As Australia continues its reputation as a dependable major sports event host through the likes of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and the Invictus Games Sydney 2018, there has been an upsurge in interest from Australian cities, metropolitan and regional, to host major sporting events.
Exemplifying this intent, in July 2018, the NSW Government announced plans to bid for 10 sporting world cups in the next 10 years. Regional cities are also keen to put up their hand as was seen in the eleven regional Victorian towns, led by Shepparton, who came together for a campaign to host the Commonwealth Games in 2030.
The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games were the first time the Commonwealth Games had been held in a regional city.
Given Australia’s recent success in hosting major international sporting events, the nation might be forgiven for continuing to stick with the same approach going forward.
Paula Robinson, the MinterEllison Partner who led the firm’s ground-breaking fully outsourced legal and brand protection solution for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, says Australia must continue to explore creative ways to attract and deliver major sporting events.
"Looking forward, we need to consider what needs to happen to secure premium international sport events, and really look at what the subsequent benefit of hosting the event is," said Ms Robinson. "The Men’s Rugby World Cup alone is anticipated to trigger $578 million in visitor spending."
So what do Australian cities, metro and regional, need to do to win major sporting events?
"It is vital that host cities plan for both the short and long-term before considering submitting bids," says Ms Robinson.
"Two focus areas for bidding cities to demonstrate that they've thought short and long-term is to demonstrate: how hosting the event will result in meaningful change for the host country, city or community, that is - what legacy will the event leave?; and to consider doing things creatively to reduce the costs of hosting the event – not everything needs to be built from scratch."
Major sporting events attract the global media spotlight via superstar athletes and prestigious and recognised event brands. This media attention and general focus on a city or region in the lead up to and during an event should see an uplift in tourism and investment revenues and an opportunity for the host city or region to refresh or upgrade its infrastructure. However, these opportunities usually come with a sizeable price tag.
Bidders should understand that the sporting organisations who award hosting rights aren’t always looking for bigger and flashier ways of hosting events. What’s becoming increasingly important is that an event can be staged well and within an affordable budget. Events that can be staged affordably will attract interest from future hosts and thus ensure the longevity of the sport and the event. This is important to the organisations that control the event rights.
“Major events are often funded out of the public purse and the use of public funds will always be closely scrutinised by the public and the media. Host cities have to be smarter in terms of how they leverage their funds."
"You don’t have to create everything, like venues, from scratch for your event to be successful. Consider upgrading existing sport infrastructure or hosting parts of the event in neighbouring centres. The Gold Coast Games did this particularly well using venues in Cairns, Townsville and Brisbane to supplement the venues on the Gold Coast, rather than building new venues that would not be required after the Games.. This will mean cost savings, less disruption and likely a happier community."
"On the Gold Coast, we looked for creative ways to deliver venues. We didn’t just use existing sporting venues, we found other existing venues that were equally suitable," said Ms Robinson. "We used movie studios and convention centres, but the types of venues that are available will change from city to city. There will be creative options in every city."
"Since all the Commonwealth Games venues were in use prior to the Games, we knew they'd continue to be useful to the community after the Games concluded. Some received a facelift – so the benefits were returned to the community before the Games even started."
Creative and future focused thinking opens up interesting possibilities for host cities, not only to focus more on using existing infrastructure, but to win over the local community with a long-term approach. This could result not only in the end of white elephant projects, but it could also generate better longer term economic benefits and more meaningful legacies that remain long after the pageantry has gone.
On the legacy front, it used to be that a government had a set amount of funds and used that money to bid for major sporting events. If they won those events then great, the city or region would host the event and then they were over and considered a success.
Today, however, "sporting event organisers are looking for quality budget conscious event delivery and a strong commitment to leaving a meaningful legacy. Australian cities wanting to win major sporting events, like the Commonwealth Games, need to think about the legacy they can offer the community and organisers,” says Ms Robinson.
A big driver for prospective host cities is that an event will fuel greater sports participation and stimulation, with the objective for the community to be inspired to be sport participants through exposure to big events.
It may be more appealing for organisers and the communities of bidding cities to demonstrate what they have already done before the bid to bolster physical activity and public health. This may include the creation of new long-term community focused, rather than games focused facilities, infrastructure and participation levels.
A legacy initiative of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games was the repurposing of sporting equipment, with the games gifting sporting assets to local communities, schools, councils and sporting organisations across the State. Approximately 20,000 items of sporting equipment were gifted to more than 100 sporting organisations or groups throughout Queensland.
Post event legacies can seem distant when preparing a bid, but proactively demonstrating how harnessing an event to generate a physical activity or sport legacy will show organisers and the community that the event is about much more than a ‘Games Time’ spectacle.
Part of MinterEllison’s remit in delivering the unique fully outsourced legal and brand protection solution for the Commonwealth Games is to help the event organizers deliver a strong legacy outcome for Queensland and Australia. MinterEllison is fulfilling this obligation by using its Games experience to help attract and deliver future major sporting events in a more affordable and engaged way.
"Because of the fully outsourced delivery model we used, event owners can now bring events to Australia knowing that there is a strong and affordable professional advisory infrastructure available to support the staging of those events. No other jurisdiction has this and a firm that has first-hand cradle to grave experience in delivering every aspect of a major sporting event like the Commonwealth or Invictus Games has an important role to play in ensuring future events are delivered in a cost-effective and efficient way. It’s not just about a host city having appropriate venues and physical assets, the intellectual infrastructure is just as important" said Ms Robinson.