‘Stakeholders help run stadia operations’



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Marina Tranchitella on Coliseum LATAM Image: Lucas Uebel & GFBPA

Grêmio Foot-Ball Porto Alegrense, commonly known as Grêmio, is a Brazilian professional football club based in Porto Alegre, capital City of the Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul. The club plays in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, the top tier of the Brazilian football league system, and the Campeonato Gaúcho, Rio Grande do Sul’s top State league. The club was founded in 1903 by European immigrants Englishman Andy Fairbank and German Paul Cochlin.

The 60,540-capacity Arena do Grêmio is a multiuse stadium in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul. It was inaugurated on December 8th, 2012. It is used mostly for football matches and serves as the home stadium of Grêmio Foot-Ball Porto Alegrense, replacing the Estádio Monumental Olympic.

Marina Tranchitella, Consultant Operational Management, Grêmio Foot-Ball Porto Alegrense, Brazil, who boast rich experiences of being a part of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Brazil) and the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in an exclusive interaction with ‘Coliseum’ explains why the operational aspect of a sports venue holds much significance and how stakeholders play a key role in the smooth running of venues’ operations.

Marina Tranchitella runs the show as far as the operations side of the Grêmio home – Arena do Grêmio – is concerned.

Her present role throws up a lot of challenges but her experience of being associated with the safety and security aspect of the Games held in Brazil way back in 2016 is holding her in good stead today.
 

Stadium management challenges

Tranchitella feels that to cope with the challenges it is essential to enjoy a sound business model. The red tapism which comes with the different political establishments in power is another challenge.

The show of running a stadium is a cakewalk for the stadium management teams when they have an integrated facility services provider working in the background to improve the venue’s appearance and keep it operating smoothly. Irrespective of the event being hosted, the right partner can help to create one- of-kind experiences for the spectators.

She further maintained that one should have the goals set in the form of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and proper planning is essential. KPIs evaluate the success of an organization or of a particular activity in which it engages.

She added, “The management of human resources is very important to make employees loyal, productive and make them stay motivated.”
 

Organizational pyramid

Maintained Tranchitella, “Throughout my extensive work experience, I have realized that it is very important to know about the chain of command in an organization – who calls the shots in an entity and down to the lower-rung people. Everybody plays an important role. This also applies for Governments and stakeholders.”

In a similar manner, in the sports hierarchy, from bottom – first comes the organizations at the municipality level, then comes the clubs and the schools, then the sports federations and the sports associations, and she continued, “And for Brazil in the sports pyramid, then we have the Brazilian Olympic Committee, at the continental level we have the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) and at the international level, we have the international federations and at the top of the rung is the International Olympic Committee (IOC).”

Tranchitella added that it is very important to understand the map flow of sports hierarchy. As far as football is concerned, there are the sports federations, the next level is the continental confederation where we have the CONMEBOL, above it is FIFA and the highest authority is the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
 

Stakeholders’ angle

The importance of stakeholders should never be undermined. Stakeholder engagement can help empower people. It is also important to get stakeholders involved in the decision-making process. Engaged stakeholders help make informed decisions and provide the support an organization needs for long-term sustainability.

Tranchitella affirmed that it is very important to know who the stakeholders are so that by working in tandem the smooth and efficient management of a venue is possible.
 

KPIs angle

Effective Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are important metrics to make sure that one can accomplish any business objective. KPIs enable to understand the performance and health of the business (read operational part of a stadium) so that one can make critical adjustments to their strategic goals.

Observed Tranchitella, “In the sports sector, the general mentality is to drag feet over pertinent matters. Instead, meetings should be held with our goals and objectives set. To be on the same page with the stakeholder is very important and we should also hold a vision as regards how things are going to play out. We should also have contingency plans in hands.”

Tranchitella has her hands full before a game is organized at the Grêmio home. To top it, she also has to ensure that everything is organized within the regulations laid down by CONMEBOL and KPIs should be followed to a ‘t’. KPIs help to be on track “and we have to take into consideration time, resources and also factor in the risks and to retrieve all this in a dashboard so that we have everything before us in a visual format”.
 

Operational plan

The importance of facilitating a planning structure, stakeholder coordination and comprehensive event assessment in generating event planning phase products that completely and accurately guide operations activities on the day-of-event is paramount.

As Tranchitella puts in, “As far as the operational aspect is concerned, the information that we gather in our meetings with stakeholders we compile the same in the form of a ‘Stadium Operators Handbook’ for the ease of the people at the operational level. The more information we share, the stadium operations will be more streamlined. The information should be at our fingertips and up to date – handbooks should be published on a per game basis. We also have a 144 page main guide that contains all the information that is used as a template for all games – everything related to operations and maintenance of the stadium.”
 

Human resources

Effectively managing people is a great art. It is very important to make the workforce into competitive assets. Better people management translates into more productivity and loyalty.
 

Lend an ear

She stated that the first mantra to efficiently manage the workforce is to lend an ear – to listen to their problems and hammer out a solution – “I work with a team comprising more than 50 people. It is very important to communicate with your team and invest considerable time in training them up.”
 

Calendar planning

Stakeholders just want to be heard and Tranchitella noted, “In the same manner, one should have enough time to sit down and listen to their peers, co-workers, the police and the Government, officers, etc. Lending an ear to people solves half of the operational problems.”

It is people who inject life into a venue and make it bristle with activity. Walls, chairs or plush facilities do not make a venue. It is the fans who are the soul of a stadium and it is very important to hear out the problems of the fans and offer them premium facilities.
 

Effective communication

Tranchitella maintained that effective communication is a key tool in the smooth running of a stadium – “The more the interactions, the better and we should be very transparent in our communication. We should also be aware as to who crisis management specialists are so that a disruptive and unexpected event that threatens to harm the stadium activity or its stakeholders are responded to in a swift manner by the crisis manager. It is very important to have protocols for radio communication too.”
 

Information-sharing

She asserted that an organization grows stronger by sharing information and making informed decisions. The more the flow of information, the better and the team should be trained on what information they can share and what is classified information which can only be shared with a select group of people.

Added Tranchitella, “The staff should be trained to take decisions on their own which is very important at the operational level. While running a stadium, one needs to take decisions on behalf of 2,000 people – at the stadium gate, at the ingress point. I always train my staff and my team and I always raise three questions that are very simple’ – ‘Can I do it?’, ‘I want to do it?’ and ‘I have to do it?’ and you have to go ahead and take a decision on your own.”

The people running the show in a stadium should be more pragmatic and level-headed and this helps in making the whole operations side of a stadium a smooth affair. Frictions do arise between workers but one should know how to keep cool.

She advised that the team should be so trained that if things don’t go as per plan, all hell does not break loose in the venue and everything is tackled in a prompt and efficient manner.
 

Lessons learned

  • Knowing the surroundings around you is essential – When the Olympic Games are being held in a stadium, one has to deal with different countries and varied cultures. The people at the operational level should know how to keep everybody in good humor;
  • PDCA cycle – The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle is a four-step problem-solving iterative technique used to improve business processes. The cycle draws its inspiration from the continuous evaluation of management practices and management’s willingness to adopt and disregard unsupported ideas as Tranchitella explained, “You cannot always follow the same template and have to ensure that you improve upon the previous one and at the end of each game you have a much enhanced experience, a game much more integrated than what you had at the beginning.”; and
  • Strengthening networking – There is no denying the power of a strong professional network. Networking will help you develop and improve your skill set and stay on top of the latest trends in the sports venue sector.

 

Sum-up

Tranchitella concluded by asserting that one should have a lot of passion for the job that they do and be very honest and transparent in their dealings.

She stated, “One needs to stay continuously updated on the latest developments going on in the stadium industry. You also need to do your job with a lot of passion. We need to operate as professionals. We should have a passion for our work and not just do it because we have to bring food on the table. At the same time, we should be open to all kinds of ideas coming from either millennial or the old school of thought and respect the same.”

Tranchitella wrapped up with her pearls of wisdom, “We should have a strong set of values and never compromise on our values and the principles that we hold. For me to be honest is a basic principle. There is no way to move forward professionally if we are not honest with the people around us whom we hire to work for us. If we fail to scout for the cream of crop human resources which does not work in favor of the club, we should be able to deal with it and be resilient to carry us through these moments peculiar to sports.”

Running the operations of a stadium is indeed a tough job – utilization of the venue, finances, business administration, maintenance, repairs, construction and whatever else comes up. It is not everybody’s cup of tea but Marina Tranchitella does the job with a lot of élan.

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