirates Sradium worth visiting in its own right"
- Mark Pearce
"This was followed by a number of installations on the lower concourses, the development of Club Level (premium tier of 7,000 seats) and the creation of player stories on the lower cores of the stadium wall. When you look under each story you can see stats of that player and specific recollections from fans of why they remember that Arsenal legend - all of these things have helped to create a better fan experience."
Statues were erected too, weren't they?
"To celebrate the Club's 125th anniversary last season, we also unveiled statues on the podium of three Arsenal legends; Herbert Chapman, Tony Adams and Thierry Henry and introduced 'Fan Flags' to honour the faces of a variety of Arsenal supporters who have their own unique connection to the Club and personal story to tell."
"We are trying to make Emirates Stadium a destination worth visiting in its own right, not just as a football venue. We have visitors all year round and now offer a fully multilingual and self-guided stadium tour that covers off all of the must-see areas of the ground including the home and away players' changing rooms, the exclusive Diamond Club and the home team dug-out.
"The stadium area where the tours are permitted to go, because the design was an open area for the players, now has to be secured and more regularly maintained due to the high footfall of the general public."
"This summer we've had building work to upgrade the boxes"
- Mark Pearce
"When these ideas come to fruition it's down to the Stadium Manager to ensure they are carried out and installed. That's where our skills come in. We ensure that what the Commercial Department or the Board of Directors want the stadium to look like we put into practice."
Are there any plans for the close-season?
"This summer we've had building work to upgrade the [corporate] boxes. There will be a lot more focus now on giving the box-holder a better Matchday experience.
"Our concourse floors have to be relaid and we're also doing a lot of work with our retail units. We've just opened a new shop at Brent Cross Shopping Centre and although that isn't attached to the stadium, it's still something we've had to facilitate, risk assess and make sure it opened.
"We're expanding our event day operation so we've had to maximise space and reconfigure some of our internal rooms."
"The stadium's just had its sixth season, so after that time there was a lot of painting that needed to be done just to freshen it up again. It’s a bit like painting the Forth Bridge!
"This summer we've added a few more painters because some of the non-public areas are looking a bit tired after five years and we've had to restructure some of the internal rooms.
"It's a bit like painting the Forth Bridge"
- Mark Pearce
"We relay the pitch each year, we'll have 30 cleaners in for a week washing and cleaning our 60,000 seats and all the steelwork in the bowl. All the above has to happen in the six to eight weeks of the close season.
"People sometimes don't realise that this is a full-time business. They probably think we all take three months off every year! It's not just a question of opening the doors on a Matchday, there is so much more that has to happen to make Emirates Stadium a welcoming venue for each and every one of our visitors all year round."