Sports events worldwide

What's the business opportunity?

Lawrence Wyper, Head of Legacy at Scottish Enterprise

Author Lawrence Wyper

Job title International Networks Team, Scottish Enterprise

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Scotland's winning potential

Major sporting events provide a real chance for businesses of all sizes, with relevant skills and expertise, to demonstrate Scotland's capabilities in successfully applying for large scale contracts – at home and abroad. 

By helping you find the right opportunity, we can connect you with decision-makers of future major contracts both at home and overseas.

As part of this work, we recently commissioned a study to understand the potential value for Scottish businesses of high value opportunities in the major international sports events industry, covering the period 2016 to 2025. Scroll down for a summary of the results.

Market opportunities and support

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Download the full Major International Sporting Events 2016-2025 report (PDF, 5MB)

The best part of the global sports market is that it is open to all sectors, all sizes. You just need to have the will and determination to go out and deliver.

Quote Source Job Title

Global outlook

£229 billion marketplace

Operational and infrastructure budgets for the top 55 one-off sports events across the world for the next decade are estimated to be worth nearly £229 billion. 

Around 70% of major events contracts go to local companies, with the remaining 30%, worth £69 billion, going to the rest of the world –  90% of budgets tend to be allocated to infrastructure projects; 10% being spent on operational services.

While Scottish businesses are in pole position to win contracts with games organisers across the world, the scale of opportunity for Scotland varies across geography and specific events. 

The potential market share value to Scottish businesses based on the £69 billion opportunity, across all contracts, is estimated at:

  • £2.06 billion if 3% of contracts were won
  • £689 million if 1% of contracts were won
  • £344 million if 0.5% of contracts were won
  • £172 million if 0.25% of contracts were won

As not all of the 55 events are held annually, an average of 25 one-off events can be targeted by Scottish businesses each year for the period 2016-2025.

Which sectors hold the best potential? 

There are a wide variety of opportunities for Scottish companies, in a range of sectors, including: 

  • Construction e.g. architecture, planning, engineering, overlay
  • Food and drink
  • Security and safety
  • Technology and IT
  • Energy 
  • Transportation and logistics 

Opportunities in the supply chain

Some Tier 1 contracts are awarded to companies that may also sponsor the event. In those instances the sponsor may offset the cost of supplying goods and services against the value of the contract and money might not actually change hands.

However, there may be other opportunities for businesses further down the supply chain where sponsors pay them to supply goods and services.

The detail of specific contracts is not always fully divulged publically and tenders vary, so assumptions were made on the information provided by industry sources in securing contracts like these.

Opportunities beyond sports events

Although our research focuses on major international sporting events, there are also opportunities for Scottish companies to get involved with anchor events, which are frequent annual occasions held across the regions covered in this report. 

These have not been included in the market valuations because their supply chain tends to be dominated by long-established partners. They are therefore harder to source or to value when it comes to procurement opportunities.

Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome
69% of Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games opportunities were awarded to Scottish firms valued at £510 million.
China construction engineers
Analysis of construction contracts showed that there are major opportunities for supply of materials and goods for large and temporary projects.
Commonwealth Games 2014 signage
Being involved in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games opened up new opportunities for lead design agency, Tangent Graphic.

Demand is out there, you could be too. But where are the opportunities?

Western and Northern Europe

Projected value £24.4 billion

The outlook for Scottish firms looking for work in Western and Northern Europe is positive and there will be advantages of staying within the boundaries of the mainland European Union in general, but competition will be high. Building relationships early and competitive pricing will be key to success.

Event opportunities

Outside Scotland, Scottish firms may find they have more opportunity within the rest of the UK (specifically England and Wales) for working on major events over the next few years. However there is potential for work in Western Europe (outside the UK) in relation to the 2020 UEFA European Championship with a proposal to schedule events across a number of European countries. 

If Rome, Paris or Budapest is successful in winning their bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, there could be plenty of work for Scottish companies, particularly those with expertise gained from London 2012 and Glasgow 2014

Companies who gained contracts for the 40th Gleneagles Ryder Cup may also find opportunities for the Paris 2018 and Rome 2022 tournaments. 

The Scandinavian countries of Northern Europe want to become key players in the global sporting stage, with Copenhagen already punching above its weight in terms of size. Both Stockholm and Gothenburg aspire to attract more world-class events and Scottish firms would be advised to seek opportunities there.


Events calendar

 Year   Competition   Country 
 2016  UEFA European Championship  France
 2016  European Athletics Championships  Netherlands
 2016  World Rowing Championships  Netherlands
 2016  Youth Winter Olympic Games  Norway
 2016  UCI Track World Championships  UK
 2017  Special Olympics World Games Winter  Austria
 2017  ISU World Figure Skating Championships  Finland
 2017  IIHF World Hockey Championships  France
 2017  IIHF World Hockey Championships  Germany
 2017  World Table Tennis Championships  Germany
 2017  ITU Triathlon World Championship Series  Netherlands
 2017  UCI Road World Championships  Norway
 2017  Women’s Cricket World Cup  UK
 2017  IAAF World Championships in Athletics (Outdoor)  UK
 2017  FIS Alpine World Ski Championships  Switzerland
 2017  Mediterranean Games  Spain
 2018  European Sports Championships  Scotland
 2018  ISU World Figure Skating Championships  Italy
 2018  European Sports Championships  Germany
 2018  Gay Games  France

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Events calendar

 Year   Competition   Country 
 2018  Ryder Cup  France
 2018  IIHF World Hockey Championships  Denmark
 2019  ICC Cricket World Cup  UK
 2019  FIS Alpine World Ski Championships  Sweden
 2019  FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships  Germany
 2019  FIFA Women’s World Cup  France
 2019  World Rowing Championships  Austria
 2020  UEFA European Championship  Scotland
 2020  UEFA European Championship  UK
 2020  Youth Winter Olympic Games  Switzerland
 2020  IIHF World Hockey Championships  Switzerland
 2020  UEFA European Championship  Spain
 2020  UEFA European Championship  Netherlands
 2020  UEFA European Championship  Italy
 2020  UEFA European Championship  Ireland
 2020  UEFA European Championship  Germany
 2020  UEFA European Championship  Denmark
 2020  UEFA European Championship  Belgium
 2021  FIS Alpine World Ski Championships  TBC

Central, Eastern and Southern Europe

Projected value £41.9 billion

The outlook for Scottish firms in this region is positive, with many of the countries already showing their willingness to embrace Western concepts and take advantages of expertise outside their own resources.

Event opportunities

Both Poland and Ukraine are keen to build on their EURO 2012 infrastructure and attract sports events while they are still on the radar of the sporting world. However, Russia may offer Scottish businesses more opportunities. Over the next few years it will host the 2016 IIHF World Hockey Championships and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games have already become the catalyst for sports development in Sochi, the country’s main sports centre which is in need of guidance to create a long-term legacy. Meanwhile, major stadium development is well underway in the country for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with new venues encompassing the growing trend to create entertainment and retail facilities. 

Several cities in the Central and Eastern European region have been linked to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In Southern Europe, Turkey is quickly becoming a powerhouse of sporting activities and infrastructure change. Sport has been identified as key to securing a bright sporting, social and economic future for the next generation. The country is using its status as one of the world’s fastest growing economies to underpin promises and budgets for sports development in Istanbul.

Turkey is already set to host several major events over the next few years including the 2017 Deaflympics, all of which will offer opportunities for Scottish companies.


Events calendar

 Year   Competition  Country 
 2016  IIHF World Hockey Championships  Russia
 2016  World Modern Pentathlon Championships  Russia
 2016  ISU European Figure Skating Championships  Slovakia
 2017  Deaflympics  Turkey
 2017  European Athletics Indoor Championships  Serbia
 2017  FIFA World Cup and Confederations Cup  Russia
 2017  FIG World Championships in Rhythmic Gymnastics  Russia
 2017  World Games  Poland
 2017  Universiade - Winter  Kazakhstan
 2017  ISU European Figure Skating Championships  Czec Republic
 2018  FIFA World Cup and Confederations Cup  Russia
 2018  ISU European Figure Skating Championships  Russia
 2018  Volleyball Men’s World Championship Finals  Bulgaria
 2018  World Rowing Championships  Bulgaria
 2019  IIHF World Hockey Championships  Slovakia
 2019  Universiade - Summer and Winter  Russia
 2020  UEFA European Championship  Russia
 2020  UEFA European Championship  Romania
 2020  UEFA European Championship  Hungary
 2020  UEFA European Championship  Azerbaijan

Middle East

Projected value £20.1 billion

With major infrastructure works already well underway in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the outlook for Scottish firms sourcing work in the region is positive, with many of the countries showing their willingness to embrace western concepts and take advantage of expertise outside their own resources.

Events opportunities 

The majority of opportunities in the Middle East for UK firms will be in Qatar due to the country’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. However, other countries are stepping up to become hosts of major sports events, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. 

Qatar in particular is working to boost its international profile and is paying particular attention to its sport, culture and education facilities.

The Qatar National Vision 2030 programme is also investing heavily in high profile media projects which are of interest to UK companies, largely in the transportation, tourismhealth, education and housing sectors.


Events calendar

 Year Competition Country 
 2016  UCI Road World Championships  Qatar
 2018  FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships  Qatar
 2019  IAAF World Championships in Athletics (outdoor)  Qatar
 2021  FIFA World Cup and Confederation World Cup  Qatar
 2022  FIFA World Cup and Confederation World Cup  Qatar


Projected value £2.1 billion

The outlook for Scottish firms sourcing work around major events in Africa is positive in relation to the 2022 Durban Commonwealth Games in particular, but there are also opportunities to work with countries and cities directly in the region, particularly those requiring help in developing sport at a grassroots level.

Event opportunities

Some countries in Africa are embarking on infrastructure changes to boost their presence on the world’s sporting stage and improve sport at a grassroots level. 

Nigeria has started a programme to develop sport. It has 12 new sports zonal centres in Jos, Benin, Kaduna, Bauchi, Enugu, Ibadan, Minna, Sokoto, Damaturu, Akure, Port Harcourt and Ngurua and staffed them with senior personnel in sports development. 

Contracts were also awarded for the construction of 43 miniature sports complexes in different stages; allied sports facilities in 14 locations across the country; and restoration of facilities at various stadia under the control of the federal government. 

The 8th All Africa Games were held successfully in October 2003 in Abuja, Nigeria and gave the African country a taster of what it was like to be in the international spotlight. 

Gabon, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Guinea will be the hosts for the African Cup of Nations in 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2023 respectively. 

In South Africa, Durban will host the 2022 Commonwealth Games which present great potential for Scottish firms, particularly companies that were involved in Glasgow 2014.

South Africa disbursed the first £3.99 million of its FIFA World Cup legacy fund in January 2013 to a variety of projects involving teenage players, coaches and administrators so there may be opportunities for UK companies.

Future plans in the country include building one good all-weather football pitch in each of South Africa’s 52 regions by 2023 to improve the grassroots structure of the game.


Events calendar

 Year   Competition  Country 
 2017  African Cup of Nations  Gabon
 2019  All Africa Games  Zambia
 2019  African Cup of Nations  Cameroon
 2021  African Cup of Nations  Ivory Coast
 2021  Mediterranean Games  Algeria
 2022  Commonwealth Games  Durban
 2023  All Africa Games - TBA  Africa
 2023  African Cup of Nations  Guinea 
 2023  African Cup of Nations - TBA  Africa


Projected value £101 billion

The outlook for Scottish companies and sports marketing/consulting firms sourcing work around major events in Asia is positive in China, Japan and South Korea (although those markets are traditionally hard to break into by Western companies) with opportunities also available in Malaysia, Singapore and India.

Event opportunities

China, Japan and South Korea all offer major opportunities for Scottish companies. In addition Malaysia and Singapore are also developing major events strategies that may require outside help. 

The Singapore government announced in 2013 that it would boost its spending on sports programmes and infrastructure by more than £133 million through to 2018 to build a strong sporting culture. 

Following a lull in hosting major sporting events after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China has been busy securing a raft of events over the coming years including the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. 

Similarly, Japan is set to host the 2017 Asian Winter Games, the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the 2020 Olympic Games and the 2021 World Masters Games. Japan made history by being the first Asian country to be awarded hosting rights for a Rugby World Cup. 

Hosting the tournament in 2019 is expected to increase the popularity of the sport in the country. The event will reportedly cost approximately £145 million to stage. 

With rugby being a developing sport in Japan and Asia as a whole, there may be opportunities for Scottish companies with expertise in that particular sport to explore the market further. 

Tokyo is 2020 Summer Olympic Games. Fuelled by the city’s dynamic atmosphere and youth-driven culture, the event has an important role to play in Japan’s spiritual and physical recovery efforts following its 2011 national earthquake tragedy. 

Turning to South Korea, UK firms who worked on the construction of 2012 Olympic Park in London, have already been invited to the country on government trade missions in attempt to win lucrative contracts ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics

The budget for the infrastructure development of PyeongChang 2018 amounts to £4.1 billion with another £330.7 million being invested in the ‘Drive the Dream’ legacy programme. 

Elsewhere in Asia, there is a growing recognition that India, a country of 1.2 billion people, will one day stage the Olympics. It is one of the few market places the Olympics has not broken into; as demonstrated at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games in which India finished second in the medals table, its population has discovered and taken up sports other than cricket. 

India also continues to attract cricket events and will host the 2016 ICC World Twenty20.


Events calendar

 Year  Competition   Country 
 2016  ICC World Twenty20  India
 2017  Universiade - Summer  Taiwan
 2017  South East Asian Games  Malaysia
 2017  Asian Winter Games  Japan
 2017  World Modern Pentathlon Championships  Egypt
 2018  Winter Olympic Games  South Korea
 2018  Asian Games  Indonesia
 2018  FINA World Championships (25m)  China
 2019  FINA World Championships  South Korea
 2019  IRB Rugby World Cup  Japan
 2019  Military World Games  China
 2019  FIBA World Championship  China
 2020  Summer Olympic Games  Japan
 2021  Asian Winter Games - TBA  Asia
 2021  South East Asian Games - TBA  Asia
 2021  World Masters Games  Japan
 2022  Winter Olympic Games  China
 2022  Asian Games  China
 2023  South East Asian Games - TBA  Asia
 2024  South East Asian Games - TBA
 2025  Asian Winter Games - TBA  Asia

North America

Projected value £407.5 million

The outlook for Scottish firms sourcing work around major events in North America is positive in Canada and Mexico but less so in the US where firms face a competitive and highly developed sports marketing and consultancy industry.

Event opportunities

A successful Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 has put Canada firmly on the map as a great sporting host. Canada also has several cities jostling for position as the country's best sporting host, including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Calgary and Edmonton.

Canada’s national policy is to support only two multi-sports events in the country in a 10 year period and one large international single sport event every two years, which can be viewed as a constraint by some of the cities looking to host events in Canada.

Los Angeles is the USA's representative to bid for the 2024 Summer Games which may offer opportunities to Scottish firms. However, it is industry opinion that opportunities for UK firms in the US may not be as strong as in other markets due to the developed industry already in place.

Mexico is rumoured to be preparing a bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup and is expecting tough competition from the US.


Events calendar

Year Competition   Country
 2016  FINA World Championships  Canada
 2016  ISU World Figure Skating Championships  USA
 2016  Ryder Cup  USA
 2016  IAAF World Championships in Athletics (indoor)  USA
 2016  ITU Triathlon World Championship Series  Mexico
 2017  Outdoor Archery World Championships  Mexico
 2017  FINA World Championships  Mexico
 2017  World Championship  USA
 2017  World Rowing Championships  USA
 2017  FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships  Canada 
 2018  FEI World Equestrian Games  Canada
 2020  Ryder Cup  USA
 2021  World Games  USA
 2021  IAAF World Championships Athleticss (outdoor)  USA
 2024  Ryder Cup - TBA  USA

South America

Projected value £16.4 billion

Post the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Scottish companies may find it easier to source to source opportunities in Argentina and Peru. Argentina will host the 2018 Youth Summer Olympic Games and Peru will host the 2019 Pan American Games.

Event opportunities

As the host country for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and with Rio de Janeiro hosting the 2016 Olympic and Paralympics Games, Brazil in particular is set to continue its extremely high profile in international sports in the coming years and will already be on the radar of many UK major events companies. 

Local and foreign investors are now coming together to support Brazil’s ambitions as the next mega-economy equipped with modern airports, ports, roads and infrastructure. 

A study by the University of Sao Paulo estimated the infrastructure outlays devoted to hosting the Olympics in Rio at £10 billion. It's clear that infrastructure investments in Brazil will be a driving force for economic growth in the longer term. The country will take steps towards modernisation, become more efficient and lure increased foreign investment. 

With improved roads, railways and marinas, the country will increase its efficiency, making it more attractive to do business with. Scottish firms should therefore bear in mind that opportunities will not stop in 2016 but will continue for years to come.


Events calendar

 Year   Competition  Country 
 2016  Summer Olympic Games  Brazil
 2018  Youth Summer Olympic Games  Argentina
 2019  Lima Pan American Games  Peru


Projected value £801 million

In general the outlook for Scottish companies and sports marketing/consulting firms sourcing work around major events in Oceania is positive.

Event opportunities

Australia and New Zealand are co-hosting the 2017 Rugby League World Cup and Australia is also hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games

New Zealand will host 2016 World Bowling Championships and the 2017 World Masters Games. The latter is expected to contribute £29.5 million to New Zealand’s GDP, including £20.4 million to host city Auckland’s GDP. The ROI for this event is estimated to be 226%, a greater return than on any other major event held in the city. 

In August 2012, New Zealand Major Events signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with EventScotland, highlighting the country’s desire to access Scottish expertise. New Zealand Major Events have common interest with EventScotland in major event strategy and the agreement has been designed with the purpose of enhancing the reputation of both Scotland and New Zealand as international event destinations. 

For the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the Queensland Government is underwriting a net £0.75 billon investment in the redevelopment of its Parklands area. Spending on these projects, which includes accelerating community and sports facilities on the Gold Coast, is expected to create £13.8 billion to the local economy and up to 30,000 full-time jobs. 

New Zealand gained valuable expertise during the 2011 Rugby World Cup however they may still require some external assistance as co-hosts of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup with Australia and Papua New Guinea. 

Australia has a highly developed major events infrastructure; however there are indicators that the Queensland Government are reviewing internal capacity in relation to delivering the Gold Coast Games. This could create procurement opportunities for international bidders, in partnership with local firms.


Events calendar

 Year   Competition   Country 
 2017  Rugby League World Cup  Papua New Guinea
 2017  Rugby League World Cup
 New Zealand
 2017  World Masters Games
 New Zealand
 2017  Rugby League World Cup
 2018  Commonwealth Games  Australia
 2019  South East Asian Games  Philippines
 2020  ICC World Twenty20  Australia
 2021  Women's Cricket World Cup  New Zealand

From small start-ups to larger, more established companies, our partner networks can provide you with the support you need to grow your business, both at home and abroad.

Quote Source Job Title

How to get involved

Join the BusinessClub Scotland network

BusinessClub Scotland is an initiative designed to help Scotland’s business organisations capitalise on the opportunities generated by major events in Scotland and overseas.

Promoting contract opportunities, business networking and business engagement around major sporting and cultural events, we aim to ensure that Scottish companies and business organisations are supported, engaged and business-ready to maximise contract opportunities and win business. 

Support includes:

  • Sharing research on future events
  • Providing detailed information on specific contract opportunities and access to a network of expert advisers at home and abroad
  • Providing information on specific events and webinars 

BusinessClub Scotland is open to any size of Scottish-based business in any sector, regardless of your experience in working on major contracts, either at home, or overseas. 

If you would like to become a member of BusinessClub Scotland and receive updates on new research, opportunities and events, then get in touch.

Download the full Major International Sporting Events 2016-2025 report (PDF, 5MB)

Make an enquiry



Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome
BusinessClub Scotland member, Laserclean won the Glasgow 2014 contract to water-proof and apply an invisible anti-graffiti protector to the £113 million National Indoor Sports Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.
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About the Author

Lawrence Wyper, Head of Legacy at Scottish Enterprise

Lawrence Wyper

International Networks Team, Scottish Enterprise