UK: Sport Factfile: University Sports Provision And Multi-Party Project

Last Updated: 17 February 2012
Article by Deloitte Sports Business Group

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

There used to be a time when if you were an elite athlete and you wanted to continue training through your university years, you had the choice of going to one maybe two universities in the country. However, a number of new developments have changed this, and now having top quality sports provision at a university is more or less expected.

It is appreciated that most universities cannot afford to run dedicated university facilities for students and there has been an increase in facilities that are developed jointly between a number of stakeholders. Often universities have teamed up with Local Authorities, private developers, sporting bodies, etc.

By running a multi-party centre, the facilities have the ability to run with an increased revenue position and a higher utilisation, than if they were run by one of the parties as a stand alone dedicated facility for the public, students or elite athletes. This factfi le outlines the key areas that should be considered at the beginning of a project to ensure successful delivery of multi-party schemes.

Tools for success

Key stakeholders – The key to the success of developments where a number of key stakeholders are involved, is to involve all relevant parties early on and ensure the correct representatives are sat around the table. This way the brief can be shaped effi ciently from the beginning.

Funding – The key stakeholders should review what sources of funding are available to each of the parties and agree who will contribute what. There should be agreements in place in case the project costs overrun. This will avoid potential delay and confrontation once the design process has begun. On the recently completed Aberdeen Sports Village the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council and Sport Scotland, fi nanced a third of the project each.

Governance – Following agreement of who the key stakeholders will be and who is going to pay what, it is important to set out clear governance for all parties involved. A well defi ned, clear governance structure will benefi t the project by promoting effi cient decision making throughout, increasing the chance of a project meeting and delivering the project partners' expectations. Levels of authority should also be defi ned to ensure decisions can be made at the appropriate levels.

Heads of Terms – The parties should agree to Heads of Terms for the development. These should be drafted into a legal document early on to ensure the parties commit to the project. Typically the Heads of Terms will include details of both the actual capital works proposed ie. the physical facilities to be provided, as well as operational issues and a usage agreement for the relevant parties. It is very important to stipulate details of usage for the sports spaces from the beginning as these decisions will inform the design. The programming will be an iterative process that requires review as the brief develops.

Assessment of need – To ensure the facilities required / desired by the parties, will represent good value for money, it is recommended an Assessment of Need is undertaken for the proposed development. This study will highlight where there are defi ciencies in the local area, ie. which sport facilities are most required by the local population demographic. By undertaking this assessment early on, desires of the parties can be aligned with actual requirements for the local population.

Business planning – Finally before beginning the design of your project, the key stakeholders should commission a thorough business plan based on the proposed facility mix. Once the business plan is complete, the outcomes may inform the design brief further.

Operation – The proposed operating model of the facility should be agreed and a strategy developed in parallel with the design phase of a project. Ideally an operator would input into the design to help avoid unnecessary mistakes in design that affect optimising the day-to-day running of the building.

By completing this plan in advance of committing to design consultant fees, the parties will have an understanding of the expected revenue position of the project. Operating costs can be considerable for large facilities and they sometimes put off funding parties, therefore it is advisable to ensure all parties are committed to the business plan before progressing to the design stage.

Final Thoughts

  • Agree the key stakeholders – Ensure the correct representatives are engaged in the project;
  • Agree who is funding what – Research what funding is available and agree who is paying what;
  • Commit the parties to detailed Heads of Terms – These should be agreed in a legal document;
  • Undertake an Assessment of Need – Find out what facilities are most needed in the area;
  • Complete a detailed business plan – Let the business plan inform and shape the brief;
  • Learn from existing facilities – Learn from the strengths and weaknesses at other schemes; and
  • Agree an operation strategy – Ask the operator to input into the design phase.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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