As sports bodies look to move events from stadia and arenas to urban locations they need to understand the variety of risks they face, writes Miller's David Griffiths.

According to FIBA, the world governing body of basketball, the three-on-three (3x3) version of the game is ‘the fastest-growing property in world sport.

It is fast, furious and skilful and its positioning as an urban street sport gives it massive millennial appeal. And at a time when more or less every mainstream sport is fixated on finding ways of becoming more relevant and appealing to a younger audience, it is seen by many as a blueprint for the future of sports events.

Much of the appeal of 3x3 is in its urban locations that are in keeping with the inner-city US roots of the sport and reflect its culture. Now even sports with little in the way of historic street culture are increasingly looking to urban locations as they look to grow interest.

We’ve seen athletics hit the city street with major sprint competitions, motorsport in city centres has become commonplace and even archery has held rounds of its world championships in downtown areas. Sport’s leaders see a move from the stadia and facilities which are their comfort zones and out into a new world….and it’s a world full of hazards for event organisers and managers.

Here are just some of the key risks associated with staging urban events.


While there is a security risk at every sports event, those held in urban locations are particularly vulnerable. Last year’s Mandalay Bay shooting at a concert in Las Vegas was carried out by a lone wolf shooter who had booked into a hotel room overlooking the site and the incident highlights the difficulty of securing vantage points to eliminate the threat although failure to do so could make organisers liable for third party injury if they are found to be negligent.

Urban events may also prove to be a target for terrorist attacks and security and surveillance has to be of the highest order to combat the threat. The choice of iconic locations – often recognisable to media audiences worldwide – is thought by security experts to increase the potential for an attack.

Temporary facilities

Installing the facilities and infrastructure required to stage an event in an urban setting usually means working to the tightest of deadlines - often in confined spaces and with high traffic levels - to take advantage of tight access windows. This pressure increases the risk of short cuts and errors that may affect the health and safety both of the crowd at the event and the crews working on the project.

The complexity of such projects - which will involve acquiring special licenses for road closure which restrict the construction window - also create a raised risk of enforced cancellation should any element of the process not run according to plan.

Third party risks

Organisers of urban events have a wide range of third party risks to consider. These include potential damage to local property and in the worst-case liability for the temporary closure of local businesses as a result of an incident originating because of the event. Loss of business claims from local shop owners and others after the Boston Marathon attack are an indication of the risk.


Given that one of the objectives of staging sports events in downtown locations is to attract a fresh crowd, some events are free to the public. While a ticketed crowd can be expected to behave in certain ways – they have paid to watch and tend to be committed to the event – that is not always the case where access is free and organisers should be particularly aware of the risk of crime in these situations. Disruption of the sporting spectacle is also a risk and in the worst case the safety of the competitors.


Sponsors play an important role in financing sports events and urban events have a particular appeal to many brands. Often the sponsor’s identity can be very closely identified with the event and as a result will be impacted by its success or otherwise. But for an event which is cancelled at short notice because of avoidable issues or which results in injury or loss as a result of poor management, security or inadequate facilities could result in a potential negative impact on the sponsor brand.

And of course, the weather...

Outside of arenas the weather is a major reason for the cancellation or postponement of sports events and urban events are no exception. The difference is that the potential for contingency days to ensure events can be completed is more limited in an urban location which is likely to be required to return to its standard role as a business hub or tourist destination after a weekend as a sports venue.

When the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor was badly affected by rain it was completed on Monday – a contingency day and tickets were honoured. That may not be the case in a city centre location.

While there are, of course, risks associated with all sports events, the current trend towards urban and other unusual venues presents a set of new challenges to event management professionals accustomed to working in stadia, arenas and other more familiar venues. As sport moves out of its comfort zone it is essential that these fresh risks are identified and addressed in the interests of competitors, spectators, sponsors and all other stakeholders.

About the author: David began his insurance career in 1991. He worked in a variety of roles focussing on sport from 1997 onwards. He specialises in core niche insurance lines for sports risks including Cancellation and Abandonment, Personal Accident and Liability. David’s experience stretches across all professional and amateur sport including multi-sport global events and mass participation events. David qualified as an Associate of the Institute of Risk Management in 1995. At Miller, David takes a leading role in the management and development of the sports book.