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  • Writer's pictureNigel Rushman

No Wonder Countries won’t Bid to Host Major Sports Events

A Game of Games

It has become ridiculously expensive and a waste of money. According to more than one report recently that has seen so many bidders withdraw.

Does anyone one in Sport stop to think properly about this?

Sports Governing Bodies and International Federations seem to think it is fine to plunder the funds of nations to fill their coffers. Expecting them to contribute public and national funds to host sports events.

These same Governing Bodies/event owners pocket the vast sums from events. It is their only real source of income. Contributed by Broadcasters, Sponsors and taxpayers they take with one hand and waste fortunes with the other, whilst forcing the hosts to waive taxation and give them privileges such as Visa waivers and VIP treatment for their members. All that with barely an opportunity to share in the income.

With all the recent scandals surrounding these governing bodies, who will say they distribute most of the cash back to the sport, some may ask if it is the most effective method of sports funding?

Countries have gone along with it for years. But now with transparency being forced on many leaderships and digital media giving a voice to just about any group that wants to be heard, that is changing.

People have had enough of this ridiculous behaviour. Corruption and waste in every walk of life is being rooted out and stamped on and it is happening in sports events too. But in a quieter way. Nations are just not bidding to host these ridiculous glorifications of excess. We are reaching the end of an era.

We have seen recently a number of significant ‘No thank you messages’ being passed to Major Event owners. However many ‘Economic Impact Studies’ are produced by consultants being paid fees or with vested interest in producing the ‘right’ findings. I have heard with my own ears one of these consultants being instructed to “at least double the local revenue projections and projected visitor numbers”. And appallingly they did to please their client and the people from host countries that could ill afford it sucked up the losses.

These events, as they are currently organised, cost a fortune to bid for and then to host. There is no lasting legacy. It’s a myth. There are ridiculous white elephant venues created and a short lived ‘feel good’ factor. Nothing that anyone operating sound judgement of national priorities would invest in.

There are some great exceptions and notably the Los Angeles Olympic Games with its private funding model, but they are few and far between. There also may be a glimmer of hope for these bloated events (in their current form) from Asia as their interest in Sport grows and they seek more attention and favour from the West. Some of them have objectives that will allow them to waste money on a monumental scale and that will likely be the savior for the big Sports Federations and Governing bodies, the event owners, in the short/medium term. That doesn’t excuse the ridiculous greed and ego induced inefficiencies foisted upon these new hosts.

Why are these events not run by business? Thats easy. Business would quickly analyse any of these mega events and realise they are simply not viable. Not as they are currently structured and managed.

The hosts countries themselves are poorly equipped to judge the efficiencies of hosting, planning, management, etc and led by ‘Knowledge Transfer’ and dictat from the owners, waste fortunes. Crazy requirements to subjugate their own laws, regulations and taxation to suit the ‘event requirements’ and to pander to the demands of Sports Executives. Indeed they are encouraged and advised by the self interested bullshitters that surround these ‘Mega Events’ to hire hundreds and hundreds of people to fill totally irrelevant positions and to fill up ‘Functional Areas’ (for that read ‘Silos’) that in today’s world are irrelevant and dysfunctional.

Events are run by bureaucrats and politicians often with no real frontline business experience. They come at a huge cost and they don’t need to.

They waste incredible amounts of money that no sustainable business would dream of. They hire far too many people, work in ridiculously old fashioned ways using outmoded, outdated management principles and practices. These are PROJECTS not businesses. They run for a few years and then don’t exist. Yes they may be a catalyst for infrastructure improvements or whatever but lets face it — that is a job for the infrastructure people not event junkies. And certainly not a reason to hire a whole new phalanx of people in an organising committee.

The whole sorry situation of creating these enormous behemoths of ‘Local Organising Committees’, even the name says it all, is so outdated it cries out for new thinking. But no, they keep ploughing on forcing countries to waste incredible sums of money. And the new hosts? They know no better, they read the manual from the previous event and the only thing that gets ‘Faster, Higher or Stronger’ is the bill.

So whats the result? Well sooner or later people will force countries to stop wasting money on vanity events and to spend money more thoughtfully. We are already seeing that happen with the withdrawal of bids for events worldwide from Boston to Budapest, Northern Europe, Durban and beyond. We are watching countries lick their wounds after spending millions in pointless bidding wars to host these gargantuan wastes.

The people who run these event are not evil. They don’t seek to create such a mess. They have sleep walked into continuing a broken business model.

The solution is simple. Just get real with the running of these events. Run them like a business. Think like a business. Work like a business. Negotiate like a business. Act like a business. Run like a Project. Use existing venues. Let venues run themselves. Cut waste, cut irrelevant staff, don’t start too early, scale down, get rid of silos, control costs. Help and facilitate partners don’t seek to control everything. Outsource if it makes sense. Use what exists. Stretch resources like all businesses do in projects. Act like you are using shareholders and your own money, you probably are. Most importantly rethink and reexamine everything.

I can almost hear the howls of protest and derision from the self interested. Those on the ‘gravy train’ of bloated event teams and waste.

Running a large sports event is a business project not a sport

Sport happens on the field of play. What facilitates that to happen should be a business when it is at that scale. If governments and sports started thinking and acting like businesses they could cut down the ridiculous waste, scrap the ‘committees’ and endless posturing and bullshit protocols and operate major events using lean and agile methodologies for their projects (as that’s what they are) as business has been doing for years.

Sports have built big empires on the back of mega events. Their only real source of income. They will need to scale back their waste and become more efficient before they find they have no suppliers / host countries and taxpayers and governments get fed up of funding them.

If they stop building empires and palaces in Switzerland and just run events then countries will be able to work with them again.

Empires never last — nothing is for ever. Better to start thinking about how events can really work before they really don’t work.

I am waiting for the call for the Rushmans team to get stuck into one of these events and to Make it Real. After all that’s what we do for businesses and business projects worldwide. I am not holding my breath.

Thanks for reading this blog.

Please like it if you feel so inclined and also follow me on Twitter @nrushman and @rushmanshq

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