From The Founder's Desk: Five Mistakes People Make when Managing Sports Facilities

I have been in the business of sport for over twenty years. During this period, I have spoken to hundreds of venues with sports facilities. These are the five most common mistakes I see venues making when managing their sports facilities.

1. Not adapting to change The industry is full of venues that think “current practice is best practice” when it comes to managing their sports facilities. They have traditionally taken bookings over the phone or by email, so why change now? However, the industry is going through a rapid change. The change is a move to online booking. This is the digital age, where customers expect to be able to find and book a sports facility within a few minutes. If these venues do not change and adapt, they will be left behind. 2. Not charging for cancelled bookings In many cases, when a customer cancels a booking for a sports facility, it’s a big problem. The main problems are because the venue does not have a cancellation policy or they don’t implement it. The result is that the venue ends up having to bear the cost of the cancelled booking. They struggle to re-sell the cancelled slot. Cancelled bookings are costing the industry an enormous amount of money. Venues need to have a “clear cancellation policy”, which customers need agree to when booking their sports facilities. It is common place in other industries like hospitality, travel, and entertainment, so why not the sports facility industry also?

3. No “sinking fund” It amazes me how many venues don’t think about the cost of maintaining and resurfacing their sports facilities. In my experience, their main focus is on raising the money to build the sports facility. They don’t spend a huge amount of time thinking about how the facility will be managed and maintained after it's built. All venues with sports facilities need to set aside a “sinking fund”. This fund should be used to pay for the maintenance and potential repair or resurfacing of the venue’s sports facilities. Best practice is to take a percentage of the income generated from the sports facilities and put it into the “sinking fund”.

4. Not having proper reports

When I ask venues how they generate management reports on their sports facilities, in most cases, the answer is “with great difficulty!”. It should be easy for a venue to be able to generate reports on areas like revenue, usage, occupancy, etc., across a specific date range. However, these types of reports appear to either not exist or they require a great deal of time and effort to generate for most venues.

5. Leaving the lights on The last and a very common mistake, is “leaving the lights on!”. What I mean by this is leaving the floodlights on. We live in a society that’s focused on renewable and green energy. However, in my experience, floodlights on sports facilities like pitches and tennis courts are constantly being left on - even when nobody is using them! Apart from being a waste of money, it's very bad for the environment. Venues need to be more responsible for implementing policies and systems that ensure that floodlights are only on when the facility is being used.

It’s important to point out that not all venues are making these mistakes. We have seen big improvements, particularly since the industry has re-opened after COVID-19. But, there is still a big way to go before the industry stops making these mistakes.

Yours in sport,

Craig Bewley