Feature: Service please

Sport Business News

MEI looks at some of the services that are the backbone of the major events industry.

Before taking any decision to engage in a bidding process for a major event, a prospective host city or nation will have conducted and completed a rigorous review of its suitable infrastructure, including among other things venues at which a particular activity might take place. An event or brand owner will almost certainly demand of a prospective host that there is an appropriate and suitable level of facilities to accommodate spectators, participants, the media, sponsors, a whole mix of parties intent on participating, watching and recording, before being allowed to benefit from the prestige and association with an event. Once that is all identified and an event won, the serious business of which companies will be invited to tender for contracts and services begins. And that is where our next editorial theme steps in. The larger that major events become in size, the bigger is the demand for the services needed to operate them including transportation, seating, catering, freight, lighting, media services, ticketing, hospitality, security and technology. The event day experiencePresent day spectators, attendees and viewers are sophisticated consumers – at live events, they require more than just cold seats, visual information, music and crowd noise. "At the end of the day it's the public that matters, " said Henri Orpo, sales director of LED screen company Darepro. "Twenty years ago fans were happy to attend a sports event and just watch their favourite athletes running around while they ate their picnics. Now they are demanding the same level of detailed entertainment that they get at home. They want more. It's that simple. " "You need to provide people with information when they are at an event, but don't bombard them with what they don't actually want or need, it's about finding the right balance, " said industry consultant Jon Wigley. "Whilst you can't assume everyone in a stadium is an expert, you can't assume they don't know anything either. Meanwhile, you can't control the performers, you can only give them the stage. " Industry specialist Richard Callicott (formerly head of sport for the city of Birmingham in the UK) believed that many event organisers are more concerned with television audiences than spectators at the stadium, which, in his opinion is wrong. "It's like catering for two different venues, " he said. "A good rule of thumb is that if the atmosphere in the stadium is good, the commentators will be more energised and it will come across on television anyway. If the atmosphere isn't great, of the venue is half–empty, the television viewer at home will watch proceedings more cynically and not want to watch in the future. ""Happy customers create good events, " said Paul Kimberley, commercial director of the Rugby Football League in the UK. "We don't differentiate between the people at the live event and the people watching at home as sometimes they can be the same people, at different times. "So, what makes a great event–day experience for a spectator/attendee? "For our big events, fans seem to like to get there around three hours early so we work harder to make sure they have good, quality experiences as early as possible, whether it's access to good food and drink on on–street entertainment, " said Kimberley. "Rugby league is a family sport and people expect to turn up and experience stuff that they can share together. Fans certainly expect more at our events now than they used to. " What about after the event is over? Do rugby league venues try and entice fans to stay behind and spend more money/allow crowds to dissipate as in the case of Arsenal FC's Emirates Stadium in London, UK? "Most of the time people want to leave the ground as quickly as possible after an event so we don't provide post–match entertainment. The venue has a lot to do after an event so doesn't want people lingering. ""People enjoy themselves more if they attend a well–run, well–promoted event, " said Paul Renney, a partner at law firm Campbell Hooper. "They need to have good food and drink and not spend lots of time queuing either at food and drink points or to get in and out of the venue. The O2 [formerly the Millennium Dome] in London takes a sensible decision of having plenty of bar staff employed so that queues never get out of control. Although security costs have risen, people tend to be willing to pay more to go to events, so they need to be given the best experience possible. "SeatingThe seating capacity of a sports or music venue needs to cater for both the paying public and the parties involved in staging the event, both of which have differing needs. What makes a good seating experience for hospitality guests and VIPs? "It's important that your guests aren't crammed in like sardines and sitting right on top of each other, " said Dr Chris Bruton who looked after hospitality during the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup for some of the event's corporate and high net worth clients through his company Hospitality in Partnership (HIP) which is part of Cavendish UK. "Generous space allocations per person are essential so that they don't feel like battery hens!"And what about for the regular punters? Joe O'Neill, managing director of temporary seating provider Arena Seating, spelt it out: "You want to make sure that the spectators can see all the sightlines, have a comfortable seat in terms of shape and size and make sure there is enough leg room for ingress and egress. There's a constant trade off between the space available and the level of comfort offered. From the venue perspective, they want the maximum number of seats and flexibility to print in extra seating if required for commercial partners, and desks for the media etc. " Arena Seating has recently developed a new demountable seating solution that O'Neill said is parabolic and "does more with less parts", making it a more comfortable seating solution, yet still temporary in nature. Whilst permanent seating manufacturers are looking at ways to engage spectators through technology and 'smart seats', O'Neill doesn't see this having an impact on the temporary seating market. "Although there are upholstered temporary seats out there with heating in them. "A typical steel seat can last 15–20 years whereas a plastic one has a lifetime of between five to seven years. "In a normal sports event such as a Grand Slam tennis tournament, your seating is in and out over a three–week period. But for the iconic world event, they could be used for between two and three months because of test events, " said O'Neill. Arena Seating has supplied temporary seating to many major events globally, although some markets have been easier to crack than others, said O'Neill. "It can be hard finding out who to tender to at sports events and often local suppliers are preferred anyway. I once hoped that major governing bodies such as the International Olympic Committee would centralise areas such as seating, but I realise now this is never going to happen as they don't want problems with storage, they prefer to leave that up to the cities. " O'Neill considered the best routes to new markets being through building partnerships with local companies at events. With an event such as the London 2012 Olympic Games looking for a minimum of 250, 000–300, 000 temporary seats at its venues such as for the beach volleyball at Horse Guards' Parade, suppliers are going to be keen to source a slice of the action. "But one supplier won't want to buy lots of new chairs to supplement its stock for a one–off event unless they are confident they can use them at other events afterwards, yet there aren't enough events this size every year to sustain that many chairs and you can't guarantee overseas events will consider you, " explained O'Neill, whose company only has 55, 000 seats, despite being the largest supplier in the UK. He believed that many of the UK's existing 130, 000 temporary seats will already have been deployed at regular sports events anyway. "We might see new entrants entering the supply–chain but they need to consider the costs and after–use carefully. "

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