Compare and contrast two major international sports events with which you are familiar, highlighting the different approaches undertaken in their organisation.



Sport as a spectacle is not a recent ideal; in fact the oldest standing building in Rome is the Colosseum ( R,Smith cited in Graham, Goldblatt and Delpy. 1995). However, modern society has embraced sport, which has now become a social phenomenon of vast complexity and magnitude.  Technologies, especially the media have elevated many (not all) sports, players, managers, coaches and officials to previously unsurpassed levels.  The appearance of talented individuals such as Tiger Woods can re-ignite the imagination of the public, which can increase the popularity of an event.   Thus, TV and satellite broadcasting dedicates not only sports channels as with BskyB’s Sky Sports 1, 2, and 3 but channels on US Cable such as the golf channel focusing on an individual sport 24hrs a day.  Therefore it is easy to see why sporting events are targeted by corporations who see these events as veritable gold mines, providing lucrative airtime for advertising and sponsorship. The Sports Marketing Group (1990) reported that corporate America spent a total of $23.5 billion on sports marketing alone.   However as this essay will show financial incentives may detract from the event itself, disregarding the Corinthian sporting ideals in favour of more hard line business acumen. A delicate balancing act in terms of organisation and management is therefore required catering for the needs of all who are affected by the event itself. 


This essay will compare and contrast the organisation of two major events within the sporting calendar: The Ryder Cup of Golf drawing upon information from the 1999 and 2001 matches and the South Pacific Games (SPG) encompassing 1996 and the 1999 events. The Ryder Cup is played biennially between two teams, the USA and Europe with two practice days followed by three days of competition.  The SPG is a multi-event competition between the islands of the South Pacific region similar to that of the Olympics. Both event organisers will be examined in terms of cultural, financial and ethical approaches.  At this juncture it is necessary to understand that there are no similarities between the cultures or the events other than golf was played as an event during the 1991 SPG although on a much less sophisticated scale.


One major difference is that of culture and ethics with the people of the South Pacific appearing to have a more altruistic outlook than the more capitalist western approach.  The culture of the South Pacific often called the ‘ Pacific Way’ is akin to the ‘extended family’ of Africa, in that hospitality and goodwill is extended to all within the region.  An example of this good nature was evident during the 1991 SPG in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where one country’s passports were lost (en masse) prior to their arrival and accreditation.  The officials of SPG (not all natives) were apprehensive as to the team’s response when they arrived at midnight only to find a lengthy accreditation process greeting them. However contrary to perceived fears the team donned the guitars and started to sing and dance whilst they waited thus perpetuating the pacific way.   During the 1999 SPG in Guam, Radio Australia reported that six Fijian athletes were sent home after breaking the no-alcohol policy and staying out past the curfew.   The same games were also in jeopardy due to the Kosovo refugee crisis and the possibility that Guam would be used as a receiving centre for these displaced persons.  This somewhat altruistic attitude is the basis for any organisational decision-making and whilst noble in ideal all battles cannot be fought at once.  Therefore a shrewd decision of drafting in thirty to forty foreign nationals to bolster the committees was taken, probably to ensure that deadlines were met and the games continued on time. From the outset SPG was to be an event for the people and this ideal was underpinned by the official games slogan and song ‘Lets do it Papua New Guinea.’ (SPG news.1991.)


This is in complete contrast to the elitist and capitalist appearance of the Ryder Cup 1999 where money and greed seem to be the main stays of the organisers.  The local populous of ’99 venue, Brooklyn, Massachusetts had to apply for passes to allow them to park outside their own homes during Ryder Cup week.  (Townonline. 1999.))   During this week the roads were closed, bus routes changed and any person failing to comply would have their vehicle towed away. The sweetener for such upheaval seems to be projected boost to the local economy estimated at $150m (Golf Weekly. 1999.) although this does seem cold comfort once your vehicle has been taken.  Further hostilities came to the fore prior to the event with US players and organisers engaged in heated debate over the payment for taking part in the competition.  It is worth noting that all players must qualify by amassing Ryder Cup points which are given for top ten finishes at certain events in the year prior to the event.  This means in order to be selected a player will have earned approximately $750,000.   It could be argued that pulling on the colours of your country is payment enough, add to this that all players receive subsistence of $5000 (USPGA. 1999.) and the notion of greed falls easy on the lips of the critics.


Arguably the greatest difference between the organisation of these events is that of finance both in terms of procurement and expenditure. Due to the size of the islands and their small economies attracting outside corporate sponsorship appears to be difficult.  However  the SPG 1991 boxed clever balancing out local and corporate investment along with making any monies invested double tax deductible. (SPGF.1991.)(2)  The committee had just enough corporate sponsorship to give financial stability with the correct blend of local sponsorship as to keep their national identity.  It may be suggested that by using too much corporate sponsorship the identity of the people is somewhat diluted which may be the real fear for the organisers.  The largest investor in the games was the government totalling $3.7m in capital and much more in revenue followed by Pepsi with $2.5m, other corporate sponsors such as Nestle then various local sponsors ($400,000) again keeping the games tied to the people and their economy. (SPGF)(1) Astute use of other nations was employed by the organisers of SPG 1991 when China, Korea, UK, Japan and France all gave generously in terms of capital, revenue or in kind to the games.(SPGF)(2) Pulling at the heartstrings of duty and nostalgia seems to have worked extremely well as all these nations have colonised or had a stake in the region in the past.


The Ryder cup is by contrast very different in that solely private investment has been used by the organisers which this is partly because of the sport’s popularity and negates the inclusion of government finance.  Due to such popularity the sums of investment are much greater than SPG and allow for the inclusion of TV and a much more sophisticated corporate hospitality.   Whilst only a minor adage for SPG corporate hospitality at the Ryder Cup 1999 amassed $32m encompassing 300 plus tables at $50,000 each and 59 tents ranging from $275,000 - $500,000 each. These fantastical sums of money take the event well out of the reach of the average spectator and do little to dispel the rumours of elitism and greed.  


The SPG notion of an event for the people and not the purse is further given credence when tickets and profitability are examined.  The organisers of the event only wanted to break even and this enabled ticket prices to be kept to a minimum ($2), within the reach of the average local persons budget, which allowed for maximum spectatorship. Although approximately 250,000 tickets were sold this only equates to about 6.25% of the population of Papua New Guinea alone which does suggest that not everyone was as committed as the organisers would have liked.  The total income generated including sponsors came to $18.5m with total expenses of $20.5m leaving a deficit of around $2m, (SPGF. 1991.)(1), which was paid by the government although in such a small country’s economy it is hard to see how the public will not have to carry the burden of this deficit via other public services. 


Alternatively the Ryder Cup 1999 seems to be about turning a profit with tickets costing $275 (£155) each, with approximately 30,000 visitors a day this amounted to $8.25m over the five days. The organisers could be guilty of pricing the event too high and again perpetuating the myth of elitism. Interestingly the Telegraph (10 August 1999) reported that the Ryder Cup 2001 in the UK is projected to double the cost of tickets to a staggering £300 per person for all five days and individual days cannot be purchased. Nick Faldo suggested that ‘the gallery at the 2001 Ryder Cup could be peopled by corporate types rather than run-of-the-mill golfers.’ (Telegraph.1999.) This commercial approach to the event may be at the cost of many genuine golf fans that could feel alienated due to the overwhelming prices.  Kate Hoey of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport concurred with this view saying


‘ The Government would like to see the tickets going to genuine fans. Our catch phrase is Sport for all, and applies as much to spectators as participants.’

(The Electronic Telegraph. Issue 1537.1999.)


Total income raised was approximately $65m for fives days of golf although the amount of sponsorship was not disclosed by the organisers.  . However, the PGA of America reckon their expenses will be $40 million leaving a clear profit of approximately $25m which is split between the PGA of the host nation and the venue. With such fantastical profit for only five days the players may be entitled to feel exploited when so much money is being made.


Although SPG’s financial policy could be considered honourable in recent years it has run into difficulties with four of the events in the 1999 Guam games being dropped due to lack of finance and interest.  During the run up period to the 1999 games the organising committee needed to find cheaper alternative accommodation for the athletes.  The president of the committee said ‘Even if it means that our athletes sleep on mattresses on the floor, the Games will continue.’(Sir John Dawanicura. PAC news. 7 April 1990.) This is a view that is hard to imagine happening to the well-heeled athletes of the western world. This just getting by attitude is in stark contrast when the cost of the Ryder Cup player’s wives outfits ($275,000) is considered.


In summary both the events are in stark contrast to each other although it may be suggested that it is primarily the cultural difference that is behind such contrasting organisations.  The SPG does appear to have a more altruistic attitude to the staging of this event but could be guilty of betraying its ‘Pacific Way’ by remaining rather insular.  However the governments of these island paradises may have real fears of exposing their peoples to Western capitalism and could see the west as bringing nothing but bad influences some of which are evident in the Ryder Cup. Having the government as the central focus seems to have allowed SPG to keep its perspective but the Ryder Cup utilising the commercial sector has let market forces get out of control and may be pricing itself out of its grass roots market.  The abundance of finance has turned the Ryder Cup into a ‘cash cow’, which has turned media attention to the financial administration rather than the event.  For the SPG striking the balance between public and private investment has been proven to be the crux for success but solely private investment however may be considered as less successful in terms of public relations or grass roots spectatorship, although in terms of profitability the private investment of the Ryder Cup seems to be a major success.  Is the Ryder Cup losing sight of its grass roots or are they clearly in sight but unwanted? 






Graham, Goldblatt and Delpy. 1995. The Ultimate Guide to Organising and Marketing sports events. New York,USA



South Pacific Games Foundation 1999. (SPGF.)


(1)   South Pacific Games Foundation. 1991. Financial Statements for the year ending 31 December 1991. SPGF, PNG.


(2)     South Pacific Games Foundation. 1991. Souvenir Programme – 9th SPG. Papua new Guinea 1991, P18-19. SPGF, PNG.



South Pacific Games News. 1991. Issue number 3. SPGF, PNG.



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