Let’s keep our focus after a terrific summer for major events, says MEI COO Andy Rice

Nothing can beat the topsy turvey action and excitement (not words normally associated with cricket) of an exceptional World Cup: with the marvellous combination of a draw leading to a Super Over (who had ever heard of one of those? Not even Aggers!) after an astonishing 47 matches; moments of drama which, if scripted, would have been dismissed as too unlikely to be believed, and of course, the icing on the cake- the rarest of things, an English triumph!

Even before that, we had heard the Lionesses roar from France (even if they only came home with pride- forgive the pun- and not a trophy), and latterly we have seen the Roses blossom in Liverpool. Although again, England didn’t quite fulfil their promise, but netball was the winner with greater than ever media coverage and matches played in front of a packed Vitality Arena. Although my advice to Liz Nicholl would be to ensure greater terrestrial coverage from Cape Town. The quality of the athleticism (and physicality) was exceptional, but my daughters (21 and 25 and both sporty) were not even aware of it. Liz, don’t let the Lionesses eat your lunch!

As society becomes ever-more fragmented and self-absorbed, fuelled by the power of social media, it seems that the unique unpredictability and shared emotional drama of sport will usher in a golden age for our athletes.

So what do venues, arenas and host cities (for now we need to consider the place of  ‘sportscapes’ rather than sport being restricted to a seat-bound physical space) need to do to capitalise on this opportunity?

The answer, amongst other things, but mainly, is to keep pace with technological innovation – the driving force behind fan engagement, safety, security and revenue generation. Even overlay, to some extent.

I can offer a starting point for the appropriate level of investment as, for high profile, small businesses like most of sports event rights holders, it is as dangerous to over-spend on technology as it is to under-spend.

Here are my six top tips:

  • Ensure all stakeholders understand the importance of technology- to ensure corporate buy-in. Technology is not just IT
  • Create an ROI for everything. What’s the ROI for urinals? Without urinals a fan’s customer experience will be compromised (so too their underpants perhaps); which means that they will leave quicker, and perhaps never come back; which means they will spend less money… which means that urinals have an ROI
  • Track your crowd. Work out where to position your concession stands; where security needs to be high and when (and more importantly for cost savings, low and when); improve your fan experience
  • Find the Goldilocks spot for your safety and security – play the percentages. Of course, you want everyone to be safe and secure, but you can equally blow past a budget without the necessity to do so. Bring in an expert and get them to tell you what is likely to happen not what might happen
  • Engage with suppliers. Of course, they want to sell to you something, but you’re not stupid- you won’t buy unless you can prove to your FD that there is an ROI- so get them to show you oneCome to MEI’s UK Sports and Venues Summit on 21 November at the London Stadium, QE Olympic Park. Speakers are currently being confirmed but, if you want to learn more about:
  1. Management Efficiencies – Learn from best practice employed at the best global sporting events;
  2. Enhancing the fan experience – Innovations in fan engagement to grow loyalty and revenues;
  3. Connectivity and technology – What are the ‘must have’ innovations for the sportscapes of the future;
  4. Maximising revenues- From ticket sales, retail and online merchandising.See you there.