The Sport Summit Como… Reflections


Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute with a stated mission to provide commentary on world events and offer solutions to global challenges. It is the originator of the Chatham House Rule. When we conceived the Sport Summit Como, the “Rule” was our starting point. Only in this way, would people feel free to debate openly.

Chatham House for Sport

Many monikers have been temporarily attached to our event in Como, (Davos for Sport, Sun Valley for Sport et al), but Chatham House for Sport  fits best: ”provide commentary on events, and offer solutions to global challenges”.

The downside of course is that there is NO record of the discussions. Nothing to put out on a podcast or YT channel. No… all that records what happened, are the vignettes of Jacopo Ziliotto, the Albachiara artist who has defined our brand for years. Like all artists throughout history, they see the trends and the direction of travel before the rest of us. This is his work below. So, this article, written a couple days after the last flight took people home, is my own journal of what happened.

Day1 – the arrival
The pre-event dinner in Cernobbio – pic by Niccolò Tambani

Guests, from California to Canberra and many other corners of the world, arrived on Wednesday afternoon, and were treated to the wonderful impromptu hospitality of Giles Morgan and Caroline Rowland. As more and more showed up at Beuc in Cernobbio, it already felt very different from any other such event on the conference circuit. It felt more like the gathering of the Magnificent Seven!

The next morning opened the dances, in the very heart of this medieval town of Como, at the Teatro Sociale (the Opera House). Guests would have been right to feel uncertainty about what was going to happen…I know I did. But it was comforting to see a lot of friends and colleagues, all part of the community we have created, also very much through the AYNE podcast.

We had a general guideline for the discussions.

Has sport reached its Elvis moment?

… where an uncouth newcomer, misunderstood and denigrated by the incumbents, would turn out NOT to be transient, or a flash-in-the-pan, but would instead ring in the death knell of the crooners and jazz musicians? Who would never come back? Or…

Is sport in its Sex Pistols era?

… where a new generation utterly rejects the old institutions and customs of their popular culture, spitting in the face of all rules and tradition? “Anyone can play music”.

Is it time for SpoRtify?

Roundtable 1, by Jacopo Ziliotto
That Discussion of what it could look like, gives “radical” a new meaning.
What if journeyman sport didn’t find a “bid” in this new world, as for the music and film industries, now dominated by blockbusters and talent show hopefuls with appeal?
What if the new audiences have less than no time for the traditions of sport, from the third round of the FA Cup, to Olympic fencing?
The role of participation to fight the demographic cliff.
Can narrative be created?
Roundtable 2, by Jacopo Ziliotto

Can authentic stories be told to build brand and interest? Will we maybe return to a world of sponsor-led content, a sporting soap opera delivered by P&G, built around niche communities?

Wow, I Nike it!

How does sports’ leadership plot a course to a safe port and a new world?

Roundtable 3, by Jacopo Ziliotto

Sport with its bread and circuses is in a 4th Turning!

Is there only one route out, to Xanadu?

What comes first… the sport, or the audience?

Nobody wants to pay for our f****** OTT!

Therefore, what does the structure of tomorrow’s commercial model in sport look like?

Roundtable 4, by Jacopo Ziliotto

Who is already moving there? What are the skillsets? Where will we attract them?

Is data and IP the hidden juice?

Talent garden”…

The exit interviews will show the astonishing level of honesty and transparency we shared on Day1.

there were a lot of smarts in the room, they all spoke, and they all held nothing back.

A truly epic day IMHO.

A glimpse at the Opera House, before the Gala Dinner

Teatro Sociale in Como – Pic by Niccolò Tambani

A quick visit to the theatre boxes, to see the artists rehearsing the Don Juan, then a change for supper, and off to the steamboat.

Concordia Steamboat – Pic by Niccolò Tambani

To quote Fausto Zanetton of Tifosy….”this trip up the lake, with these views, eating and drinking to real Italian standards, makes me very proud that I come from here”. It’s not nice to say, but you had to be there! A night to remember, set to Morricone on the cello and violin.

Marco Corsini & Yuriko Mikami – Pic by Niccolò Tambani

A Window into the Lake

“Una Finestra Sul Lago” – Pic by Niccolò Tambani

Day 2 at the Finestra sul Lago was conceived to translate the “product” of sport, discussed the day before, into a “market fit” attractive to the financiers.

Is sport really an investable asset? If so, how do you structure it to minimise risk and volatility, to maximise return? Or do we, in Europe, have to accept the need for jeopardy and punishment in sport? Can proper money ever accept sport’s governance?

Roundtable 5, by Jacopo Ziliotto

Romance versus return

Shortermism is building a business on sand.

Note, please, the cameo appearance of Wanda Icardi, and the Genoa ultras with the mace. Glorious art!

Can radical innovation, AI and creative VC capitalism save the day? How difficult is it really, to build a business in sport?

Tal Brown opened the box, to a room full of nodding heads. Notable, as a matter of fact, the contribution of Dan Porter 😊

The Lakeside Chat, by Jacopo Ziliotto

Recording a special “Are You Not Entertained?” show

AYNE podcast recording – pic by Niccolò Tambani

Lunch overlooking the lake, followed by a wonderfully chaired live podcast with Jon Ridgeon. It was so important that Giles, Grant and James were here and lived this.

Carriages, and an appointment for next year…

Many people said, on record, that this event was the best they have ever attended. The most honest, and intimate. I’m pretty certain new friendships were made. Business was indeed also done, I am told.

Personally, I’m pleased, to use British understatement. When Raffaella thought about this concept, and designed the whole look and feel, the vibe that would be…I wasn’t however sure I believed. I was still Nemo with those 2 pills. But, like always, she was right. She knows me better than I know myself.

I then asked some people what they thought and if they’d get behind it.

And so, I’d like to close this journal with a heartful thanks to them, to Elliot Richardson and Lucas Von Cranach, to Dan Bedi, to Umberto Righetti and Nick Maywald, to Ian Zant-Boer. They made this happen. The trust and faith they showed blind, to put down money, for an unproven product, in the middle of the conference season. That’s the win for me. They believed…they just believed.

Un grazie di cuore.

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