Ankura insights on why sports projects go awry


Ankura at Coliseum Summit EUROPE Image: Coliseum GSVA

Jonathan Roe, Senior Managing Director at Ankura, leads the infrastructure and construction advisory practice at the global consulting firm, and is the go-to person for companies who have plans to build ambitious venues, or whose construction projects have gone off the rails.

Jonathan works with clients all over the world solving complex infrastructure delivery and operational issues relating to infrastructure assets to boost performance and give confidence to stakeholders that their most important projects will be delivered on time and on budget.

In an exclusive chat with ‘Coliseum’ Jonathan does a post-mortem on why sports venue projects are so hard to get right, and what sports clubs can learn from failures past.


London (UK)-based Ankura is an independent global expert services and advisory firm that delivers services and end-to end solutions to help clients at critical inflection points related to change, risk, disputes, finance, performance, distress, and transformation.


Jonathan Roe begins by stating that all big projects are ambitious launches with “a real vision for the future and some incredible architectural concepts. Everything at the beginning looks to the client to be very rosy and that delivering the project will be a cakewalk.”


Project delay is a reality, especially with sports venue projects and despite the best efforts, many teams fail to complete the projects within the deadline.

Roe added that everything goes smoothly with a project till the sod turning ceremony is held. And then, suddenly the client realizes that he/she “will be able to collect the keys to the new stadium in a couple of years’ time and it is indeed going to be a tough journey.”


Stated Roe, “Everything turns awry and project costs spiral and the timelines go for a six. The supply chain problem crops up and everybody starts passing the buck and the client realizes that this is going to be a legal fight till the end.”

Why is this Story so Familiar?

He asserted that not only projects in the United Kingdom but big projects all over the globe often involving sports have a “pretty sorry track record and the media is full of stories of how ambitious projects have ended up in courts.”

How does the Sports Sector Compare?

Roe pointed out that research has established that “sports projects underperform many of their peers and the Olympic Games projects are the worst offenders when it comes to cost overruns.”

Why is Construction Sports’ Achilles Heel?

He explained that it is being noticed that major sports projects find it very difficult to get things right and most of the issues “that these accidental developers run into are grand designs and not being able to strike a perfect balance between their own experience and that of their supply chain.”

He also added that there are a number of other issues, prime among them being shortage of talent. Rampant construction inflation and fragile supply chains are also adding to the clients’ woes.

Roe made it clear that while the clients don’t need to become builders themselves, they need to know enough to digest complex information generated as part of the delivery of a major project.

As he puts in, “The third strategic error for major projects is to overstate the benefits and downplay the risks.”


Ankura has analysed hundreds of projects that have gone wrong or are going wrong, have done independent reviews, and have arrived at the conclusion that “failure is preventable”.

Remarked Roe, “The clients should be active and informed and hold one’s supply chain to account. Due to the race for pace details to attention is missed resulting in poor planning. One should think slowly but act fast. And if a client has the gut feeling that things are off track with the project, get an external opinion.”

Jonathan Roe concluded by stating that all is not lost – “These projects can be transformational and create something that is truly special, they can inspire people, they can leave a legacy, and they can bring people together in a way that few other things in society can. The important thing is that the team involved don’t have to act in acrimony.”

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Extra time; Why is Sport so Poor at Delivering Capital Projects and What Can Be Done to Improve?


12 July 2023 l 15:00 BST l Zoom

Sport is the second worst performing sector at delivering capital projects but failure is preventable. Project delay is a reality, especially with sports venue projects, and despite best efforts many teams fail to complete projects within the deadline.

In this 45-minute webinar Senior Managing Director Jonathan Roe who leads Ankura’s Construction Advisory Practice in the UK will reprise his keynote presentation from the Coliseum Summit earlier this year on why construction is sports’ Achilles heel and what sport can do to get better. We will then open up to Q&A which will be led by Senior Managing Director Jonny Gray from Ankura’s Sports Advisory Practice.

To register and join the webinar, please use this link:

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