Editor's Blog

When hospitality is wasted

The prawn sandwich brigade. That’s how corporate seats are perceived by the general public and sports fans especially; a generalisation that has its roots in the swathes of empty seats at big sporting events and the infamous rant from Manchester United legend Roy Keane.

But why do these seats end up going to waste, when they have been bought with the intention of entertaining valued clients?

The answer, says Elliot Sheasby, director at hospitality provider Event Masters, doesn’t come from concerns over the Bribery Act, but that only the best will do for some.  

When giving your client the very best VIP treatment at a sports event, corporates want a once in a lifetime opportunity, Sheasby argues. And when packages are all that’s on offer, rather than individual matches, companies are happy to sacrifice the less glamorous event to ensure their clients are happy.

The Rugby World Cup was a case in point, where the number of tickets going to waste once the home nations departed the tournament led to calls for the industry to address the problem.

Sheasby said: “What we have seen from events such as the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics is that you are almost forced into buying into a set of events that you are not necessarily going to attend. That creates a natural wastage, and companies know they are going to have that wastage.

“It got to a point where the only way to get tickets for the Rugby World Cup final was to buy tickets for the semi-finals at the same time. A lot of companies would rather waste tickets than not be entertaining the right person at the right event.”

Similarly at Wembley Stadium where big swathes of red seating among the 10-year Club Wembley membership attracts criticism, especially for England friendly matches.

Even Club Wembley’s website notes: “England games, The FA Cup, The FA Community Shield, the Capital One Cup Final and the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final form part of Club Wembley membership and are not available to purchase as a one-off.”

So, if you want to entertain clients at a glittering occasion like the FA Cup final, your Club Wembley membership will do that – but you’ll also have space allocated at the England vs Malta World Cup qualifier next October. Perhaps not ideal for giving your top client a one-off experience.

“It’s full for the FA Cup final, but if you look at an England friendly match, people are quite comfortable to throw those in the bin and that’s why you see seats in hospitality areas unoccupied,” Sheasby explains. “I do think it creates a negative image of hospitality and people do see it as a waste.”

Sheasby says Event Masters has noticed a different emphasis for once-a-year annual events, such as the Cheltenham Festival - for which he says the company is already running at 75 per cent occupancy.

“There is now a focus on the quality of the environment, rather than the price; it’s about creating an environment conducive for return on investment,” he added.

It sucks for sports fans, who may well abhor the idea of letting tickets go to waste, but it doesn’t look likely to change when companies are happy to pay top rates to entertain the chosen few at very select events.


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  • Doug Anthony 09/11/2015 Of: 

    With companies like stubhub around, selling event tickets, you would think that event sponsors and corporates could be more creative with the surplus tickets. Is there a start-up opportunity?