What is a UEFA stadium inspection?

Stadium inspections are a crucial element of UEFA's work, because stadiums require UEFA's green light before they can stage European matches. Here's how the stadium inspection procedure works.

The new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
The new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium ©UEFA via Getty Images

One of UEFA's key roles is to inspect stadiums before they host matches in European competitions – and one of the latest inspections was at the impressive new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, which played host to Tuesday night's UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg between Spurs and Ajax.

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has a capacity of 62,000
The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has a capacity of 62,000©UEFA

The 62,000-capacity stadium opened its doors for the first time in the UEFA Champions League for the quarter-final first leg against Manchester City on 9 April. But, before the stadium made its European bow, UEFA’s important rubber stamp was required for the venue to stage big occasions in European club football’s blue-riband competition.

So how does UEFA assess stadiums like the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for use in our competitions? The key element of the assessment is the overall stadium inspection – a detailed task which is carried out by UEFA’s pool of 15 stadium inspectors, all external experts who look at around 80 stadiums each year on average.

The stadium and all of its facilities underwent a thorough inspection by UEFA
The stadium and all of its facilities underwent a thorough inspection by UEFA©UEFA

Inspections are thorough, meticulous and carry the mark of expert experience. Here, we look at how the stadium inspection procedure works…

Why is such an inspection carried out?
UEFA considers the inspection to be vitally important to ensure that the stadium meets and respects UEFA’s requirements and Stadium Infrastructure regulations in terms of quality and quantity.

The inspection is used to assess the stadium physical conditions, health and safety set-up and security facilities and measures that are normally put in place to ensure that a match takes place smoothly.

In addition, the stadium facilities are verified, and the stadium management must give details of emergency contingency processes.

Tottenham's previous home for 118 years was White Hart Lane
Tottenham's previous home for 118 years was White Hart Lane©UEFA

When are stadium inspections organised?
Normally, UEFA visits stadiums when a national association has announced its use for any future competition.

Criteria include whether a stadium is brand new or has undergone recent major renovation, or has not been used in a UEFA competition for three successive years.

The overall process can actually start with a meeting at UEFA during the design phase, to allow the presentation of the stadium concept. Feedback is provided by UEFA's units – this prevents the building of a stadium which is non-compliant, which would be discovered at the stadium inspection and result in additional work having to be carried out.

What is the profile for a stadium inspector?
Proven football experience, either as an active or former UEFA delegate or UEFA security officer, or by having worked for a club or football association on stadium infrastructure-related activities. Educational experience in the architectural and/or engineering business is also definitely an asset.

While carrying out a stadium inspection, UEFA stadium inspectors must also be aware of the likely competitions for which the stadium will be used. They must know the competition regulations, as well as the different manuals which define additional requirements and parameters to which a stadium must adhere to allow its use in the different competitions.

Stadium signage
Stadium signage©UEFA

 What does a stadium inspector expect when carrying out a visit?
Club and/or stadium management must be present for the whole visit, and be prepared to answer any of the inspector’s questions.

All stadium facilities and immediate surroundings must be fully accessible to allow a full stadium tour.

City authority representatives – police, fire brigade, first aid and public transport – should attend the opening and closing meetings to respond to key match organisation questions, and explain how the stadium is managed on match days.

How long does a stadium inspection last?
This depends on the stadium size – some two hours for a Category 1/2 stadium (200 – 1,500 spectators), and up to six hours for a Category 3/4 stadium (between 4,500 and above 50,000 spectators).

A view of the technical area
A view of the technical area©UEFA

What are key aspects of the stadium inspection?
The inspection covers several main facets, focussing mainly on players and officials’ facilities, spectator-related areas, TV and media facilities.

The inspection of players’ and officials’ areas include dressing-rooms, referees’ rooms, emergency medical facilities and the doping control station. Every detail is noted – for example, distances between the stands and the touchline, distance between goal lines and LED boards, substitutes’ benches, toilet and showers.

The control room at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
The control room at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium©UEFA

Nothing is left to chance at the inspections. Football is an entertainment business – and decisions must take fans’ safety and comfort into account. Can visiting supporters see from their sector? How are security and ticket controls carried out? Is the signposting adequate? Can disabled fans enjoy the action in comfort? All crucial parts of the inspection procedure for spectator-related areas.

Major UEFA competition matches are televised to millions across the world, and the action is also conveyed to newspaper readers as well as web, mobile and social media users.

Media seating at the stadium
Media seating at the stadium©UEFA

Consequently, facilities for TV and media representatives must meet stringent requirements. How does the media get to its designated working area? Is the TV camera platform positioned properly and at the right height? Do commentary positions have a central view of the pitch? All criteria that must meet the requirements laid down by UEFA for the action to be brought to fans in Europe and beyond.

What happens after a stadium inspection is completed?
At the wrap-up meeting, the stadium inspector should highlight any major deficiencies or non-compliance with UEFA regulations, and share these verbally with the club and stadium management team.

VIP facilities at the stadium
VIP facilities at the stadium©UEFA

After returning home, the inspector issues his report, which he submits to the UEFA administration together with pictures taken at the visit.

The UEFA administration then issues a final stadium inspection report which states the current stadium category – and what is required to either increase the stadium category to a higher one, or maintain its category.

What role does a national football association play in the stadium inspection?
The national association should be present at the stadium inspection, having previously inspected the stadium and completed all the information in the UEFA stadium passport – a questionnaire open to national associations, clubs and stadium operators, which aims at collecting and storing comprehensive data on individual stadiums.

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