Sporting venues spice up incentives with player meet-and-greets

Sports venues provide an atmosphere that elevates an event beyond the norm, says Catherine Chetwynd.

According to the Meetings Industry Association (mia), in the past year, sports venues have increased their average daily delegate rates (DDR) by 19 per cent, rising from £35.89 in 2018 to £42.71 in 2019. “Alongside state-of-the-art meetings facilities, sporting venues offer added incentives such as pitch tours and player meet-and-greets to give events an added boost. Well-versed in providing premium hospitality for match days, many sporting venues can also provide quality catering for meetings of any type and size,” says mia’s chief executive Jane Longhurst.

Companies gathering together sales teams from across a continent can take over the seating bowl of the stadium, as did one large organisation at the new Mercedes arena in Atlanta, with some 30,000 people, and the main stage was on the football field, which was fake grass.

The associations with sport resonate with business goals: “Sport is all about dedication, teamwork, hard work, trying to achieve success, learn from failure – and that applies as much to business as it does to a sports team,” says senior vice president of Legends International Richard Cheeseman. “You can create a narrative around what can often be a dry company event and stadiums help differentiate events from the standard conference centre or hotel location.” The only downside is date limitations due to sports fixtures.

Sporting venues

Yellow Wave Clubhouse.

Top choices

The Yellowave Clubhouse in Brighton is such an inspiring space; I love how light and airy it is with uninterrupted views out to sea,” says director of Think Outside Coaching Neil Pavey. “We work with companies looking to make changes to the way they work, communicate and think. Working in such an unusual space brings greater creativity and free-thinking.”

“A favourite venue is the Mercedes-Benz World in Brooklands, Surrey, because it has a strong theme and its exhibition area always fascinates delegates, including the de-structured F1 car hanging from the ceiling,” says business leader at cievents Giannola Cimenti.

“My favourite venue is Stadium MK, where we recently held a one-day kick-off Xero Accounting Software conference for 320 staff,” says managing director of Julia Charles Event Management Julia Charles-Wiginton. “The company is based in Milton Keynes so the Stadium was a convenient venue, there are great links to the motorway and mainline train services for those coming from farther afield and because delegates could walk from the on-site hotel to the conference, it was a sustainable option, too. In addition, The Stadium allows customers to brand the venue and the screens around the pitch so we effectively took over the whole place.”

“No request is ever too much and the team at The Belfry prides itself on providing world-class hospitality that consistently exceeds our expectations; everyone involved goes the extra mile and makes it feel like it’s the only event going on. In addition, the quality and choice of food is excellent and is something our attendees regularly comment on in their feedback. The relationship with The Belfry and the strength of the team ensures they deliver the best events in the business and we look forward to returning,” says marketing manager of CliniSys Matthew Fouracre.

Ian Knowles, commercial director, Future Valleys, said: “We like to use the Principality Stadium to conduct our larger meetings as the location, hospitality packages and the personal service provided by the team makes all the logistical arrangements totally stress free and proves to be fantastic value for money. We have used the stadium many times and will continue to do so.”


  • In conjunction with caterer Sodexo, Hamilton Park Racecourse has introduced new options for private events in the Grandstand and exclusive hire of the Parade Ring Marquee and Club Lawn Marquee. The 17 suites have been refurbished and the 118-room Hilton Hamilton Park Hotel has opened on the property.
  • Chester Racecourse has received planning approval for a £100m redesign, including the construction of a six-storey grandstand and conference centre at the nearly 500-year-old racetrack. The new facility will be known as the Pavilion and will replace the Leverhulme Stand.
  • A £45m refurbishment at Emerald Headingley Stadium has created the Emerald suite (500) with views over the cricket and rugby pitches, and two terraces (100, 30) suitable for barbeques or summer networking; corporate boxes have also been renovated.

Sporting Venues

Case study

  • Client Microsoft UK Services
  • Venue Newbury Racecourse 2018
  • Event Annual kick-off
  • Participants Staff, UK services team

The one-day conference for 350 delegates started at 8am with tea/coffee and pastries. AV and production involved a bespoke set build for the main conference with screen, projectors, sound, lighting and a video recording of the conference. The budget was £60,000. “From start to finish, working with the Newbury team was easy,” says senior events manager of Pure Event Management Kerry Dunlop. “Excellent service from the sales team, the attention to detail and ‘anything is possible’ approach from the events team in the planning stages and excellent management and support from the ground teams, all contributed to the smooth running of the event. I would jump at the opportunity to work with Newbury Racecourse again.”

Northstar Meetings Group Meetpie M&IT Magazine AMI Magazine ConventionSource Virtual Fam Trip Intellectual Capitals The Meetings Show M&IT Awards Agency Challenge Association Challenge M&IT Corporate Challenge