Sport Summit Como 2023. The days after.
Amongst the bumble-bee frenzy of the discussions on the lake, at the breaks, I’d stop and try to calm down my adrenaline. Ready for the next session of jaw-dropping insight, and anecdote, hoping I could in some way moderate the right pace, and use the people not on the panel, with some kind of order.
I’d find a quiet seat on the veranda, and sit, have an espresso and cigarette, and look at them, at the 50, all in the garden, at different tables, under different trees, chatting in small groups. And that is when I realised what we are doing here. And I was very happy.
The Sport Summit Como, in reality, is the School of Athens.
The great and powerful minds have a place to exchange ideas, often in private.
I watched them shelter from the rain of an absurdly variable lake climate, under those big Spuma umbrellas, and I smiled.
I looked around that villa, that garden, and it was tough not to feel very proud.
Just seeing so many of the people I’ve known for 25 years, but maybe new to each other, chatting away in a villa overlooking Clooney’s lake, making new connections, was good. Meeting again people with whom I started a career, like Adrian Kyriazi, John Gleasure, John Colquhoun and Mark Oliver, was very profound.
I looked at Scudamore and Francis, relaxed in chat, discussing some version of how their work has affected the last 30 years. And where to now.
Scudamore in these Como days showed exactly why he is an outrageous outlier in the governance of European sport. He, perhaps alone amongst us, tamed the crazy lion, herded the sheep, all with a remarkable combination of humility and quiet gravitas. How he, from the floor, brought to a conclusion the discussion of women in the industry, that I was losing control of, will remain with us all as a lesson, I think.
Sport, macro finance and geopolitics.
Hutton and Williams huddled in talks about who MBS really is, and where he is going to stop. The discussion of Pax Americana, FIAT currencies, the power of Saudi’s hard energy riches, sanctions on SWIFT, and following all that money, of itself makes me sure that Como is unique in this type of gathering. No one does sport, macro finance and geopolitics like this.
Honesty and wisdom.
Caroline Rowland and Tal Brown comparing founder war stories and wounds from these brutal 12 months. Hearing, as we did, Bo Han bring the room to tears with the most beautiful story of what happened, with Michael Spirito there, and them still so close. Sam at PTO, as the challenger poster child. Juliet Slot, a senior Director from a major club, bringing so much change in a male-dominated industry.
Dan Porter, never letting us get up our own arse with his New York wisdom. Such a delicious juxtaposition with more introvert characters like Fausto Zanetton and Juan Arciniegas (both of whom were superb).
It was great to see Elis Jones from Goldman, a relative newcomer to the sector, so engaged and full of ideas. We discussed how sport, especially in Europe, could do so much better through collaboration, like the prisoners in their dilemma. But all this can’t be explained without so many personal confidential examples of why the theory of working together doesn’t happen. Stories that are told only in the secrecy of the lake.
Ant Arena and Karl Bistany and their obvious developing bromance.
The top club people from Real Madrid, Juve, Milan, Arsenal, United. Discussing how the player agent thing really works, well beyond the theory of salary caps. What a rabbit hole.
And captain Gilo, with Nick Bourne and Steve Martin, having a most amazing discussion on sponsorship.
This is sportbiz Disneyland, Rog.
The Big Finance guys were there as well, talking of how they deploy capital at the right place in the “cap table”, to be near the fire exits if needed. How they place their stack in this asset class. Many will have heard all that for the first time. Finance isn’t just a cheque, it’s like Teddy KGB in Rounders, around tactics and the leverage of power.
In a heads-up match, the size of your stack is almost as important as the quality of your cards (…)
All I have to do is lean on him, until he falls over.
This is maybe sport’s future, from Wall Street, to the oil wells of Saudi, as it runs short of capital.
Beyond biz, fun and entertainment.
The gala dinner, I think, we will all remember!
Myself, from the lights changing at the first appearance of the violinists, to Morricone’s epochal music of emotions, it was so beautiful! After a shattering day of moderating, it just provoked uncontrolled laughter. James Elliot beside me will know best.
One of our very senior attendees from hard core M&A advisory, an American, came up to me and said he’d never seen anything like these days.
Last year, we had an idea for what this would be, and it was, in our parlance, “proof of concept”. This year we were mature. And it showed.
Two days discussing
money, demographics and geopolitics.
- How do we find a model that makes money for the product of sport? At a time….
… when the old PayTV 38% margin bundle is dying. Or dead;
… when capital is now rare and expensive:
… when piracy is rampant;
… when we have a cost of living crisis;
… but when arpu thinking has so much upside;
… when demographics of younger audiences matters and they have muscle-memory on free.
- How can values and valuations stay anywhere near where they are today when these flows of money need to reduce?
- The female TAM.
- The 7bn population we haven’t yet touched.
- Does Uncle Sam even remotely understand the 150 year DNA of European sports assets?
- When we have the declared rise of the new Saudi of MBS.
- Who pays for sport’s needed innovation? Great to hear Rufus from Sony on this.
- Has Silicon Valley VC led sportech into the charge of the Light brigade?
Is all this sports perfect storm?
How do we get to the lifeboats?
The sportbiz is full of people talking and writing about all these themes. But the reality is that they are all people looking from outside the window. Not here.
This event, and this article, isn’t and can’t be about the conclusions and take-aways that many will want to know. Chatham House Rules.
It’s actually really about the fact that they were all here. In our place, and they felt safe.
A world-class team.
I am proud of how the Albachiara‘s team worked so hard over these past months and how they managed to bring onboard the most incredible delivery partners: Spuma‘s excellent event management and food&beverage services; Blunotte Eventi‘s amazing sound, lights and entertainment; Hugo Boss, which made the event’s staff look so cool and classy during Milano Fashion Week, one of the busiest times in their business!
I went to Elliot Richardson with this concept, two years ago, for an opinion, and he cut a cheque as the cornerstone sponsor right there, before I even knew I felt I could do it. It reminds me of old Gordon Smith, telling me about his coach, Jock Wallace of Rangers and Leicester, in the pregame, instructing a younger player where to make the pass all game.
“Don’t worry he, (Smith), will always have made the run for that pass. Always”. When someone has faith, and says it, it’s hard not to feel the need to deliver. Gordon told me that even on tired legs at the end of the game, he still felt he was the one to make the run.
“ It’s always the first 10 minutes Rog, then it will be fine.”, the Gooner told me. We had an hour for breakfast the day before and I’d hoped to chat about the event rhythm in detail. 58 minutes went, discussing the North London derby and Ange.
Yes, like any sports game, the die is cast in the first minutes. So, once again, Joe Markowski gets the opening question and indeed sets the tone. That will always now be a Como tradition.
This foto sums up the Summit. After the intense first day, after Pavarotti, just there on the lake, talking and reflecting.
This gathering is off-Broadway. It isn’t an industry event, more a reunion of friends who have spent 30 years in this industry together.
Next year though, we do need to evolve. In format and in perspective. We brought in younger eyes this year, in Graham, Andy, Etienne and Luca. But we still need more women, and more people who represent those changing demographics of Asia and Latin America we keep referencing.
Our Summit will never be scaled to be a business. We are not in competition with the great established conferences, whose vision and value proposition are totally different.
We always wanted the Sport Summit Como to be small, as we believed that an intimate, safe space was missing in this industry. Where you drop your guard, your shoulders, and really exchange ideas.
Any Magnificent Seven, or in our case, Fifty, will always look to challenge themselves.
Hilario: Did you have any luck?
Chris Adams: Found a man who would have been perfect. With gun or knife, couldn’t ask for any better. But he wouldn’t do it.
Hilario: The money, it was not enough?
Chris: He doesn’t give a hoot about money.
Hilario: A man in this line of work who doesn’t care about money?
Chris: Men in this line of work are not all alike. Some care about nothing but money. Others, for reasons of their own, enjoy only the danger.
Vin: And the competition.
Miguel: If he is the best with a gun and a knife, with whom does he compete?
Raffa, me, and the team, are just competing with ourselves, and will never stop trying to be better every year.
Thanks to the people who let us try.
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