Brighton & Hove Albion’s American Express Community Stadium has been converted into the south coast’s biggest drive-in coronavirus testing centre, as the club strengthens its commitment to assist the NHS and other key workers during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Testing is strictly by appointment only, and those experiencing symptoms of the virus must follow the government and NHS advice. The site is part of the government’s UK-wide drive to increase testing for thousands more NHS staff and other key workers.
It sits alongside a rapidly expanding network of testing sites being set up around the UK, and is operating on an appointment-only basis for NHS staff and other key workers. The facility will be piloted for its first few days of operation.
Chief executive Paul Barber commented, “It has been amazing to see the Department of Health and Social Care who are overseeing the set up of these vital test centres, working alongside the army, club staff, AAA security and the team from our stadium and the club‘s catering partners Sodexo, whose staff are helping to run the site.
“It is hugely impressive, and a great triumph of both teamwork and hard work. The Amex will be the biggest testing site anywhere on the south coast, and will be used for self-testing and assisted testing.
“The members of our club and Sodexo staff who will be on site day to day have all been trained; and the level of attention detail is phenomenal. And, having visited the site today, the team spirit was truly humbling.
“Huge credit must go to our safety and security team, led by Ade Morris, and the Sodexo team led by Andy Perkins. They have been patient, diligent and supportive to the DHSC, NHS England and various other sub-contractors to make this happen.”
The Amex launch is part of the government’s partnership with universities, research institutes and companies to begin rollout of the network of new labs and field testing sites across the UK, with 32 testing sites opened to date.
The network of sites will provide thousands more PCR swab tests – which are used to identify if you currently have the virus – for critical key workers, starting with NHS front line staff. It means those who test negative for coronavirus can return to work as soon as possible, and those who test positive are able to recover.
Adam Doyle, who is leading Sussex NHS’s coronavirus fight, added, “Testing more of our staff and other key workers, so those who are fit can return to work, is an important part of our plans for responding to the virus.
“This is one of four drive-through testing sites we now have across Sussex, supported with vehicles to test staff at home if they are unable to travel.
“I’d like to thank colleagues from across the NHS, local councils and of course Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club for all their hard work in getting all these testing facilities up and running.”
On behalf of Sodexo Sean Haley added, “I am immensely proud of how our teams and the wider industry have come together to share our expertise and work in partnership with the NHS to fight the threat posed by COVID-19.
“It has never been more apparent that our business lives and breathes its values. I applaud colleagues who were previously working in the stadium’s catering and hospitality for moving across to use their skills in a hospital or other healthcare environments that urgently needs their help right now.
“Today, we are all working together to help in the effort to fight COVID-19. We stand ready to respond to further requests for support as the pandemic unfolds.”
The Amex is already being used for storage of vital NHS supplies and, together with the club’s training centre at Lancing, will be available for NHS training and local emergency services, in order to coordinate their efforts in the fight against the virus.
The stadium has also been offered to the local authority as a field hospital, if needed, but this would only be likely in a very extreme situation, with other venues in the city more suited to be used in this manner.
“We have committed to do everything we can to assist the NHS and other key workers in this crisis,” continued Barber.
“We have already opened up the doors of the training ground, as well as the stadium, to be used by the NHS , emergency services and local authority for training, storage or whatever they feel it can be used for in the fight against this pandemic.”
Albion are also working with catering partners Sodexo and local charities to help assist NHS staff with food and drink donations and cash pledges.
The club delivered supplies initially designated for the Arsenal and Manchester United matches to staff at the Royal Sussex Hospital.
Meanwhile the club has also committed 1,000 match tickets for NHS staff once the pandemic is over and it is safe for fans to return to watch football.
Fans who are in a position to help NHS staff by donating, can do so via one the various links below:
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS charitable fund
Feed & support Brighton NHS workers during COVID-19