Permit Denied

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Approval to stage an event is one of the key assets of any rights holder/event owner and the refusal of a permit creates significant risks for multiple parties including not only the rights holder but also sponsors and of course participants.

From discussions with many event organisers and my personal experience, it seems that generally permits are getting harder to obtain and in many cities, more permits are required than in the past. This seems to be the combination of increased demand on venues from mass participation sports events and other community events together with increasingly stringent regulations from authorities.

Approval processes seem to vary hugely from country to country and often within cities and towns in the same country. Whilst many cities embrace mass participation events and recognise the value that they bring both in terms of economic impact and community engagement, feedback seems to suggest that many still see them as an annoyance and accordingly are in no hurry to facilitate the approval process.

One of the most common industry complaints I hear is the time it takes for formal approval and a lack of clarity with regard to exactly what is required to get final sign off. In many cities, the actual permit is not issued until a few weeks or days before the event. I have personally experienced a number of nerve-wracking occasions in Asia where the formal permit has only been provided the day before the event. An unfortunate by-product of this kind of situation is the unwanted distraction and crucial time wasted in the final event implementation stage.

A fantastic example of a city that has clear guidelines and processes in place and takes a collaborative approach to the permit process is Sydney. A legacy of the hugely successful 2000 Olympics was the continuation of the Central Sydney Operations Group (CSOG) which was initially formed to facilitate inter-agency collaboration. CSOG meets on a monthly basis and events have the opportunity to present their initial plans to all major government agencies and key city stakeholders such as the Opera House in one room. My experience over many years was a spirit of cooperation and collaboration whereby those present would help identify potential issues and work together to find practical solutions to help facilitate the approval process.

Whilst many event focused cities around the world have a similar “one-stop shop” model my sense is that the majority have a more ad-hoc approach meaning that applicants have to “do the rounds” from agency to agency. Sometimes, especially in developing markets, the requirements and guidelines are unclear and seem to vary from event to event.

Sometimes a global, regional or local event may add another layer to the permit process such as the unfortunate impact of a tragic accident at a dance party in Taiwan where coloured dye ignited and 15 people died. The knock-on impact meant that IMG were forced to cancel or postpone a number of their Color Run events in Asia and had to go through a rigorous testing and permit process before resuming.

At the upcoming Mass Participation Asia conference in Bangkok on 3 and 4 April we are delighted to have Jack Caress, CEO of Pacific Sports in the USA, joining us to discuss “The Biggest and Least Talked about Secret of the Mass Participation Industry – Permits”.

I recently spoke to Jack and he shared a number of thought provoking questions and observations. Although Jack is a veteran of the industry with a wealth of experience he would be delighted to hear from both rights holders and venues on some of their experiences and challenges via a short survey. Please click here.

Aside from some of the points that I have already made, Jack highlights a potential challenge for even long established events. “Events that have had a long history at a site can be susceptible to new requirements for fees, insurance, and sponsor restrictions which can sometimes have a significant impact on commercial viability”.

With a charity angle to many events and in a world where there seems to be a growing desire for people to create a giving impact, Jack poses an interesting question: “Is there an advantage in your markets for the not-for-profit or charitable cause events over those that are for-profit? Are the permits different?”.

Whilst the focus of permits is often related to those issued by government or city authorities an area that is equally important is that of the host venue. Jack believes that “Increasingly, there are opportunities for creative long-term strategies or approaches to venue permits that help to secure the value of event properties”.

With the pace of industry consolidation seemingly gathering momentum, the importance of permits highlights the key dimension of their intrinsic balance sheet value in addition to the already crucial annual approval.

It would seem that the best outcomes for a more streamlined and cohesive approvals process are likely to be achieved by collaboration between the industry and various government agencies to help facilitate a “one stop approach” wherever possible.

For more details on how to hear Jack Caress and an exciting line up of almost 50 speakers at Mass Participation Asia, visit http://www.massparticipationasia.com/

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