The Challenges of Organising A Major Sporting Event and How to Overcome Them

Major global sporting events provide entertainment and enjoyment to millions of people around the world. What the viewer often sees is the slick final product – the gleaming stadiums, packed crowds and elite athletes performing at the top of their game on the grandest stage. But what’s rarely considered is all the work that has gone on behind the scenes in order to host such an occasion.

For organisers, there are a myriad of obstacles to overcome before a competitor even steps into the arena. And 2020 has thrown up a unique set of challenges, with the coronavirus pandemic seeing the postponement of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, football’s UEFA European Championship and many other showpiece occasions.

Both the Olympics and the Euros have been pushed back 12 months with the hope of seeing crowds returning to stadiums by 2021. It is these fans that are the integral to the success of any sporting event, and the events themselves are important for a number of reasons. But, Covid-19 aside, what are the main challenges facing organisers and how can they overcome those?

The importance of global sporting events

From a financial point of view, major events provide absolutely essential revenue streams for the governing bodies. For example, it is estimated that the 2018 football World Cup in Russia earned FIFA $6.1 billion (£4.69 bn). That money can be reinvested into FIFA’s various projects and can be used to improve all areas of the game, from the grassroots level all the way to the elite echelons.

Aside from an economic standpoint, major events help to boost the profile of a sport across the globe. The 2019 Cricket World Cup was watched by a unique broadcast audience of 706 million people – a rise of 22% on the previous edition of the tournament in 2015. That global reach is only likely to increase the appeal of the game and encourage greater participation in the future.

The main challenges facing organisers

There are numerous challenges that organisers must contend with. Some of the main ones include:

  • Safety: With potentially hundreds of thousands of fans coming together from all over the world and gathering in airports, city centres and stadiums, security is a primary concern.
  • Logistics: If the event is multi-venue, transport links need to be reliable and efficient. There is also the added complication of the organising body relocating its employees to work in the host country for the duration of the event and often for a period of time before and after.
  • Sponsors: These offer another crucial income stream, but organisers need to think about various brands and whether their message is aligned to that of the event itself.
  • Ticketing: Sales are one of the main vehicles for recouping staging costs for organisers. But the pricing strategy needs to be affordable and the ticketing system must operate smoothly.

How organisers can overcome these challenges

The above are obstacles that all organisers have faced in the past. This is how they can be overcome:

  • Safety: To ensure the security of all fans, athletes, employees and volunteers, organisers should undertake crowd safety risks and assess the likelihood of any potential hazards.
  • Logistics: When it comes to relocating employees to another country, even on a temporary basis, organisers can turn to global mobility law firms like Withers for expert advice and guidance.
  • Sponsors: Organisers need to avoid PR disasters, such as the storm created by Burger King’s Russian division during the 2018 World Cup. Choosing sponsorship brands with a squeaky-clean reputation will only enhance the event’s public image.
  • Ticketing: Organisers could learn lessons from the 2019 Cricket World Cup ticketing strategy. Coordinators identified their target audiences early, set tiered pricing starting from £20 or less and used ballots to drive demand. The end result was that a record-breaking 95% of all tickets were sold.

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