Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

In retrospect it seems obvious. Every four years, you bring together a group of the most popular European sports championships and hold them at the same time, enabling them to create an exponential level of interest and appeal. Boom.

But, like all good ideas, someone had to think of it first. And in the case of the new, all-action multi-sport European Championships that will be co-hosted by Glasgow and Berlin from August 2 to 13, those someones were sports marketing experts Marc Jörg and Paul Bristow.

Jörg and Bristow are co-founders and directors of European Championships Managenent, which developed the concept for the new event and contracted with seven European Sports Federations, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the host cities.

Supported by Europe's free-to-air broadcasters, the event pulls together the existing senior continental championships of athletics, aquatics, cycling, gymnastics, rowing, triathlon and golf, in the form of a new Team Championships format.

Jörg was marketing director for UEFA from 1996 to 2000 and controller of sport for the EBU from 2000 to 2010 before founding MnS Ignite, which offered consulting services on sports rights at major international events.

Marc Jörg, co-developer of the new multi-sport European Championships format, has had extensive marketing experience within UEFA and the EBU ©European Championships
Marc Jörg, co-developer of the new multi-sport European Championships format, has had extensive marketing experience within UEFA and the EBU ©European Championships

Bristow was previously chief operating officer of Deltatre, a leading sports media technology company.

His international sports marketing and programming experience includes more than 20 seasons of the UEFA Champions League, three FIFA World Cups, two Olympic Games and numerous World and European Championships in a variety of sports.

For many years, Europe was in an anomalous position in that it was the only continent not to have its own regular multi-sport event - an idea already being carried forward elsewhere in the form of the Asian, Pan American, Pacific and African Games.

In 2015, at the initiation of the European Olympic Committees, the first European Games were held in Baku and attracted 20 sports. Sixteen of them were Olympic sports although the marquee athletics and swimming competitions involved, respectively, a third-tier national league event and junior athletes.

Azerbaijan, thwarted in its Olympic ambitions but anticipating a possible future challenge, threw money - of which it had endless underground supplies - at the event, building five new venues with an estimated overall infrastructure budget of £6.5 billion ($8.5 billion/€7.3 billion).

Finding hosts for the 2019 version proved problematic after The Netherlands dropped out, but the second European Games are now fixed for Minsk, which will use existing facilities for a competition involving 15 sports, 10 of which will offer qualification opportunities for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The two European multi-sport events are, to an extent, in competition with each other - but on closer inspection they are very different beasts.

The essential difference of the European Championships is that it is not an additional event on what is an already hectic sports calendar - it is simply an advantageous aggregation of existing events for branding and marketing purposes.

The timing of the latter competition is also key. Unlike the European Games, it does not conflict with World Championships in athletics or swimming, which are held in the odd years of the four-year Olympic cycle.

The other European Championships USP is that it does not act as a qualifier for another event but casts itself as a major event in its own right.

Paul Bristow, co-founder of the multi-sport European Championships, says:
Paul Bristow, co-founder of the multi-sport European Championships, says: "The eureka moment was the realisation that it didn’t need to be a new event - the events already existed - it was about bringing them together." ©European Championships

So was there a eureka moment for Messrs Jörg and Bristow?

"The eureka moment was the realisation that it didn't need to be a new event - the events already existed - it was about bringing them together," Bristow tells insidethegames.

"The revamping of the UEFA Champions League definitely planted the idea in our heads. 

"We were both involved in that and we felt there was a major hole to be filled in Europe by bringing the existing European Championships of a limited number of high-profile sports together under one umbrella.

"The sports marketplace was developing fast with the unrelenting power of football, and sports federations had challenges to find their place. There's a huge richness in the sporting world, and everyone wants to be in the public eye, but it's difficult to find airtime for these sports.

"It was also the overall media landscape fragmenting with the proliferation of channels and choice for the consumer in relation to other forms of entertainment. Some sports were struggling to make themselves heard.

"At the time we saw a gap in the marketplace with no multi-sports event in Europe. Every other continent has a successful Games which is the pinnacle of the sports. That was the start of the journey, and the main driver for why we started.

"It has been shown that there is greater interest - in terms of attendance and television audiences - for multi-sports events rather than separate, individual championships. In a nutshell, we believed that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, when the right combination of sports are brought together.

A projected view of the centre of Glasgow during next month's staging of the multi-sports European Championships ©European Championships
A projected view of the centre of Glasgow during next month's staging of the multi-sports European Championships ©European Championships

"It was identified that we needed between six to eight sports for the first edition and we were fortunate to talk to Glasgow when it was in the midst of preparations to stage the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Glasgow understood the power of the event and we were absolutely delighted when they committed to staging the inaugural Championships as a co-host city with Berlin.

"One of the biggest challenges we faced was the courage of the European Federations to embrace this change. Everyone talks the talk about change, but actually having the courage to do something innovative is a different thing. So it has been fantastic to see the European Federations ultimately take such a bold move and the unified way they have embraced the collective vision of the European Championships.

"The challenges were enormous. The idea was simple, but the delivery was challenging: seven sports, each with different ideas, different ways of doing things.

"With the commercial rights, for example. When we started, a lot of long-term rights agreements were already in place, and some sports were unable to participate because they had already sold their rights for 2018 in 2011. Others had media rights and sponsorship agreements in place that had to be respected, making it harder to get a unified commercial proposition."

Asked what sets the European Championships apart from other multi-sport competitions, Jörg adds: "What you could call an innovation in multi-sport events is that it is the European Federations that retain the control. It is collectively run by the Federations with decisions made by the Board and each Federation is independently responsible for their own championships.

"So, in terms of innovation, in a sense it is not a new event. The European Federations didn't want to create a new event - the calendar is crowded enough as it is and this event actually helps clean a crowded sports calendar - but they wanted to strengthen their existing events by staging them at the same time.

"The calendar was an important consideration for the sports in the European Championships to ensure that it became the peak of an athlete's season. Staged once every four years, the European Championships does not compete or conflict with the World Championships in athletics or swimming, which are in the odd years of the four-year cycle.

"The European Championships includes only a select number of sports that have strong media appeal and it delivers to the participating sports the powerful benefits of aggregation, for example in the form of a higher profile and reach through our media agreements, the best possible competitive stage for the athletes, as well as enhanced long-term financial security.

"The concept is based around the European sports that already attract significant broadcast and media coverage and it is these European Federations that have proactively come together to support and grow the European Championships concept."

Berlino the Bear, the much-loved mascot for the International Association of Athletics Federations 2009 World Championships, is making a competitive comeback for next month's European Athletics Championships in the city ©European Championships
Berlino the Bear, the much-loved mascot for the International Association of Athletics Federations 2009 World Championships, is making a competitive comeback for next month's European Athletics Championships in the city ©European Championships

With regards to the future of the multi-sport European Championships, there is a very positive, and flexible, feeling.

"The stakeholders are already in discussions with potential host cities for 2022 and will negotiate on a bilateral basis until a suitable candidate is found," says Bristow.

"There will not be a rigid, formal bid process. There is genuine interest from cities and countries in the opportunity of hosting the 2022 and 2026 editions, and even the 2030 version.

"It is the first multi-sport European Championships so all of the stakeholders will be looking at Glasgow and Berlin to evaluate the best way forward, to take lessons from the first one to make the second edition stronger.

"It is a new major multi-sport event which requires commitments at all levels of local, regional and national Government. But we believe the stakeholders have created a Championships that is attractive to a wide range of cities, without adding to the calendar of European sport.

"There is very much an open-minded approach about whether the 2022 Championships is hosted by one host city, region, or more. We have seen how the two world-class sporting and cultural cities of Glasgow and Berlin have embraced their partnership, so a dual city concept has certainly not been ruled out for the future."

An extensive observer programme is to be organised in Berlin and Glasgow for sharing operational information on the 2018 edition.

The 2022 hosts are expected to be selected in the first part of 2019 - Glasgow was appointed just over three years before the 2018 edition.

Asked how he sees the European Championships growing in terms of sports, Bristow responds: "Any growth in the number of sports will be managed very carefully with the stakeholders. 

"All current sports are interested in being part of the 2022 edition. Other sports have requested to join, but a lot of consideration must be given to the sport programme, quality of the event, rhythm of existing European Championships, impact on host city, broadcast partners, etc. 

"The next edition is based on the same configuration of sports for the moment."

Meanwhile, the EBU's involvement in this new event has been crucial.

"The projected numbers being reported speak for themselves," says Jörg. 

"The BBC will provide extensive coverage daily across TV, radio and online of all seven sports with over 100 hours of network television coverage planned for the Championships with a lot of coverage on BBC One.

"In Germany, there will be up to almost 13 hours coverage per day. This is 'major event' treatment like the Olympic Games and World Cup.

"The timetable of the individual championships is fully co-ordinated into one overall schedule to maximise media exposure as well as TV spectator experience.

"The overall programme will deliver a schedule packed with exciting finals and gold-medal moments for television, highlighting the power of aggregation and the benefits for all the sports that come from bringing the individual championships together in this exciting new event.

"The sports programme in Glasgow will start with a number of qualifying rounds on Thursday August 2 before a packed weekend of sport on television starting on Friday August 3. 

"This optimised 10-day television programme will create a fantastic viewing experience with audiences able to follow finals in multiple sports across the day and evening, with great storytelling opportunities for broadcasters.

"The schedule creates a close synergy between Glasgow and Berlin, with broadcasters able to criss-cross between events in both cities as they follow their respective national medal hopes.

"EBU was involved from the start of the concept as gaining substantial media exposure for the sports was an important objective of the concept (such media coverage was not the ultimate objective of the concept, but an important means to reach the other objectives).

"The objective is to create a 'win-win' situation whereby the European Federations reach more exposure and public broadcasters can fulfil their mission to present the variety of sports in an attractive format and to reach in this way a bigger audience."

The European Championships model is strong on being sustainable, with the emphasis on a city showcasing its existing sports facilities and accommodation options for athletes - "making for an attractive and affordable event that can be considered good value from a host-city perspective in comparison to other multi-sport opportunities on the market".

It is an admirable starting point. But could it also be a brake in terms of growing the core of events - i.e if a host city has great venues for six or seven sports, but no velodrome?

"It is a question of whether it is part of a host city's strategic development in sport in their country as to whether to build a new track or arena or velodrome," Bristow said. "The goal is keep costs low for host cities by using existing facilities and accommodation.

"Take the cycling in Glasgow for example. Four European Cycling Championships will be staged in the city - for the first time ever in cycling. The complete cycling Olympic disciplines, track, road, BMX and mountain bike, will attract Europe's top names to the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, the Cathkin Braes Mountain Bike Trails, and the streets of Glasgow and the surrounding metropolitan area.

"Up until recently, though, Glasgow was lacking the requisite BMX track for a world-class event but this is being remedied with a new Olympic-standard BMX track being built in the Knightswood area of the city. With this, Glasgow 2018 will see a major BMX event come to the city for the first time ever and the new track will provide a long-lasting legacy for the sport in Scotland.

"We do want the European Championships to be a catalyst to unlock investment but only when there is a genuine legacy use for facilities in the future."