Summer Loving, Happened So Fast – Prof. Simon Chadwick
September 9, 2011
Whenever summer ends, one always get the sense that the spine of the sporting year has been broken, at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. As we headed into this year’s sporting summer though, there was a feeling that this year’s sunshine spell would be a relatively quiet time. Unlike last year or next year, there was to be no Olympic Games and no football World Cup to look forward to.
In spite of the absence of the world’s two biggest sporting events from this year’s sporting calendar, the summer nevertheless proved to be an intensely interesting one, not just for what happened on the fields and tracks of the world, but also off them. A pervading theme across many sports has been the issue of governance; following the fallout from last December’s award of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, football’s governing body has been beset by problems with which many of us are now familiar with. Yet world football is not alone: this summer, it has been claimed by some commentators that governance within the English Rugby Football Union is broken; while in Formula One motor racing, Bernie Ecclestone has been drawn to a German legal action that has posed some fundamental questions about the governance of F1. While it is a little premature, if not naïve, to suggest that 2011 will mark a watershed in the governance of sport, this summer’s shenanigans have clearly illustrated that numerous sports are not as democratic, transparent or fit-for-purpose as they should be, and that change is required.
Given FIFA’s feuding, 2011 can hardly be described as having had the first summer of love, although one might claim that this was sport’s first social media summer. Many of us already know and use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. But this summer was marked by several developments that have accentuated the growing importance of social media in sport. Across the year, there have been several conferences devoted to addressing the issues and challenges our industry faces in capitalising upon the opportunities this new media might provide. At the same time, league tables of ‘performance’ have begun to emerge, in which numbers of followers are highlighted. Indeed, some sport organisations now see themselves as being at the forefront of a battle to be, for instance, the most followed sport club on Facebook. The subject of what value such followings have has been the focus of intense debate, with opinion divided as to whether followings can be monetised or whether social media simply provides a tool of engagement. This is an on-going dichotomy that will surely remain at the forefront of many bright minds in our industry.
In the absence of the world’s two biggest events from this year’s sporting schedule, it would be easy to dismiss the summer as one that has been less economically valuable or commercially lucrative than other years. Yet there have been various events around the world (such as the World Athletics Championship in South Korea and perennials such as the Tour de France and the UEFA Champions League Final in England) that have had a major economic impact, generating significant increases in, amongst other things, tourism expenditure and marketing activity. The overall impact figure for sport this year is set to grow even further, with the Rugby Union World Cup in New Zealand predicted to generate considerable economic benefits for the host nation. At the same time, the continuing development and growing appeal of sporting commerce has been marked this summer by a multitude of deals. For instance, FC Barcelona’s shirt sponsorship contract with the Qatar broke the record for such a deal; while Manchester United’s training kit deal with DHL was unprecedented. Such activity leads one to ask: what is sport worth? The simple answer to this question is that we don’t know. One of the challenges for our community therefore is to begin developing truly rigorous measures of economic and financial value, especially in these post-recessionary times when contributing to the bottom-line has become even more important.
So, that was the sporting summer that was – it went just as quickly as it came. It may not have been the biggest summer of sport that we have ever witnessed, but it still brought some important and potentially landscape changing developments. Only time will tell what the real ramifications have been; with this in mind, we now move on to an autumn of sport and everything this has in store for us.
About Professor Simon Chadwick: