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Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The other side of competition

First off, apologies for my blogging being much less frequent the last few weeks. I've been busy organising a competition and with a few other things. Anyway, that means it's probably a good time to talk about organising competitions as I've seen lots of misconceptions posted online by non-organisers.

Something I see quite often is people saying "they must be making loads for just a day's work" about organisers. Two things people are failing to grasp with this is that organising a competition is much more than one day's work. From the moment registration opens you get people messaging you to ask questions (quite often questions to which the answers are on the registration page) and to check on entrants to specific divisions. Every competition I have been involved in organising I get numerous enquires from people who are in divisions which tend to have smaller numbers (black & brown belts, senior II, female, rooster, ultra heavy etc) asking whether they will get a fight. I always do my best to contact other fighters/instructors to find opponents, so this means sending out multiple messages and following up on them plus replying to people's responses. There are also regular messages from people asking to change division or notifying that they will not be competing. All these things need to be updated as soon as possible otherwise so many requests build up it's easy to miss some. On top of that there is the usual stuff; advertising and marketing the event to make sure it attracts a good number of competitors.

Then there is the more physical side of organising the competition... a venue has to be sorted and paid for. People often underestimate the cost of this, but consider that to run a competition you need to hire an entire hall, that could be the equivalent of 6-8 tennis/badminton courts or more... and you need them all day. That's nowhere near the total costs either, there are mats/scoreboards to hire, medical staff to pay, medals to buy, referees and officials to pay, food is usually provided for all those staff during the event, some venues charge extra to provide chairs or other things like barriers etc. All this adds up to a not insignificant total cost.

Now, that's not to say competitions can't, or don't, make money. They do, but it's probably not the sort of amounts which some people think, depending on entrance fee. Myself and my instructor run competitions with the goal of giving the competitors a great event to take part in and enjoy. Due to this we look to keep entry costs as low as possible (£25) and run a repechage system. The repechage means that when a competitor loses a fight they drop into a second bracket system which decides the bronze medal winner. This way, someone who suffers nerves/adrenaline in their first fight, or gets drawn first against the best fighter in the division, doesn't end up paying £25 for 10 seconds and then their day is finished. This is not the best way to maximise profits (it basically doubles the total number of fights) but it does give the competitors a better experience and much better value.

So on the day what do competition organisers do? Turn up and count the money? Unfortunately not. I have refereed at the competitions I organise from 9.30am to 5.30pm with only breaks to go to the toilet, while my instructor takes on the organisation role and sorts out any on the day bracket changes/weigh ins/absolute registration/recording of results etc, and also sorts out any other issues which arise on the day (quite often you get people ringing to say they are running late/can't find the venue). It's certainly not an easy day if you are an organiser and care about running the event properly.

Having said all that, sticking to a plan and putting in hard work should mean that the competition is a success. Things can go wrong, but most potential problems can be easily avoided with proper planning. But what if things do go wrong? The competition organiser has to take responsibility (although I have seen/heard many times when they don't "It wasn't out fault, the mats didn't turn up", "It wasn't our fault, the bracket sheets got lost" etc) and potentially refund entry fees. This could be especially costly to the organisers, which is something people don't consider when thinking of the money made from running the competition; risk and reward. A competition could end up costing money to run, that risk has to be balanced by the potential to make money (although greed is a different issue).

The work doesn't even stop when the last fight finishes. Then results have to be typed up and posted online (something which I think a lot of competitions should do much quicker), feedback has to be requested and acted on (although, again, a lot of organisers don't do this) and people may need to be contacted about things which happened at the competition. Then once that's all done it's on to booking the date for the next event and starting all over again!

So if you are looking to enter a competition and think it's expensive, consider what the competition offers for the entry price. Good competitions should have;
- repechage system
- good track record
- quick response to enquiries
- medical staff present
- knowledgeable referees

Some competitions will offer more; competitor t-shirts, custom medals etc, but I think the list above are the must-haves. If a competition can offer those things then, unless the entry fee is ridiculous, it should be seen as good value and I would highly recommend doing it.

I recommended competing in my last blog and now I'm recommending that you pick good competitions to enter. Do your research, ask your instructors/fellow students and invest your money wisely :)


  1. Thanks for posting this! I know that I start immediately emailing the coordinator about women competing! ^_^ For me, a good competition to enter is one where the entry fee is somewhat lower, and the organizer is responsive. Ones that are super tight lipped and inflexible are to be avoided, imo.

    One thing I *did* like about the IBJJF Aisa Open is that they posted who would be in which categories. It was great to be able to look and see immediately who was in my bracket. It also gave me the opportunity to facebook message one of the gals to let her know personally when I had to pull out of the tournament (conflicting flight).

    Heck, I'll even spend more money if the organizer seems really willing to be flexible about the women in the categories - need an extra woman in the nogi but I only signed up for gi, I'll do it. It helps earn a sense of loyalty, too. A sort of - you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

    1. As an organiser I always try to get people as many fights as possible, so for categories with smaller numbers (like women's divisions) I'll let them do multiple weights, guarantee an absolute division etc... :-)

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