Taking sports events to new places is often seen by sports organisations as a symbol of progress, of opening new horizons. This of course is not without reason – a sports events in a region previously untouched can help sports to engage new audiences and commercial partners, as well as new generations of athletes.
A continual focus on going to new places is not, however, without its disadvantages.
From a practical point of view, going to new hosts will often mean that sports organisations engage a local organising committee with little prior knowledge of the event in question, often leading to a somewhat less efficient organising process as a whole. Moreover, hosting an event in a new region will only be truly impactful in growing the sport if long-term legacy planning is committed to, both before and after the event in question – planning which is difficult for public authorities to commit to for a one-off event.
By contrast, heading to the same venue year after year enables host cities or countries to repeatedly build upon their experience, not only allowing the process to become more efficient, but also enabling them to commit to making important investments into the event that they may otherwise be unable to make.
But perhaps an equally important point, however, is that by having repeated venues, sports organisations can create true flagship events, which can inspire greater interest and activity across the world.
Of the four golf majors, for example, the strongest branding-wise has to be the Masters Tournament, the only one repeated played at the same course. Think too of the great communications that are able to be generated with other sports such as tennis, with their four majors in the same venues, or Formula One, with a strong roster of repeated circuits every year.
The boost in prestige that can be gains by turning one-off hosts into recurring hosts should be seen as a means to grow the sport, and not only locally. Sports organisations are able to push a narrative that raises the esteem (and public interest) of the event, by reflecting on previous editions and the storylines that have been generated. And the benefits are of course not only for the sport itself, but also the perception of the host, who are able to tie themselves to the sport in a unique way. A true win-win.
As competition for attention among sports continues to grow, sports organisations must think carefully about how their structure their seasons. And, in an increasingly challenging economic environment, the benefits of creating a true, long-term, win-win situation with their host cities and countries might never be so important.
There is of course a fine balance to be struck, and the idea that top-level sport should only be played in traditionally strong countries should be challenged. But ultimately, the role of many sports organisations is to grow their sport, and the importance of flagship events in being a catalyst for this growth should not be underestimated.