SETTING THE STAGE: THE ROLE OF READINESS IN MAJOR SPORTS EVENTS
A month on and the world is still talking about the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023. A combined in-venue attendance of 1,977,824 spectators attended 10 competition venues. 32 teams each with 23 players contested 64 matches, hosted in 9 host cities across 2 countries. Whether you were in the stands or one of the many millions who watched the World Cup on broadcast platforms globally, it was by all appearances, a flawless event. All eyes were focussed on the pitch. A critical element in staging mega-events that ensures this is the case, is what we call event ‘readiness’. The team behind the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 were ready.
In this article we asked MI Global Partner’s Associate Principal, Carissa Harris, who has over 25 years’ experience delivering major global and domestic sport events to explain and explore the concept of readiness.
Major sport events, such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Rugby World Cup or an Olympic and Paralympic Games captivate audiences around the globe. To a spectator or the TV audience, these events run seamlessly. However, behind the scenes, an incredible amount of effort goes into ensuring these events run smoothly. This is where event readiness plays a critical role, setting the stage for success and leaving a lasting impression on participants and spectators alike. Not having a readiness framework in place can be detrimental to an event along with the safely of spectators and staff.
Sport has it all. The action, the emotion, the joy and the heartbreak. And behind the scenes there is even more happening. Throughout my career I’ve experienced small, media and large crisis situations including a leak in the pool the night before athlete training commences for an Olympic Games; the failure of a group of seats sparking the immediate inspection of all temporary grandstands across 30+ competition sites; a shooting victim who had driven through the gates of a venue the morning of an International event; the rescheduling of an entire cricket test series due to the tragic circumstance of a player; and a 'quiet' women's T20 International cricket event becoming a bushfire appeal like no other, with Sachin Tendulkar coming out of retirement for one over facing Elyse Perry.
A well-prepared and flawlessly executed event enhances both the event and the organisers brand reputation, leading to increased trust, recognition and future opportunities. So, let’s explore the importance of event readiness and the key factors that contribute to its success.
1. Planning a Memorable Experience
Event planning is key to creating a memorable experience for both athletes and fans. Every aspect, from venue selection to athlete bus timetables, must be carefully managed to enhance the overall atmosphere and ensure a positive experience for everyone involved. The development of operational plans, policies and procedures is essential. Attention to detail contributes to the overall satisfaction of attendees and enhances their connection with the event. A well-prepared event sets the stage for a positive, engaging and impactful experience from the get-go.
2. Integrated Operations
Major sport events, regardless of their scale, involve numerous moving parts, across venues (competition and non-competition), stakeholders (athletes, officials, host cities, emergency services, commercial partners, media and broadcast, suppliers, workforce and spectators) and functions (transport, catering, security etc). Working together and integrating operations by coordinating all these stakeholders, as well as having well-defined protocols and contingency plans in place, ensures potential problems can be swiftly addressed, minimising disruptions and allowing the event to run smoothly.
3. Ensuring Safety and Security
The safety and security of athletes, spectators, and workforce is of paramount importance in major sport events. This includes risk assessments, emergency management plans, and coordination with local authorities to ensure a safe environment for everyone involved. Rigorous security measures, effective crowd management strategies, and medical support facilities contribute to a sense of safety and enable attendees to focus on the sport, allowing the event to be enjoyed to its fullest potential.
4. Ready for Anything
No matter how thoroughly an event is planned, unforeseen challenges may arise. A well-practised and well-rehearsed team will significantly reduce the likelihood of these incidents eventuating or causing major disruption to the event.
Undertaken correctly, an operational readiness program is delivered over time through various exercises, from tabletops to event-wide simulations, building on each other in severity and in complexity, providing a continuous learning and refinement opportunity for all stakeholders. Conducting a series of integrated readiness sessions, at a “mature” stage of operational planning, with operational plans, policies and procedures well developed, will:
Strengthen understanding of respective roles, responsibilities and lines of communication - for when things are going right or things are going awry;
Allow event organisers to anticipate and mitigate potential last-minute hiccups effectively;
Enhance event–wide integration and cooperation to resolve issues and manage incidents;
Identify when issues/incidents need to be communicated and escalated;
Test the C4 (Command, Control, Communication and Coordination) structure in place for the event, particularly in the case of a major incident/emergency/crisis; and
Encourage integration and stakeholder collaboration – ONE TEAM.
Readiness is an opportunity to validate assumptions and test operational plans, policies, procedures, C4 strategy and contingency plans. Refining lines of communication with stakeholders and problem-solving capabilities, the goal is to minimise the impact of unforeseen issues, making sure everyone in the team has practised and rehearsed their role to be ready to deliver the event under normal circumstances and are prepared to respond to incidents when they occur.
In the world of major sport events, event readiness is the winning strategy that sets the stage for success. By testing every detail, you are ensuring seamless operations, prioritising safety and enhancing brand reputation. Events require substantial investment, both in terms of finances and resources. Investment in your readiness framework ensures the optimal utilisation of these resources, testing the efficacy of planning and preparation, enabling event organisers to maximise the investments to deliver a first-class event experience. Investment in your event readiness framework guarantees that participants and fans alike will be captivated by the magic that unfolds on the field of play, resulting in a sporting spectacular for the ages.
If you are planning an event and are unsure where to start, here's 3 things you can do to get started on your readiness journey:
Document and share your planning
Brainstorm what can go wrong together
Have a contingency plan in place so everyone knows their role and responsibilities
MI Global Partners have assisted domestic and international events with risk and readiness helping them to thrive for over 22 years. Most recently we have worked with the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, 2022 UCI Road World Championships, 2022 Women’s Basketball World Cup and 2022 ICC T20 Men’s World Cup.
We work with events big and small and can assist through the event lifecycle from inception to celebration and legacy. Services we offer in the risk, readiness and contingency include:
C4 (Command, Control, Communication and Coordination) Strategy