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Understanding the risks as sport moves out of its comfort zone and into the city

As sports bodies look to move events from stadia and arenas to urban locations, they need to understand the fresh portfolio of risks they face, writes David Griffiths of Miller Insurance.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 17: Great Britain and Australia Gold compete in the Womens Basketball 3x3 during day two of the 2013 Australian Youth Olympic Festival at Darling Harbour on January 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

According to Fiba, the world governing body of basketball, the 3×3 version of the game is ‘the fastest-growing property in world sport’.

It is fast, furious and skilful, and its positioning as an urban street sport means it has a massive appeal to the millennial demographic. At a time when more or less every mainstream sport is fixated on finding ways of becoming more relevant and appealing to youth, it is seen by many as a blueprint for the future of sports events.

Much of the appeal of 3×3 is in its urban locations, which are in keeping with the inner-city US roots of the sport and reflect its culture. Now even sports with little in the way of historic street culture are increasingly looking to urban locations as they look to grow interest.

We’ve seen athletics hit the city streets with major sprint competitions; motorsport in city centres has become commonplace; and even archery has held rounds of its world championships in downtown areas. This means a move from inside stadia and facilities and out into a new world. And it’s a world full of hazards for event organisers and managers.

Here are just some of the key risks associated with staging urban events…

Security

While there are security risks at every sports event, events held in urban locations are particularly vulnerable. Last year’s Mandalay Bay shooting at a concert in Las Vegas was carried out by a gunman who had booked into a hotel room overlooking the site. This incident highlights the difficulty of securing vantage points to eliminate this type of threat, although failure to do so could make organisers liable.

Urban events may also prove to be a target for terrorist attacks and security and surveillance has to be of the highest order to combat this threat. The choice of iconic locations – often recognisable to media audiences worldwide – is thought by security experts to increase the potential for an attack.

(Brian Davidson/Getty Images)

Temporary facilities

Installing the facilities and infrastructure required to stage an event in an urban setting usually means working to the tightest of deadlines – often in confined spaces and with high traffic levels – to take advantage of tight access windows. This pressure increases the risk of short-cuts and errors which may impact on the health and safety both of the crowd at the event and the crews working on the project.

The complexity of such projects – which will involve acquiring special licenses for road closures which restrict the construction window – also create a raised risk of enforced cancellation should any element of the process not run according to plan.

Third-party risks

Organisers of urban events have a range of third-party risks to consider. These include potential liability for the closure of local businesses and any disruption to public transport as a result of an incident originating because of the event. Loss of business claims from local shop owners and others after the Boston Marathon attack are an indication of the risk.

Sponsors

Sponsors play an important role in financing events, and urban events have a particular appeal to many brands. But there is a potential negative impact on a brand if an event is cancelled at short notice because of avoidable issues or problems which result in injury or loss as a result of poor management, faulty security or inadequate facilities or spectator provision.

Crowd issues

Given that one of the objectives of staging sports events in downtown locations is to attract a fresh crowd, some events are free to the public. While a ticketed crowd can be expected to behave in certain ways – they have paid to watch and tend to be committed to the event – that is not always the case where access is free and organisers should be particularly aware of the risk of crime in these situations.

Weather

The weather is a major reason for the cancellation or postponement of sports events and urban events are no exception. The difference is that the potential for contingency days to ensure events can be completed is more limited in an urban location, which is likely to be required to return to its standard role as a business hub or tourist destination after a weekend as a sports venue.

When the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor was badly affected by rain it was completed on Monday, a contingency day, and tickets were honoured. That may not be the case in a city-centre location.

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