Business continuity and football clubs

When you think of business continuity, you might think of manufacturing, financial services, public utilities and emergency services – but would you think of football clubs? Somehow the images of soccer players on a pitch and the “stop and go” of a match with goals scored, free kicks, penalties and half-time don’t immediately bring to mind any thoughts about BC planning and management. On the other hand, when you consider that an organisation like London’s Arsenal Football Club (FC) has to manage influxes to its stadium of up to 60,000 fans in a couple of hours, with just 30 available “business days” (home matches) per year, business continuity takes on a major importance.

Like other businesses, IT plays an essential role in the success of Arsenal FC. IT controls everything for business continuity from the access to the stadium via the turnstiles, through to the sale of refreshments and the televised display of replays. Performance in these areas is key to maintaining good financial health, measured typically in operating profits of tens of millions of pounds, which in turn is a prerequisite for attracting the best soccer players. Access to the stadium isn’t done by paper tickets anymore. It’s done by smartcards, stadium stewards have PDAs with wireless connections to immediately resolve any access issues and all the data that is collected in real time is also made available to police officers for managing health, safety and crowd control during the match.

Any similar event-driven activity, whether in football, tennis, other sports or large-scale theatrical or musical spectacles has similar requirements. Business continuity has to be just as professional and robust for these organisations, as for enterprises running 24 hour manufacturing operations. In a sense, it has to be even more reliable. Manufacturing operations might possibly be able to compensate for outages through overtime or the use of temporary staff, but if a football club misses a revenue-generating home match day, it’s gone with no chance of recovery.