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Dubai Rugby 7s – Review

Dubai Rugby 7s – Review

Overall, the Dubai Rugby 7s was a well-organized event which drew a large crowd in Dubai over the past weekend.

Below is a comprehensive review of what went well…and where improvements will help make the event even better in 2018.

 

PLUS: The Venue:

The venue around the main stadium offered sufficient space to accommodate a number of food and beverage tents, a large official merchandising tent, several entertainment zones and parking for 15,000 vehicles.

There were different zones for different target groups. The “Party Zone” for the party people who wanted to have a drink or two and dance listening to house music. The “Family Zone” for the families to keep the offspring busy. “Street Food” zones for eating and drinking.

Since alcohol purchased in one zone could be taken to the stadium to watch the matches, there was also a separate family seating area inside the main stadium allowing families to enjoy the event in an alcohol-free environment with their children.

The permanent Rugby stadium in Dubai is rather small with a grandstand capacity of 4,000. For larger event such as the Rugby 7s, the stadium is expanded to accommodate 50,000 spectators. So there was sufficient seating available for fans, except for the zones which did not provide shading (see below).

 

PLUS: Food & Beverage:

There was a huge selection of food including main dishes with pork meat, chicken, beef, pizza and sweets. Costa Café also had a presence there, so no shortage of coffee either for those who got tired after spending a few hours at the event.

 

PLUS: Use of Technology:

There was a live commentator for each game providing background information and commentary via loudspeaker. The loudspeakers had an amazing sound and they just nailed the volume level. Not too loud but clear and easy to understand for the crowd.

Of course, the Dubai Sevens stadium has state of the art camera equipment to capture the event. Besides ordinary camera equipment, they also used drones to capture fan impressions and displayed them at the large stadium screens.

There is a well-designed, dedicated Dubai 7s website available with information about the matches, venue and location map to help fans plan their trip.

Fans could also download the Dubai Sevens App for information about the event and match results.

App use was limited however, especially from overseas fans who were unable to access free WiFi for more than one hour (continue reading below).

 

MINUS: Limited Free WiFi:

WiFi was only provided for free for one hour. After that, fans had a to pay a fee to continue using the network. That’s somewhat strange in a country that provides unlimited free WiFi in all its major shopping malls, most cafes, restaurants and even in the metro. The Dubai International Airport has the fasted unlimited free airport WiFi in the world.

Lesson learned: The event was heavily sponsored by large corporations. Technology is usually not an issue in Dubai. So surely, it would have been possible to get one of the large national telecommunications companies to provide free WiFi during the event? Especially fans who travelled to Dubai and did not have access to their mobile data would have benefited from free WiFi.

 

MINUS: Transportation:

Organizers had announced busses to take fans back home after the games. There were even signposts to guide fans to the shuttle buses. However, we found no busses even after exploring the pickup area for 30 minutes and speaking to several tournament operations representatives. Instead, hundreds of fans were waiting in line to grab a cab back to the city. There were hundreds of taxis picking up fans but no busses on site….smells fishy. Perhaps someone thought is may be a much better deal generating some additional revenue if all fans had to take cabs back to Dubai rather than providing free shuttle buses. One taxi ride back to Dubai cost between AED 110 and 180 multiplied by thousands of passengers. What a great day for Dubai’s taxi business.

Lesson learned: The event was heavily sponsored by large corporations. Is it really necessary to disappoint fans by ripping them off at the exit after such a great show?

 

MINUS: Shading:

Temperature is always an issue in this region. Even though temperatures usually drop significantly from up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 F) in summer to a comfortable 25 degrees (77 F) in winter, hot days can still be expected even in December. Unfortunately, the first December weekend was a hot one.

One of the tribunes was facing south-west giving it full sun exposure during the hot early afternoon hours. This made it almost impossible for fans to watch the games from this tribune. Instead, most fans had to move to the fully packed DHL tribune opposite in the shadow. Organizers could have provided more shading easily but they clearly had not anticipated these high temperatures in early December.

Lesson learned: Dubai can be hot. Even in December. So adequate shading of fan seating areas is required.

 

MINUS: Local Engagement:

Of course, Rugby is a “Western” game. Even so, it is a very British game. This means, it comes with the particulars of British, or Commonwealth culture. You could say of course “if you don’t like it, stay away”. However, don’t events like this offer the opportunity for host countries to embrace the culture of the game while still displaying some local lifestyle? There were however, no signs of Arab, or UAE culture whatsoever. Almost no local food, no majlis, no shisha nothing. Probably very few locals attending the event altogether. So, the question is: If there can be a family section and dedicated family seating, why was there no dedicated seating for those who may enjoy a good Rugby game but do not wish to consume alcohol?

Lesson learned: More local fan engagement could be beneficial to the event. There could be dedicated alcohol and pork free zones for locals who want to enjoy a good game of Rugby….and for all others who don’t enjoy drinking but come to see the matches only. How about a nice majlis next time which is open to locals and expats alike and gives locals the chance to display their culture and offer their hospitality to others as well?

 

Further improvement suggestions:

The Dubai Rugby 7s event already uses technology to enhance fan experience. Nevertheless, there is more the organizers could do. For instance, many leagues and clubs around the world already use beacon technology in their stadiums to provide fans with real time augmented reality information about players and the game.

In September 2017, the US Major League Baseball announced a new app, aptly titled “At Bat.” This augmented reality application allows fans to use their mobile devices to instantly obtain a comprehensive picture of each player’s statistics. By simply pulling up the app and pointing their mobile devices toward the field, the app populates the user’s mobile screen with individual player profiles, including arm strength and catch probability in addition to staples like, on base percentage and batting averages. The app also allows them to follow the speed and trajectory of every single hit. Essentially, the “At Bat” app empowers baseball fans to serve as their own sports media analysts.

Wouldn’t it be great to include real time information on games and players in the next edition of the Dubai Rugby 7s…along with free unlimited WiFi for all fans?

We’re definitely looking forward!

 

Written by: Joern Schlimm

BALLYMPICS meets Hong Kong

BALLYMPICS meets Hong Kong

After completing some amazing projects in Southern China, one of our visits to the region allowed us to introduce BALLYMPICS to a number of Hong Kong sports key decision makers.

 

In 1997, Hong Kong, a former British overseas territory, was given back to China. Officially known as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, it plays a certain role if one tries to understand the overall Chinese sports landscape. Under the principle of „one country, two systems“, Hong Kong maintains a separate political and economic system from China.

 

After nearly 150 years of British control, the influence of the UK is still evident. Even the so-called Hong Kong English dialect can be interpreted as a mix of Cantonese, Mandarin and British English. So it is no surprise that typical British sports such as Rugby, Cricket and Sailing or Windsurfing are elite sports with comparably high governmental support.

 

The Hong Kong Sports Institute as local powerhouse for elite talent development, feeds the professional clubs and national teams with educated athletes whereas public schools contribute to the general readiness to live an active lifestyle.

 

Horse-racing is a special kind of activity since the Hong Kong Jockey Club is arguably one of the most popular racetracks in the world. It contains a whole ecosystem of horse-owners, trainers and jockeys. While the local people enjoy watching and betting on horse-races, hardly anyone is active as a jockey or rider in this field since there is just not enough land.

 

Land as a key resource is a scarce one… As Hong Kong faces some of the highest real estate prices in the world, it is also quite hard for clubs, leagues and associations to use the deployed land wisely.

 

Our unique BALLYMPICS approach to identify and implement world-class quality management systems in the world of sports was perceived very positively by all Hong Kong experts. It was acknowledged that this will certainly foster professionalism as well as nurture the next generation of athletes in Asia.

 

We are looking forward to our next visit.

Football Development made in China – The Grassroots Issue PART 2

Football Development made in China – The Grassroots Issue PART 2

Improving youth development:

China has taken major steps to increase the number of football academies in the country. The government is granting special state funds to selected schools to achieve the target of establishing more than 50,000 youth academies by 2025.

Professional football clubs have also established their own academies such as Guangzhou Evergrande which is thought to operate the biggest football academy in the world. In just 10 months, and at a cost of USD 185 million, real estate company Evergrande turned an area in rural southern China into the impressing football academy which currently has more than 50 pitches and about 2,800 students from all over China.

 Establishing youth academies is crucial and will undoubtedly contribute to football development in China.

However, academies alone will not solve the root cause of challenges in Chinese football development. Recent research indicates that the early technical development of kids can actually happen at the early age between 2 and 6, even before their formalized coaching begins at youth academies.

To succeed in the future, China must therefore go back and look at their grassroots football first. What still seems to be missing in the country is basic infrastructure at a grassroots level and most importantly, what successful nations call their “football culture”.

 

Visiting Beijing:

We have recently visited Beijing on a quest to find public spaces where children would be able to play street soccer and practice their skills with friends. Guess how many places we found? That’s right, we found none… (apart from one concrete pitch located under a bridge passed by a public train)

Now, Beijing is a vast city to explore and we are pretty sure that these public pitches must exist somewhere. The question is where, and whether they are indeed accessible for neighborhood children.

 

Learning from others:

In any case, it may be worth looking at great football nations, such as Germany or Brazil, to set a benchmark for Chinese grassroots football development.

In Germany for instance, you can find public pitches in even the smallest village. They are generally accessible for local kids 24/7 giving them a chance to head out for a quick match with their friends after school or just before dinner. Some of these are full-size pitches, but often, a smaller space with one goal will do the trick. The German Football Association has even implemented a small-sided “football cage” initiative to boost fundamental street football abilities, such as dibbling and 1-on-1.

We need to keep in mind that these spaces will only need to motivate kids, give them the chance to let off some steam and develop basic skills even long before they are scouted or sent to youth academies by their parents.

In Brazil, there is a notorious lack of scouting and professional academies. Yet, the country has a remarkable record of success at World Cups and has produced some of the best football players of all times. That’s because children play in the slums, the so called “favelas”, barefoot and sometimes without even a real ball. Neymar, Fred and Hulk, all learned the game playing barefoot in the street. So did famous former players like Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo. What really matters is their passion for the game and their ambition to play day after day with their friends and become better and better to one day step in the shoes of their idols.

Even though Germany does not have slums comparable to Brazil’s favelas, there is still a culture of street football which is often fostered by the number of public pitches and spaces available for children to play street football.

 

Creating such public spaces in Beijing and eventually, in all provinces and cities in China seems like an enormous task but it would have a considerable impact on the Chinese football culture and may contribute to the development of street football.

In the long run, focusing on grassroots and on developing a football culture may be the way for China to increase the followers of the game, the number of homegrown talents and perhaps, even pave the road for China to one day become world champion.

 

Written by: Joern Schlimm

Football Development made in China – The Grassroots Issue

Football Development made in China – The Grassroots Issue

It’s been almost one year since our last update of Chinese football so once again, it is time for a closer look on recent developments at the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and the Chinese Super League (CSL).

 

Part One: China’s Strategy – The German Connection

China has pumped vast financial resources into its football industry since President Xi Jinping made it clear he wants to see his country qualify for, host and one day win the FIFA World Cup. To increase the attractiveness of the domestic league, CSL clubs have purchased a number of international superstars like Hulk, Alex Teixeira or Jackson Martinez.

However, Chinese officials are aware that increasing the league’s attractiveness is only part of the puzzle. There are many more challenges ahead, especially when it comes to the development of Chinese national players. After a disappointing campaign of the Chinese national team which seems to miss out on another FIFA World Cup in 2018, officials have been desperate to explore ways to improve the performance of Chinese national players in the short run.

 

U-20 Exposure to German football

The CFA has recently announced that an agreement had been reached for their Under-20 (U-20) national team to play as optional add-on against the clubs in the fourth German division (Regionalliga Südwest). 19 teams were qualified to play in Germany’s Regionalliga Südwest, one of the five regional divisions in the fourth tier of German football. The Chinese side inclusion will round-up the number to 20.

China’s Under-20 will begin playing in the second half of the upcoming season, from January onwards but their results will not count in the league table as it is optional for the German clubs to take on the Chinese U-20 on their respective weekends without scheduled league games.

What seems like an unusual step may actually enhance the quality of Chinese U-20 players giving them exposure to challenging environment on a regular basis. The current U-20 squad playing in Germany will most likely contain a number of players who will be promoted to the Chinese first team embarking on the qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Exposing their U-20 players to a more competitive environment may indeed increase China’s chances to qualify for 2022. But we need to keep in mind, that the Regionalliga is only the fourth tier of German football after the Bundesliga, 2. Bundesliga and 3. Liga and as such, it is a league composed of semi-professional players.

The benefits of this intercultural exchange will certainly be monitored closely and – if successful – it could serve as a role model for the future development of national players in China.

 

Written by: Joern Schlimm

Who will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup?

Who will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup?

Current Developments:

Experts and fans who were expecting FIFA to amend their current regulations to allow bids from Europe and Asia in the 2026 bidding process were disappointed after the FIFA Council has ruled that countries from Europe (UEFA) and Asia (AFC) will be barred from bidding to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

This means that a number of serious European competitors are now out of the picture. Also, emerging football/ soccer countries such as China will not have a chance to win the hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup. China will have to wait for their turn in 2030.

FIFA’s decision however will be a big boost to the United States’ potential bid to host the tournament as it rules out many of their top would-be competitors.

Even though US Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati so far has not officially committed to bidding for the 2026 World Cup, a US bid is widely anticipated. With Canada and Mexico also interested in bidding, the US may face the toughest competition from within their own association CONCACAF.

If the US wants to make sure they’ll win the hosting rights for the 2026 tournament, the logical step would be to embark on a joint bid with Canada and/ or Mexico.

But even if the US were to go on their own, chances that they will win the hosting rights for 2026 are immense.

 

Quality is Key:

During the bidding process and especially after the hosting rights are won, a thorough Quality Management is needed to ensure that the tournament will fulfill expectations and requirements of stakeholders around the globe.

Organizing a FIFA World Cup which does not live up to expectations can quickly result in a loss of reputation for the host country.

BALLYMPICS will support bidding nations (first come, first serve) and the 2026 Host Country to ensure Quality Management is embedded early on in the process and at later stages during tournament preparations.

 

Written by: Joern Schlimm

Asia Tour 2016 Summary

Asia Tour 2016 Summary

The BALLYMPICS Asia Tour 2016 was a huge success. The BALLYMPICS team met with a number of experts across Asia to discuss recent developments and challenges in soccer and other sports.

Topics included the upcoming club licensing requirements and their implications on national leagues and football/ soccer clubs.

Our team was also invited to attend the inaugural #LeSportsConnects sports forum in Dongguan, China where we discussed the development of the sports industry in China with experts from around the world. China's focus currently lies on developing football/ soccer but other sports such as basketball, rugby and American football have also received large investments and have become increasingly popular. The number of sports organizations entering the Chinese market keeps increasing and also includes major leagues such as the NBA, NFL, the German Bundesliga, the English Premier League and numerous well-known football/ soccer clubs.

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BALLYMPICS will continue to offer solutions for football/ soccer clubs, leagues and other sports entities in Asia to help them improve their performance and further develop into more profitable organizations.

Football Development made in China – Getting started

Football Development made in China – Getting started

China seems to be making fast progress establishing their youth development infrastructure. Without doubt, their goal is to develop talent as quickly as possible to be able to create a competitive national team as early as 2022.

Football/ soccer in China is supported at the highest levels. China’s president Mr. Xi Jinping has made no secret of his love for the “beautiful game.” He’s also made it clear he wants to see China qualify for, host and one day win, the World Cup.

So consequently, setting up a proper youth development infrastructure for talented young Chinese is a starting point. China’s administration has reportedly named 4,755 primary and middle schools across the country as “specialist football academies” to spearhead campus football development, the Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE) announced.

Moreover, 31 counties and districts have been picked to operate selected pilot football projects. The appointed schools will enjoy extra funding and support. The MOE requires selected schools and districts to widely publicize football events and progresses made.

The selected schools will be evaluated regularly and the results will be made public. Underperformers will first be given a chance to improve, and will be stripped of their status if unsuccessful, said the MOE.

The MOE has not communicated however, how and by whom these impartial quality assessments will be conducted, especially bearing in mind the large number of specialist football academies. Also, it remains unclear which quality criteria China will use to conduct these assessments. Will the Chinese Football Association develop their own set of quality criteria? Or will they use criteria developed by international bodies such as FIFA or the AFC?

What do you think?

 

Written by: Joern Schlimm

Club licensing is going live – Asia Tour 2016

Club licensing is going live – Asia Tour 2016

Join us!

The event:
We will discuss the requirements of club licensing and the benefits of Quality Management in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
When?
November/ December 2016
Where?
Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing
Who will attend?
Experts from Germany and Qatar joined by local experts

“The German soccer Wunderkind: Is it all coincidence?”

“The German soccer Wunderkind: Is it all coincidence?”

It may be hard to believe today. But at EURO 2000, Germany was one of the worst teams in the tournament scoring only one goal and finishing last in their group.

Germany, traditionally an enthusiastic soccer nation, was struck hard.

What happened next is a case study in German corporate problem solving: self-reflection (“What went wrong?”), determining the cause (“Why did it happen?), followed by careful top-down management (“How do we fix the system so it never happens again?”).

Soon they discovered the root cause of the problem: Germany’s soccer schools were not producing enough talented players for their clubs and the national team.

To rectify the situation, the German soccer federation (the “DFB”) decided the country needed to invest in better youth development. So in the 2001-2002 season, the DFB began mandating that all clubs in the professional German leagues run their own youth academies.

A couple of years later, the DFB realized that requiring the top German clubs to run their own academies was only the first step in the right direction. But in addition, there also had to be a way to ensure the quality of the 100 or so academies. To achieve this objective, the German soccer federation came up with a set of quality criteria for youth academies that became mandatory for academies of all clubs in the German professional leagues. This was essentially the birth of a quality management system for professional soccer academies in Germany.

Academies are not only required to implement quality criteria but they are also regularly assessed to determine if they have properly implemented them.

Criteria for evaluating academies include their strategic and financial planning processes, talent identification and development processes, organizational structure and decision making processes, athletic and social support and an evaluation of their facilities and equipment provided.

Making sure that academies adhere to defined quality criteria eventually resulted in an increased number of highly-talented young players in Germany. Many of these significantly contributed to Germany’s triumph in the FIFA World Cup last year and there are so many more talented young players in Germany’s U-21 squads that a German dominance in world soccer seems likely until other countries get a chance to catch up.

So what does this mean for other countries with similar ambitions? Rather than spending billions of Euros, Pounds or whatever currency on buying international superstars, soccer federations should ensure that clubs take youth development serious. But it’s not enough to require the establishment of youth academies. Federations need to provide a unified set of quality criteria and ensure that these criteria are adhered to by regularly assessing clubs and evaluating their actual condition (“as-is”) against the set of defined quality criteria (“should be”). Any divergence needs to be adequately analyzed and addressed to ensure academies are operating as desired providing a source of high quality players for domestic clubs and the national team.

Ultimately, this quality management system has only winners: Young talents will be thankful for the chance to develop their skills at high quality academies and fans will be enthusiastically supporting their national team as it progresses through the World Cup finals. Last but not least, professional clubs as well as the national league will enhance their reputation and increase their overall value.

The key to success is a well-defined set of quality criteria for youth academies and an adequate quality management system to ensure independent assessments and continuous improvement.

 

Written by: Joern Schlimm

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