Five trends for 2017 in sports events and operations

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Sports events across the globe are undergoing transformations in the way they are organised, managed, broadcasted and consumed by audiences. These changes are heavily influenced by technology, which is affecting many functions, including ticketing, security, sustainability, workforce training and fan engagement. In the latest instalment of our 2017 trends series, we take a detailed look at how these changes will influence live sports events in the near future.

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1. Increased security

The number one issue confronting organisers of major sports event is security. With threats to events becoming ever more sophisticated, expect organisers to step up their global collaboration and sharing of knowledge in 2017 to combat these dangers.

New technology will include location-based social media monitoring for keywords, which will help security staff identify threats before they happen, via real-time alerts. WeLink, Snaptrends and Geofeedia lead the way in this technology.

The bomb attack at the Stade de France in Paris in November 2015 was a stark reminder of how vigilant sports event organisers must be against terrorism. Indeed, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency loaned sophisticated radiation monitors to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, including portable scanners to detect traces of radioactive material. We can expect such equipment to be used regularly at future events.

Another measure to boost event security is anti-drone technology, which is being introduced to combat the threat posed by unmanned aerial vehicles. Australia-based DroneShield’s acoustic detection technology senses drones and can be used to monitor the venue space in the ground and the air, while Anti-Drone from Denmark is a surveillance radar system that can be integrated with video surveillance systems.

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2. Sustainability initiatives

Sustainability is also becoming a huge issue around major sports events, especially after strong criticism of the damaging environmental legacy left by the Olympic Games in Rio last year.

The IOC's Agenda 2020 reforms have sought to address the problem by stating that sustainability be integrated into all aspects of planning for a Games.

Tokyo 2020 organisers have responded with a blueprint which sets out water, greenery and biodiversity-related targets to mitigate the impacts on water, atmospheric environment, soil and the ecosystem. Strategic placing of water and greenery will combat the damaging effects of the Urban Heat Island phenomenon (UHI), which sees higher temperatures in densely-packed cities. 

In addition, the medals awarded to athletes in Tokyo will be made from metals collected from discarded or obsolete electronic devices.

Away from the Olympics, we predict more venues like the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field, which is recognised as one of the USA’s greenest stadia for zero waste, offering recyclable or compostable food and drink containers and utensils.

The USA can also boast the Sacramento Kings’ new Golden 1 Center, which recently won the LEED Platinum Award, the highest level of recognition for environmentally-conscious buildings and organisations. The 17,500-seat venue is powered by solar energy, was constructed from local materials and sources 90 per cent of its food within 150 miles.

Further sustainability initiatives are sure to be aired in February at the second annual Sustainable Innovation in Sport conference in Munich. They will debate how to reduce carbon emissions of large-scale sports and educate consumers in sustainable behaviour change.

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3. Digital ticketing 

Technology is set to play a key role in event ticketing as well, with organisers looking to technological advances to keep one step ahead of counterfeiters and touts.

The rise of smartphone usage and mobile ticketing in the transport industry is leading to sport adopting digital ticketing, since it enables fans to buy tickets through apps (as well as food, drink and merchandise in stadiums).

The New York Yankees are pioneers in this area, having banned print-at-home tickets for all home games this year in favour of mobile ticketing straight to internet-enabled mobile devices. This shift away from paper tickets will continue.

Another benefit of digital ticketing is the data it allows clubs to garner about their supporters and their buying habits. Are they a casual once-a-season fan or a season-ticket holder? Do they buy direct or through the secondary market? Armed with this information on every spectator, the club can target each segment of their audience with offers to increase engagement and future revenue opportunities.

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4. Better spectator services

A seat isn't enough for millennial spectators; they now hanker for a mix of physical and digital experiences when attending live sport events. So in 2017 more and more stadia will be supplying fast and reliable Wi-Fi that meets that demand, while club apps will give fans information on free parking spaces, traffic, finding their seat and, most excitingly, show instant high-definition replays from multiple angles on their mobile phone screens. 

Furthermore, Mobile POS (Point of Service) systems will enable fans to buy food, drink or merchandise online and have it brought to them wherever they are in the stadium, eliminating queues and increasing sales.

Beacons - small, low-energy bluetooth devices positioned around the stadium - can track precisely where inside the stadium any supporter is at any given time and what they've spent money on. They can then be sent tailored push notifications with special offers, such as seat upgrades or merchandise deals.

Another area which is expected to progress in 2017 is in-venue augmented reality services, with clubs and franchises already experimenting with them. 

The technology exists for fans to get all sorts of visual bonuses while watching the action live through Google Glass or their phone screen – including live in-game stats for the player they're looking at, live multi-angle video replays and GoPro playercam footage.

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5. Workforce development

Workers at the fifth Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan in September are set to break new ground, with organisers planning to develop them into sports events leaders of the future.

The Games Academy Learning Programme for Turkmen nationals will see employees mentored by leading international experts and receive on-the-job training in how to deliver a major sporting event.

The programme will teach participants best practice in sports management and will be a blueprint for how a one-off, two-week event can leave behind an upskilled, experienced and mobile workforce.

Volunteers are also an important resource at major sports events and their recruitment is set to move on to the next level following a Sport England study entitled 'Motivations for Sport Volunteers in England'. This revealed that the sense of euphoria, camaraderie and once-in-a-lifetime 'buzz' generated by volunteering at events is the most attractive element, as it often leads to repeat volunteering.

By understanding these motivations, organisers of the 2017 World Athletics and ParaAthletics Championships in London have been able to attract 24,000 applications for 4,000 volunteering roles by using Laviai Nielsen as a case study. A GB 400m runner, she was the kit-carrier to former Olympic and world champion Jessica Ennis-Hill at London 2012, and was the poster girl for the 2017 recruitment drive to emphasise how "amazingly rewarding" her experience was.

London's Speed Volunteering app is removing the traditional barriers to volunteering by matching willing workers with appropriate events and charities. This type of volunteer skill-matching portal points the way forward for planners and recruiters at sports events of the future.

This article was written by the GlobalSportsJobs insight team.


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