Avant-garde ideas of Johan Cruijff ArenA



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Tanja Dik at Coliseum Europe Image: Tanja Dik & MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

Spontaneity is the second nature of Tanja Dik – a woman who believes in action-oriented initiatives – a personality trait that has helped in her career progression and today she helms the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam (Netherlands).

She started her career in finance and switched after five years to the live entertainment business and media. For 16 years, Dik worked for the international theater company Stage Entertainment in several high-level positions including Managing Director Stage Entertainment Netherlands and International Venue Director. In 2015, she joined the Schiphol Airport (the Netherlands) as Director Consumer Products and Services and in September 2021, she started as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Johan Cruijff ArenA.
 

Johan Cruijff ArenA

The 55,865-capacity Johan Cruijff ArenA is the main stadium of the Dutch capital city of Amsterdam (Netherlands) and the home stadium of football club AFC Ajax since its opening in the year 1996. Built from 1993 to 1996 at a cost equivalent to €140 million, it is the largest stadium in the country.
 

AFC Ajax

AFC Ajax is a Dutch professional football club based in Amsterdam (Netherlands), which plays in the Eredivisie, the top tier of Dutch football. The Johan Cruijff ArenA serves as their residence.

In an exclusive chat with ‘Coliseum’, Tanja Dik, CEO, Johan Cruijff ArenA, Netherlands, talks extensively on what the team at the ArenaA is doing on sustainability to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and how they propagate out-of-the-box ideas and believes in creating a vibrant ecosystem.
 

UN Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
 

ESGs

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) takes the holistic view that sustainability extends beyond just environmental issues. ESG is best characterized as a framework that helps stakeholders understand how an organization is managing risks and opportunities related to environmental, social and governance criteria.

Tanja Dik informed that she took over the reins of the Johan Cruijff ArenA around 11 months back and is still “learning” what sustainability is all about – “I am very excited on what we are doing as a team on sustainability.”
 

A new era

  • After 25 years of pursuing operational excellence the Johan Cruijff Arena now faces a new era;
  • The organization encourages and strives to facilitate sustainable inclusive events contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals; and
  • The transition concerns redefining governance, processes, organization, and partnerships to implement the necessary change in the way of working.

 

More than a stadium:

  • International leader in sustainability and fan experience;
  • Push the boundaries of progress by designing, testing and implementing innovative solutions;
  • Works with innovative and distinctive partners; and
  • The Johan Cruijff ArenA facilitates the most high-profile football matches, the most spectacular concerts and the most attractive business events.

 

Sustainability second nature

The Johan Cruijff ArenA is where sustainability and innovation come together as Dik put in, “Operational excellence is very important in the path to sustainability and we want to contribute to a better world by according topmost priority to sustainability.”

  • Focus on multifunctional stadium platform;
  • Focus on innovation; and
  • Focus on SDGs and ESGs.

 

Stepping stones

  • Mobility, sustainability, fan experience, safety and security are combined into an open innovation platform at the Johan Cruijff ArenA; and
  • Creating a vibrant ecosystem where innovation thrives.

 

Supply chain

Talking about ecological and social leadership, Dik maintained, “You have to look at the entire supply chain and not only what we are doing at the stadium. The entire supply chain factor matters a lot. In its entire 25 years of existence, the Johan Cruijff ArenA authorities have tried to put everybody on stage in our stadium to make sure we are aware of the total supply chain. The supply chain in the next level is more about the social leadership. It’s about the total eco system. It is not only about SDGs but also about our business partners.”
 

Teamwork

She asserted that to achieve the SDGs, it was imperative that the ArenA took along the business partners in their sustainability journey – “The sustainability goals can be achieved only if we take our business partners along with us. It is very important to create a total ecosystem and to involve our business partners while arriving at informed decisions.”

Our ecosystem focuses on common missions enabling cross-company collaboration for sustained contribution to SDGs:
 

Sustainability

  • Accelerate the transition towards renewable energy; and
  • Enable smart and data-driven stadium operations.

 

Visitor Experience

  • Ensure safe and healthy public gatherings; and
  • Improve seamless and pleasant citizen and customer journeys.

 

Inclusivity

  • Increase equal employment opportunities.

 
She added, “Our ecosystem is used for common issues. We are still working on the above five programs. It’s about sustainability, visitor experience and inclusivity. Of course, we have to be inclusive and welcome with open arms not only people from other countries but also each and every company who is entering the industry. By doing so, we can learn from each other. This is why it is so important to have a vibrant ecosystem.”
 

Ecosystem

The Johan Cruijff ArenA boasts:

  • Sustainability event organizers;
  • Branche partners;
  • Knowledge partners; and
  • Scale-up partners.

 
Dik continued, “We cannot run without the companies which are part of our ecosystem. We have built the ecosystem and it goes to serve our interests as well as those of our companies. Information is exchanged to create new knowledge centers. We are trying to learn every day from each other.”
 

25 years of lessons learned

  • Reimagining your way of working;
  • Foster co-creation;
  • Build winning teams;
  • Connect to the communities; and
  • Dare to experiment.

 
Dik asserted that learning is a continuous process and it does not come easy – “One can never stop learning and we have to be open to feedbacks.”
 

Main mantras

  • Feedback key;
  • Accountability key;
  • Out-of-the-box thinking;
  • Taking along the community; and
  • Including Gen Z.

 
As she put in, “We need to open up to each and every community because that will make the ecosystem work better.”
 

Sum-up

Dik stated that the Johan Cruijff ArenA has an open data-driven innovation ecosystem which anyone can join or contribute to. By doing so, it will be able to further strengthen its innovation ecosystem and develop applications that enhance the experience for stadium visitors.

To minimize the footprint of the stadium and its visitors, the ArenA uses a mix of proven sustainability measures and innovative technology. The stadium is the perfect testing ground for developing and testing innovations. Wherever possible, it takes every opportunity to work on sustainability projects, big or small. The good thing is that these projects often benefit not only the stadium but also the immediate surroundings and the society.

She summed up by stating, “We started reimagining football and we also have now reimagined sustainability and if you join our innovation community we can together create a world which will be a better place to live in. Now is the time to stop, to ponder, to reflect, and as a team one has to continue to learn every day. Every day you have to find out new ways of doing business and how to do things differently.”

The most attractive competitions and (business) events are held in the most sustainable environment at the stadium. The Johan Cruijff ArenA is where sustainability and innovation indeed come together.

Tanja Dik is a woman of refreshing candor. She has brought a lot of industry experience to her present role. In a predominantly male CEO benchmark group, she is sure to carve a niche of her own driven by her sense of purpose and her secret sauce is courage, risk-taking and resilience.

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