Sport has a big role in the UK’s entertainment industry and economy, generating £20.3 billion in 2010 (Sport England) – and that’s even before the phenomenal success of that ultimate UK sports event, the London Olympics in 2012!
Fast forward to 2017 and sports events generate such huge revenues and engagement that successful Sports Event Consultants are commanding salaries of over £51,000 a year, and Senior Events and Operations Managers over £74,000 according to Glassdoor.com.
Every one of these well-paid professionals had to start somewhere – and had to prove themselves fit enough not just to be on sporting event teams, but to lead them.
After all, every team needs a leader and the ultimate in team-working and delivering under pressure comes when you’re leading sports events – whether a charity 5-a-side tournament, a corporate sports day or the London Marathon!
If you’re already showing talent in logistics and organisation, transferring to coordinating sports events still means upping your game as there’s plenty of competition for professional sport event management roles. So, if you’re feeling stuck on the bench waiting for an opportunity, how can you level that playing field and get out there ..?
On your marks
It goes without saying that all aspects of logistics, organisation, communication and promotion should be part of your event coordinator kitbag, regardless of what type of event management role you want.
But for coordinating sports events, there are many additional responsibilities that you’ll need plenty of practice in:
- Facility inspection – whether you want an in-house role or a sporting body or club role, ability to organise safe, spacious and fully resourced facilities is essential.
- Organising transport and accommodation – for visiting teams, individuals and sporting body representatives.
- Marketing – from promotion and ticket sales, to working with the media, marketing skills are vital.
- Creating emergency contingency plans – from weather to injury and accident, to security alerts or problems with facilities, you’ll have the plan B, right?
- Developing schedules – and extra time! Schedule management is a must-have skill in event management, but these capabilities must be truly enhanced for sports event co-ordinators who may have to plan for the effects of weather delaying or postponing matches (think Wimbledon) or extra-time and penalty shoot-outs extending fixtures well beyond their scheduled times (think Wembley) or sport-related injuries causing delays.
- Research and logistics – from identifying the target audience, strategising budgets for effective ROI, facilitating needs of teams and individual participants, to coordinating technical backup and production, organising awards, rewards and feedback – oh and health, safety and risk assessment, all these are important across all types of event management, but pitched at a whole new level when it comes to sporting events.
- Technology and data management – as live events, all sports events include digital aspects. As the person behind the scenes, the sports event coordinator will be responsible for making sure all aspects of technology are taken care of in a professional way, including digital management of data across the whole event timeline, from planning and proposal, throughout events to feedback and evaluation.
- Procurement and negotiation – in sports event management, these key skills are needed in several ways:
- If you want to coordinate sports events within a stadium, then it’ll be down to you to actually attract key sporting events, sporting professional bodies and sponsors to be involved in venue events.
- If you want to work within a particular sport or sporting body, then you’ll need to be negotiating with key venues and sponsors in order to deliver events.
- Alternatively, you might be keen to work in an outdoor field of sports such as cycling, running, cross-country and BMX. So, you’ll need to negotiate with local authorities, highways commission, emergency services and communities in order to run events right through.
So, that’s your warm-up and you know what’s expected! Adrenaline now pumping, it’s time to make your move…
As with all athletes and sports professionals, the things most likely to let you down are lack of practice and in inexperience about what it’s like out there. So, it’s essential to get as much professional events experience as possible. The most recommended ways to go from inexperienced to expert in your knowledge and practice include:
Volunteering is a great way to gain vital experience and contacts, and also boost your:
- Practical and technical knowledge about what’s specifically involved in sports events.
- Communication and interpersonal skills.
- Proactivity, practical decision making and problem-solving.
- Budget management.
When it comes to getting on the sports event coordinator career ladder, what potential employers are looking for is real evidence of success in leading events. So, although volunteering is essential for anyone looking to gain a professional event management role, it may be hard to gain that overall management experience: as a volunteer the most responsibility you can expect may be leading an event aspect, such as ticketing, refreshment sales reception, stewarding or leading a small team of other volunteers within the event itself.
To fill this gap the answer could be ….
Taking a qualification in event management or marketing can literally be a way to train and gain your way into sporting event management. Professional training options which lead to event management qualifications include university degree courses or vocational training, such as an Event Academy course.
If you already have a degree, such as in business, communications, tech or PR, taking a Postgraduate course to help practice and develop existing skills in an events context is also highly recommended.
With events-training, you’re specifically looking to achieve:
- Professional credibility.
- Portfolio evidence of responsibilities and ownership taken – the actual management aspects of the role, and your success in delivery. This portfolio of should include evidence and testimonials of all sport and events related roles included in volunteering and training courses you’ve undertaken. Of course, this portfolio is all about making yourself stand out, but do also demonstrate your strengths in team work, as show you’re an essential part of any team in the field of sports!
- A growing professional network as part of your studies and on-the-job training opportunities.
Then, with experience and a respected, accredited event management qualification behind you, you’ll be ready to go for goal.
At this stage, the chances of accessing your dream sport event coordinator role might increase with additional experience of the salaried kind, so it’s usual to start off in a related sports / events industry role to get your career going. You might want to consider roles such as:
- Assistant Operations Manager at a venue, stadium or for a professional sporting body.
- Event sales assistant.
- Customer relations.
- Event marketing assistant or coordinator.
Any of these types of roles offer useful stepping stones on the sports event coordinator career path, as well as exposing you to the right opportunities for making a professional move.
Finally, like all live events, sports events – and particularly those which develop a healthy return on investment, as well as a love of the sport – are a growth sector. If you can prove yourself fit for the role and successful in delivering your personal best each and every time, then becoming a sports event coordinator could be a career-best opportunity.