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Neil Levett discusses ‘Sports Venues with Longer Lifespans’ in the August issue of BCCJ’s ACUMEN magazine

In a recent interview with Neil Levett, Managing Director of Alad – owners of PanStadia & Arena Management magazine and Stadia & Arena Events – which was first published in the latest edition of BCCJ’s ACUMEN magazine – Levett discusses the importance of sustainable models for sports venues for major events such as the Rugby World Cup 2019 and Tokyo 2020… 

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Taking on the world’s largest sporting events is a feat that has, traditionally, required significant development and adjustment for the host nation. With Japan about to play host not only to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, but also to the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the Kansai World Masters Games 2021, one of the crucial issues that needs to be tackled is providing venues for each.

Back on July 27, Neil Levett, Managing Director of Alad Limited, owners of Panstadia & Arena Management magazine and Stadia & Arena Events, spoke to members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ). He outlined the models required in venue management and operation in Japan, and his plans to facilitate idea sharing through Stadia & Arena Pacific 2016, a sports venue conference and exhibition to be held in September in Yokohama.


Looking at sports venue owners and operators in Japan, Levett hopes to involve British firms in imparting service knowledge from both the Games and other successful sporting events that have taken place in the UK.

Levett said:

It may seem like a strange thing to say but we came here [to host Stadia & Arena Pacific] predominantly because Japan has got a basketball league, successful three-tier football league, and baseball league, some with 50,000-seater or over audiences. That gives us a sustainable business model after the party of the Olympics has gone.

With the government placing an emphasis on the development of the national sports industry, the time is ripe to begin building Japan’s sports venue capability, according to Levett. He said that interest in global arenas expressed by representatives from some of Japan’s top venues is evidence that things are changing in Japan.

For Levett, the core issue is re-assessment of the financial models: the necessary shift from a cost centre to a profit centre, as he explained:

Venue owners in Japan tend to be prefectures and local and national governments, whereas in the Western model there are more that are privately owned. There needs to be a move from a prefecture-based funding model to a revenue-generating model.

Venues such as The O2 in London are run along the lines of a revenue-generating model. With this model, “the venue operator would come in on behalf of the owner, prefecture or government to run the facility”, he explained, adding that there is a requirement for “venue-based revenue, where we are actually sweating an asset”.

He gave the example of the Singapore Sports Hub, a public–private partnership (PPP) model and a venue that hosts a 56,000-seat football stadium, 12,000-seat arena, shopping centre, aquatic centre and facilities for other sports.

Levett advised:

Content is king. You can either have an anchor-tenant, such as a football club or basketball club, or a more transient venue … the Royal Albert Hall, with different performances and with a different finance model.

Levett hopes that inviting global stakeholders in the sports industry to share knowledge with Japanese delegates will lead to best-in-class management.

“It’s a real sharing exercise”, he said. He explained that UK Trade & Investment have organised “meet the buyer” sessions to match Japanese delegates with British firms in the hope of forming advantageous partnerships.

Levett selected West Ham United Football Club’s old stadium, The Boleyn Ground, as a prime example of the kind of transient venue model that Japan should look to adopt. He said:

It’s a typical model. They have corporate hospitality; there’s restaurants, bars and meeting facilities.

In addition, the stadium’s 80 corporate hospitality boxes, become hotel bedrooms on non-match days, he explained. This transforms the stadium into a meetings, incentives, conference and exhibitions venue.

West Ham

The former Olympic Stadium, now London Stadium, is the newly transformed home of West Ham United FC and UK Athletics. It is sited next to Westfield Stratford City, one of the biggest shopping centres in Europe.

Future-proofing global sporting event venues, to ensure that they do not simply become ghost remnants of a great event, was also on the agenda. This could be achieved through use of the smart venue concept, which is similar to West Ham’s hotel model, Levett explained. The concept looks at sport as a focus for community development.

He compared the concept to that of a European market square, with businesses surrounding the trading area. The Olympic Stadium [now referred to as London Stadium, being the new home of West Ham United FC and UK Athletics] is next to Westfield Stratford City, one of the biggest shopping centres in Europe.

“You’re going to go to that area and spend a day there”, Levett said, pointing out the value of the location. For this idea to work in Japan, there is a need to switch to a PPP model, which has been successful in the Yokohama Arena, he added.

Yokohama Arena

The PPP model has already been successfully utilised for the Yokohama Arena

Japan’s population is heavily concentrated in the cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama, but the government wants to maintain its regional and local population level. It then “needs to make sure that people out in the regions have got work”, Levett said.

One way of doing that is to look at the role facilities play in communities in these regions. Levett said that the Japan Sports Agency (JSA) is looking at models, such as that of Madison Square Garden in New York City. By doing this, said Levett, the JSA can understand “what they can do to replicate or better it”.

In addition, “the UK has signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan to share best practice on the provision of security at major sporting events”, he said.

Bringing together over 70 global industry experts and delegates, Stadia & Arena Pacific 2016 will explore topics such as the design and construction of sports venues, operations, technology and security.

Tours of the Yokohama ArenaNissan Stadium and Yokohama International Swimming Pool are also in the programme. The exhibition will offer delegates the opportunity to meet over 50 leading product and service suppliers.

Levett concluded:

The thirst for knowledge certainly exists. There is the embryo of this happening in Japan; knowledge-sharing is coming through.

This piece was first published in the August edition of BCCJ’s ACUMEN magazine:


Stadia & Arena Asia Pacific 2016 is being held at the Yokohama Arena in Japan this September, 26 to 28. To secure your place at this must-attend event, register online at:

Both the exhibition hall and the conference sessions taking place in the Open Forum, i.e. those in the ‘Venue Management, Fan Engagement and Technology in Stadia’ stream, are FREE to attend.