The Big Read: The Sports Hub nightmare – what do insiders say went wrong, and can the government do better?

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Another example of a successfully run venue is Wembley Stadium in England, said Mr Matt Rogan, a UK-based author and sports consultant.

The stadium is operated by the Football Association (FA) in England and is managed in a similar way to a social enterprise, receiving both public and private funding.

However, unlike in the case of SHPL, where the Singapore government sets its KPIs, it is the FA itself that directs the Wembley project.

“Ultimately there is a decision maker, the FA is responsible for how it is run and the people working to deliver the stadium’s commercial duties all report to the same chief executive,” Mr Rogan said.

“Every single pound of profit they make goes back into growing the game of football.”

He added that England’s local authorities set the FA only intangible targets and not monetary ones.

These goals could include allowing the FA to increase the number of girls playing football in England.

However, Mr Rogan acknowledged that football in England has a large and stable audience base, which would mean the lack of gate receipts is a lesser risk factor.

Another example of a successfully operating sports complex is Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena, home of the National Basketball Association (NBA) team, the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as several other sports such as ice hockey and boxing.

Mr. Marc Lim, a sports consultant and former journalist, said the arena has been able to generate significant daily traffic because it is “right in the heart of Los Angeles” and also has office space nearby.

In Singapore’s case, leasing more non-sports-related office space in the Sports Hub and building more office buildings in the area would also help make the neighborhood livelier, he said.

“One of my bugbears about the Sports Hub and the Kallang neighborhood is that it’s so close to the city and so close to the Central Business District, but one of the things the Sports Hub didn’t have (yet) was the daily footprint of his business there,” Mr. Lim said.

However, there are also several sports venues around the world that have fallen short of their commercial goals, such as the London Stadium, which was purpose-built for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The stadium resembles a public-private joint venture owned by both a private commercial entity and the UK Government. Because of this arrangement, the stadium “has not lived up to its potential,” Mr Rogan said.

“There are different interest groups involved and it got very political. It means they are not agile or fast enough to develop the stadium for the future,” he added.

As a result, the facility missed many commercial opportunities, such as B. the supervision of other sporting events. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, which opened in 2019, has an extendable football field with an artificial turf field underneath, which could then also accommodate other sports such as American football.

Closer to home is Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium, built specifically for the 2008 Olympics.

Professor Simon Chadwick, sports consultant and global professor of sport at Emlyon Business School in France, said the stadium was built by the Chinese government and originally operated to serve mostly “political” rather than commercial purposes.

“This was really a showpiece created to project Chinese power,” he said. “It was not created to function as a company and meet market demands.”

He said that after the Olympics, the venue proved too far from the city center for most tourists and locals to visit.

“There’s no particular reason to go there unless there’s an event,” said Prof Chadwick, adding that it wasn’t until around five to six years later that a private management company took over running the Bird’s Nest.

“One of the things that the private management company struggled with was attracting the type of events to the venue that would compel people to actually spend time traveling to actually see that event.”

WHERE SPORTS HUB COMPETES

One reason SportSG cites for acquiring the Singapore Sports Hub is increased competition in the region as new sports facilities spring up in other Asian capitals.

In Southeast Asia, the Sports Hub is well ahead of other venues for the time being, the sports advisors surveyed said.

Mr Walton said: “New stadiums are being built in countries like Cambodia and Indonesia, for example, but realistically for big international events like the World Athletics Championships… Singapore is in a far better position than Indonesia and Cambodia and in a better position than cities like Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok when it comes to positioning on the international scene.”

Mr Lim agreed, saying the nearest rival could be Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Sports Park, which is due to be completed in 2023 and will include a 50,000-seat stadium and a 10,000-seat indoor sports centre.

“Hong Kong, which is quite cosmopolitan, (is capable of) attracting the rugby sevens,” he said, referring to the annual competition which is usually held at the Sports Hub.

However, when bidding for major events such as the World Athletics Championships or the ATP Tennis Finals, Singapore competes with other major cities around the world.

“If you look at the current IAAF World Championships bids, Singapore is not only competing with cities in the region but globally such as Los Angeles, New York, London, Cape Town and Dubai,” said Mr Walton.

“You have to be at the forefront in these situations to challenge and honestly it’s difficult to make competitive bids unless all the key stakeholders like SportSG, the Singapore Tourism Board, the Economic Development Board and the venue operators are aligned are,” he added.

CAN A GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATED SPORTS HUB IMPROVE ITS GAME?

As SportSG seeks to operate Sports Hub for the “social good” by hosting more community-focused events, additional operational costs are inevitable, economists had previously told TODAY.

But there could also be other costs related to reputation and efficiency, sports advisers said.

Mr Lim said he does not expect the stadium at the Sports Hub to be open to the public in the same way as the other stadiums in Singapore “where everyone can go and run every day”.

Still, its reputation as a world-class venue may be tarnished as it hosts more community events, with wear and tear becoming a factor. “The last thing you want is for the stadium to really be a community gym because we’ve got everyone in the core areas… it should still be a top-notch experience for the national stadium,” added Mr Lim, who believes SportSG is discontinued will have specific days for Sports Hub for use by members of the public.

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