Telegraph Business of Sport: Day 1 Review

The first day of the Telegraph Business of Sport Conference kicked off in London with a top-level list of speakers and audience members from some of the biggest names in global sport.

The keynote address by His Excellency Liu Xiaoming, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, was followed by sessions focussed on the growing influence of Chinese trade and investment into the European market, as well as the importance of sport and fitness to national wellbeing. Indeed, the Ambassador’s address focussed on developing an international  strategy that promotes both business interests and the national health. “Throughout China”, Mr Liu continued, “interest in sport and fitness has reached a new high; China’s sports industry is a gold mine going forward, both domestically and internationally.”

Forming part of a panel with Aston Villa CEO Keith Wyness and Inter Milan Corporate Director Michael Williamson, Populous Managing Director, EMEA, Christopher Lee added, “It was very  positive to hear Ambassador Liu talking about sport as a cornerstone of China’s development; culturally, commercially, and from a general health and well-being perspective.

“The ownership systems that we are seeing being created at clubs like Aston Villa and Milan are really eco-systems that cover both the European and Chinese markets – it is very much a symbiotic relationship rather than a one-way relationship”.

Other highlights of the morning included a healthy discussion of the future of the Premier League, with Donna Marie Cullen (Executive Director Tottenham Hotspur FC), Simon Jordan (former chairman Crystal Palace FC), Cathy Long (former Head of Supporter Services at the Premier League) and Simon Green (Head of BT Sport). They all agree that, with a long lense on the future, the importance of creating an exciting match day experience with full capacity grounds is the essence of any future broadcast and digital experience.

After a networking lunch, a presentation by Steve Bartlett of Social Chain demonstrated the power of social and digital media, connecting a new generation of sports fans engaging with the event experience. Bringing new models of payment to sports packages and content for millennials. “Sport needs to learn from the platform that music channels have now developed to reinvent themselves”, he said.

This very well received session was followed by a timely panel discussion on the change encounteresed by broadcasters, including established channels BBC Sport and Channel 4, alongside Facebook. Stephen Lyle and Barbara Slater argued that linear TV is still the location for mass viewership of sport, at least for now, with Slater arguing strongly that free-to-air sport is crucial for the healthy future of sport. This is sure to be a competitive space, however, with the incredible opportunity and flexibility for both sports and businesses brought by new media platforms such as Facebook. All agree that social media is now an integral part to the viewership of any major event.

The first day rounded out with a look ahead to the World Athletics Championships held at the London Stadium this summer, with former Olympians leading the conversation on how to really optimise the sporting and economic potential of track and field athletics.

Populous Senior Principal Mike Trice summed up the day saying, “The content and debate we saw today are a real rollercoaster ride within the business of sport and its future. The debates ranged from a nation’s attitude to sport and activity, to our own personal use of a Fitbit. The dedicated break out sessions were also a great success, and provided a fantastic way to engage with high-profile speakers, and to really get involved in the day.”

Read Christopher Lee’s views on the exciting opportunities that China brings, here.

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