Giving clients a sporting chance

The logistics of the 2012 summer sporting calendar involved many experts away from the stadium who tackle complicated logistics challenges to ensure the right people and right equipment get to the correct locations.

In fact, it is the travel requirements of athletes and their support teams that is one of the most important elements of any competition schedule. Not only do the sporting individuals have to make it to the training camp or competition venue, but so must their valuable equipment, nutritionists, physiotherapists and even food.

Sports events carry many considerations, from finding accommodation that can allow athletes to bring their own food and chefs, to ensuring high security protocols can be applied, for example, for international football teams.

Major sporting events are also popular opportunities for corporate entertainment, particularly from sponsors. This means that as well as moving athletes safely and comfortably, the travel, events and logistics must deliver experiences that bring together their business values with the sport.
 
Considerations when planning logistics of a major sporting event:
 
Up in the air

With international sporting events involving the hosting of  hundreds of thousands of fans, media and corporate sponsors, it takes an expert to find the best possible seats at the best price. Finding a suitable flight for an entire sports team can often prove a bit of a challenge and should be one of the first things taken into consideration when planning. Top athletes require the best treatment so, for long haul flights, Business Class is nearly always a must and that usually includes a team’s support staff of coaches, assistants, medics and nutritionists. For short haul flights within Europe, Economy Class is normally booked due to cost factors.
 
Window or aisle?

Many athletes, particularly for sports like basketball, volleyball or rugby are so big that they require special seating arrangements when travelling. One of the rugby clubs we manage the travel for have players who some might say are ‘statuesque’. Some of these players cannot physically sit next to each other in a standard economy seat so it’s normal operating procedure to sit the large players next to the smaller players.
 
What’s in your luggage

Luggage is often the most challenging aspect of moving professional athletes to events around the world. From dealing with issues of shape (sports equipment, bikes) to volume (consider the amount of kit the average football team requires – balls, medical equipment, uniforms, physio equipment) to security risks (shooting rifles, speed-skates) there is no one-size-fits-all approach to transporting athletic luggage and organisers always need to be prepared for the most obscure carry-on and baggage requests. To put it into perspective, the average kit for a professional football team usually comes in at around 2.5 tonnes.

Due to sheer size, often the kit and equipment travel separately in a special
‘kit van’ ahead of the team, where possible.
 
Food glorious food

Nutrition is an essential part of day-to-day life for any athlete and specialist food and supplements are often required at the hotel or venue where they are staying. Due to fears of contamination, many athletes want to travel with their food and supplements, rather than it arrive separately, which raises challenges when working with the weight restrictions for luggage across airlines.

Each team will normally have a standardised menu, which the hotel chef will see and agree prior to a team’s arrival. Professional sports teams often travel with their own chefs who will cook some of the food at the hotel but most of the time they will just oversee the operation and work alongside the hotel chefs. The menu for an athlete’s diet commonly includes grilled chicken and fish (never fried), salads, pastas, rice (high carbs), fruit juices and smoothies.
 
Location, location, location

Whether it is The Radisson or The Ritz, finding the ‘right’ hotel in the host city of a sporting tournament is an important consideration when moving professional athletes. Potential locations need to be evaluated in terms of whether the site will allow for a good night’s sleep without a lot
of distractions and that the hotel is not in an area where there is absolutely nothing to do. Care also needs to be taken to distance the athletes from rival fans and press so as to allow the athletes to dedicate themselves completely to the competition at hand.
 
If your name isn’t down…

Security for athletes and their equipment is important, as is the discretion of the hotel employees. Many teams travel with their own security who will work hand-in-hand with the hotel or venues. In some cases a destination might not be used to handling the press and fans that this brings. For example, site visits for hotels for the European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine included adding in how a security detail can work in a hotel that has never previously had this consideration. Often local police will travel with the team to ensure safety issues are adhered to.

Last orders

Alcohol and athletes do not mix, and with some sports this is more of a consideration that others. Some teams, or their sponsors, require quite bold steps such as bars in a hotel to be closed, and mini bars to be removed from rooms. Other teams simply want hotel staff to be clearly briefed that alcohol is not to be served to their group.

At the team manager’s discretion, once the last match has been played, the players and staff often relax in the hotel bar with a few drinks to (depending on how they performed) celebrate or forget about the tournament. 

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John Moore, Sports Manager of ACC Liverpool, home to BT Convention Centre and Echo Arena, Liverpool: “Venue location is of the utmost importance for athletes. We hosted the Men’s and Women’s Artistic Gymnastics British Championship in June. We provided onsite training facilities so that athletes could train and compete in the same arena.

“We have two onsite hotels, which enable athletes to move easily from accommodation to venue.
We work closely with these hotels to ensure accommodation and food meet the complex needs of high-class performance athletes.”
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Wendy Benson, Sales and Marketing Director of Rockliffe Hall, Hurworth, County Durham: “It’s important to be able to provide not only the best training facilities but also relaxation opportunities. Our spa team includes experts in sports therapies and we can tailor specific treatments.

“Of course, dietary requirements are important and Rockliffe Hall’s food and beverage team works to requested meal times as sometimes meals are taken at unusual times of the day or evening.
“Finally, logistics are crucial, as timing is everything. We need to ensure kit is in the right place at the right time and even help with any laundering needs.
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Vanessa Russell, Marketing Director of The Celtic Manor Resort, Wales: “Throughout the years we have been involved in hosting a number of sporting events namely the Ryder Cup, the ISPS Wales Open and British Cycling team.

“In the past we have had to make a number of considerations when hosting athletes and their families, such as working with team’s management when allocating rooms and working with their chefs to create specific menus.

“We amend the opening times for the health and fitness facilities and allocate private areas for workouts, dining and relaxation.”

This was first published in the September edition of CN. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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