TheStadiumBusiness Summit kicked off by reflecting on acute issues that linger in the industry, as well as the opportunities that lie ahead.

In his opening address, TheStadiumBusiness founder Ian Nuttall reflected on the task of ‘doing more with less’, as staffing headwinds and cost-of-living challenges bite.

It was an umbrella theme that endured throughout the conference, as the industry’s best and brightest talents, suppliers and rights-holders gathered at Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester for two days of busy networking.

Nuttall pondered: “Is the industry finally able to relax as we see venues and stadia fill up with fans, patrons and customers once more?”

The opening panel session, aptly named ‘Driving Positivity in Uncertain Times’, then expanded on the theme, featuring key personnel from some of the world’s most iconic stadiums and venues.

Peter McKenna, stadium and commercial director of Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland; Mike McKenna, chief executive of Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia; and Steve Sayer, vice-president and general manager of The O2 in London, all offered their insights.

Strikingly, Sayer indicated that even now, as many as 10-12% of ticket-holders at sold-out events are still no-shows.

Innovations

With the challenging operational outlook well established, the conference focused on new ideas for enhancing and creating revenue streams, as well as optimising efficiencies – from GroundWOW’s automated electric printer that can turn turf into an advertising board, to identifying creative ways to improve the value proposition for staff.

The second day kicked off with a panel featuring Nick Sautner, chief executive officer, Eden Park Trust; Amy Trynka, venue projects and strategy manager, Arsenal FC; and Jean-Christophe Giletta, CEO of Live Stadium.

The panel discussed how some of the world’s greatest sports stadiums can be utilised for more than just sport, with sustainability efforts always playing a prominent underlying role.

Sautner discussed how Eden Park – New Zealand’s biggest stadium – hosts golf attractions for fans young and old to enjoy, while Giletta spoke of transforming stadiums into grand opera halls.

There was also a strong focus on the fan experience; director of The Fan Experience Company Mark Bradley discussed how venues, promoters and operators should flip the employee hierarchy on its head and put the fan or customer at the top.

Vitec’s Andrew Smith described how venues and stadiums can provide added value for guests; for example, by using a device to access premium content at a Formula 1 Grand Prix, where a live view of the action is limited to a few seconds per lap.

TheStadiumBusiness Summit provided an environment where operators, promoters and executives could learn from each other and take ideas back to their own venue.

“It’s great to meet everyone in the industry again and reconnect after six months or so,” said Alex Stasyszyn, head of customer experience, Europe at EngageRM.

“Having a speaking slot on stage has allowed us to explain how not having a centralised data platform presents missed opportunities across multiple departments in venues and arenas. We can bring that knowledge to the table and educate people on the benefits of a truly centralised platform.”

Of course, there was also TheStadiumBusiness Awards, which celebrated initiatives, individuals and companies that had inspired over the last year.

You can see the full list of winners here.

After two full days of ideas and discussions, industry leaders will head back home with fresh plans on how to do more with less, and perhaps new approaches that can super-charge a staggered recovery following two-and-a-half turbulent years.