How to successfully organize a combat sports event
The focus of this article, is to present a few important points, for combat sports events organizers.
Let’s take a look at some simple statistics, POVs of competitors, spectators, coaches and event staff.
Easy to understand event manual.
In the following article, I will focus on the most important aspects
- Event scale (Participants number and time estimation)
- Venue location and requirements (Availability, parking, safety, athletes preparation and etc.)
- Broadcasting (Live or tape)
- Athletes requirements (documents, categories, uniforms and etc.)
- Staff requirements (Medics, refs, event staff and etc.)
- Registration process and brackets (Smooth operation, most common bracket styles and etc.)
- Troubleshooting (Contestation protocols, empty brackets and etc)
Math is your best friend!
Best way to estimate the participation scale of the event, is to run pre-registration, with cheaper fees for early registration (about 10 days before event date).
Combined with personal communication with coaches from other teams, should present a realistic picture of the participation, and using this data, the proper venue should be chosen.
Up to 20 competitors
Invitational events, professional tournaments, super fights, and other small scale events.
This style of events is one of the easiest to organize and run, because it requires a small venue (average size gym is suitable), just a handful of staff, conservative budget, and is also one of the best formats to broadcast.
The event could be held in a single mat/ tatami area, boxing ring or a cage.
Time table depends on the format of one match (rounds, ways of winning and etc), but if we take a simple example of 1R of 5min per match, and double that time, including breaks, restarts, rests, intermissions, fighters presentation and etc, the entirety of the event can last from 1 hour and a half, up to 3 hours.
An extra hour for weigh-ins, medalling ceremony, would cap these style of events to 4 hours, including preparation and cleaning of the venue.
Here is an example of such event, I organized with Vladislav Koulikov, in his KGA location in New Jersey, in 2019:
Yagadome Invitational (KING of 175)
60 to a 100 competitors
“A competition with a total of 70 athletes from all categories, with a good time management, could be held in a 2 mats area, within 7 hours, including warming up, rules explanation, small breaks and medal ceremony.”
Considering the format is 1 round of 5 minutes, a total of 70 athletes, in direct elimination, or round robbin, would result of a first round of roughly 35 matches.
If %100 of the matches go the distance, total time for first round of brackets, played on 2 mats, including 3 minutes intermissions, and breaks, would be up to 2,5 hours.
Second round of brackets would be up to an hour and a half.
Third round would most likely be semi-finals and finals, taking up to an 1 hour.
Warm-ups, rules explanation, medalling ceremony, arbitrations, and weigh-ins, could be fitted within 1 hour, totalling the entire event to maximum of 7 hours.
Meaning, total amount of time, played on 1 mat would be kept within 5 hours, with approximately 40 matches, going the distance.
Here is a link to event of such scale:
100 to 300 competitors
At this scale of participation, direct elimination format is a lot better suited, for time management.
For the sake of keeping the first round of elimination to under 2,5 hours, we must use 6 mats area.
Using the previous example, the event could be successfully fit within 7 hours, although, the weigh-ins and the time for the spectators and athletes to move in and out of the area, would require an hour extra time, totalling to 8 hours.
Here is a link to the Combat Wrestling Worlds 2019 (Romania), which was a similar format:
Venue Location and Requirements
Once the approximate number of participants is known, it is easier to proceed with the requirements for the venue, needed to host the event.
Several points to check on the list:
- Parking lot.
Most of the participants and spectators will travel for the event, likely with their own vehicles, so having a big parking lot is a great plus.
- Safety and efficiency.
Always best to choose a venue, with its own medical, cleaning and event staff.
Those are usually sport arenas, built for the purpose of hosting sport events.
They already have competition mats, timers, medical office and first assistance personnel (considering competition injuries), event hall staff (venue information desk, venue cleaning staff included), who could take care of majority of event organizational resources, but also medalling podiums, advertisement frames, separated entrances for spectators, toilets, bathrooms, weigh-in scales, staff room, and many more.
They might cost more initially, but considering that organizer won’t need to haul and arrange mats, hire separated medical crew, event staff and etc, the end cost would not be that different, for a lot less of a hustle.
- Information Desk
The event information desk is one of the most overlooked aspects in event organizing.
Any gathering of people, by default, would best operate, if time schedule, crowd flows, and many other details of a live events nature.
And these people have questions.
Sometimes, a lot of them.
So, it is in everyone’s best interest, if there is an information center, where all the event brackets, order of matches, event time schedule by age and weight divisions, is listed.
And if any additional questions, like directions to the bathroom, parking lot and etc., could be answered by the staff, at the Information Desk.
That would take a huge burden off the organizer’s shoulders, who’s primary function is to oversee the smooth process of the WHOLE event.
In 2022, broadcasting an event is a lot easier task, than 20 years ago.
With existing online media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, and many others, with already available tools for media transformation, and live broadcast, at this stage is possible with just a good internet speed, and a few cell phones.
Of course, the bigger the scale of the event, the more resources necessary, so it is always better for the end quality production, to either hire a media team/ get a media partnership, or record the event, edit and release with a few days delay (great for athlete/ team presentations, sponsors exposure and various POV angles).
Everything, regarding athletes requirements, should be published way ahead of the event (usually between a month and 6 months, depending on the scale of the event).
- Uniforms specifications (length, color and etc), best coordinated with a sportswear brand (all of my events have been sponsored by MISPORTS).
- Medical documents (required by athletic commission).
- Weight categories and weigh-in process.
All organizers should know, that no matter what, there will always be a particular case, requiring special judgment on site, and it would be wise, to appoint a few commettees, each with delegated responsibility (an Athlete Commission, for example), with a chief, who reports to the Event Organizer.
Appointed Athletic Commission could process all registration paperwork, medical documents and exams, weigh-ins and etc.
A part of the Athletic Commission should be included coordinating staff, for better communication between different Commissions, and team coaches.
Each of the event staff would perform at his/ her best, if they are well trained for their position, given specific instructions of their responsibilities, and know where to turn to, in case of out of their competence/ responsibility request.
Including a time schedule of the event, could greatly improve the work/rest schedule for all staff members, and prevent overloading of all helpers, with tasks they don’t need to perform.
Registration Process and Brackets
In this age and era, the entire process of registration, and brackets organization, is done online.
To avoid hand to hand exchange of documents, finances and etc., at the time of the event, the registration could be opened up to 8 weeks ahead of the event date.
There are many online software sources, that currently are used by big event organizers, making it as simple as possible.
Once the registration is closed, starts the process of the Bracket organization.
This is a topic of many discussions, so I would share a personal opinion on the matter:
If the organizer is interested in the long term success of the event, he should do his best to offer a fair and transparent process, and communicate ahead, with all team coaches, balancing out all participating sides.
Once the Brackets are official, they should be made public to all athletes and spectators.
The majority of combat sports spectators are also team members, family, and other practitioners of the sport.
Even the biggest fans of the sport, would not want to spend the entire day, waiting for the personal favourite athlete, to compete.
So, presenting the Brackets, with number of matches, and their order, would be very time efficient for all athletes (they could schedule their alimentation during the competition day), their fans (will get the chance to see their favourites, watch a few other matches, then go on with their daily activities).
But MAINLY, it will help with the transparency, the competitors and their coaches will be well aware of what follows when, who goes where and etc.
Meaning, less questions towards staff.
In my close to 30 years of event participant as a spectator, fan, competitor, coach and organizer, I have never seen an event without some kind of a misunderstanding.
As a matter of fact, I believe the Event Organizer’s first responsibility is to predict (by experience, own or hired) the possible problems, then work towards developing a way of how to deal with them in advance.
Next in chain of command should be appointed the Commission Chiefs, who are responsible for their departments.
Such can be:
- Referee Commission with specific event manual, including rule explanation, contestation and arbitrage staff (with well established conduct for the possible situations), time schedule for mat referees rotation, score keeping, time keeping, and all responsibilities of the refs.
- Information Commission (stated above).
- Athletic Commission (stated above).
- Venue staff
Such event manual, would be a staple for improvement and learning from own mistakes, while guaranteeing the future success of the event brand and all parties included.
Thank you for your time!