Co-creating new event formats: The case of Glasgow 2018 European Championships
news / June 26, 2019
Prof. David McGillivray, University of the West of Scotland, shares his LSA funded project with us.
Over recent years, we have witnessed increasing criticism over the costs associated with bidding for, and delivering, existing sport event formats. Concerns have been raised about over-promised benefits, underestimated costs, lack of transparency and accountability, and the absence of tangible local legacies. Negative publicity has forced awarding bodies to reconsider their approach to event bidding and delivery, opening up the space for new approaches that limit costs and maximise benefits. Debate has also be generated around the need for new event formats that encourage co-hosting, profit sharing, and more effectively aligning the interests of the host destination with that of the awarding body. With my interest in event bidding and the leveraging of major sport events I was intrigued to hear that the city I reside in, Glasgow, was involved in creating a completely new sport (and cultural) event, established without the need for a formal bidding process. The inaugural European Sport Championships was hosted by Glasgow and Berlin in the summer of 2018, bringing individual European Championships for seven sports into one event over the course of 10 days under the guidance of a new organisation, European Championships Management. Given the event was to be co-hosted between Berlin and Glasgow as part of the fieldwork process it was important to be able to travel to Germany to help better understand the co-host perspective and that’s where the LSA Research and Enterprise Development Fund came into play. I was successful in an application for travel, accommodation and transcription costs to enable me and my co-author, Dr Rebecca Finkel, to undertake fieldwork in both Glasgow and Berlin with key actors involved in the new event. As part of our project we analysed media reporting pre-event and during the delivery stage, interviewed key actors in both host cities pre- and post-event, and observed the event during the live hosting period. We found that the co-creation of a new event format afforded both event organisers and the awarding body a unique opportunity to increase local accountability, leverage ‘local’ benefits more effectively, and make better use of existing expertise than is normally the case with existing sport event formats. Moreover, because the event’s media partner was the European Broadcast Union, it reached a significant media audience that each individual sport federation could only have dreamt of when their events were operated separately.
However, despite the success of the event as a media spectacle, we also found that its ‘newness’ as a format also produced vagueness, informality, and uncertainty that led to organisational tensions, limited host city audience awareness, and challenges for evaluation that undermined the overall outcomes of the event. One good example of the challenges Glasgow’s home-bred organising committee faced was the absence of a clear template and set of legal guarantees from the awarding body which they could work to. Flexibility in how a new event format is designed and delivered can be alluring but there are also significant risks associated with co-created, collaborative ventures when feasibility is difficult to assess, budgetary allowances are difficult to attribute, and expectations are ambiguous and unclear. I look forward to presenting the initial findings of the research at the annual Leisure Studies Association conference at Abertay University in July 2019.