The premiumisation of sport, both for participants and spectators, seems to have no end in sight. To what do you attribute this renewed focus on luxury and how has it impacted Match Hospitality?

We’ve been developing our Hospitality offering over the last 15 years and have brought with us thousands of fans with whom we’ve shared unforgettable moments at the world’s greatest sporting events. As the client base has evolved, so have we. There is a growing appetite for unique experiences and the intangible - and for immaculate delivery. With each event, we grow and learn and push to continue raising the bar, in line with the expectations of our guests.

Hospitality at major sporting events has never been so competitive. How do you stand out from the crowd?

Our services are tried, tested and trusted. Experience cannot be underestimated when it comes to delivering exceptional sporting experiences on a global scale. The nature of our international business makes us very competent in serving a diverse client base. Whilst there is always a market for top-tier hospitality products, we have always endeavoured to provide a Hospitality product that speaks to every fan and an aspirational entry level experience. Aside from in-stadium Hospitality we have a history dating back to the FIFA World Cup in Mexico in 1986 and have since provided a range of services from accommodation and ticketing to transport services - our clients can expect a full service from us.

Kimberley Byrom on the future of corporate hospitality

Are you seeing a change in your demographic at a typical Match Hospitality event?

We’ve been very pleased to see families attending our events and enjoying a shared experience. We cater to all ages ensuring there is entertainment off the pitch or track to keep everyone engaged and ensure memorable experiences that delight every attendee within a comfortable environment that caters to every individual need. At Silverstone for example, we propose The Racing Green as an ideal Official Hospitality product for families within a casual environment with entertainment appreciated by children such as face painting, bubble artists, car displays, musicians and an amazing street food offering. In Qatar during the recent AFC Asian Cup we had Arabic calligraphy, henna tattoo artists and 360 photo installations – plus we welcomed the Official Mascots into our lounges which entertained the young and not so young! What has traditionally been understood as 'corporate hospitality' is simply not so corporate any more. There is much more balance between the business clients and leisure purchases. As the experience economy has grown, people are increasingly willing to invest in those 'never to be forgotten' or ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences.

Much was made about the fan experience at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. How was the Match Hospitality experience received and, on reflection, would you do anything differently?

Our experience was of an exceptional FIFA World Cup that firmly positioned Qatar as a world-class destination for travel, tourism and sports events. From the stadiums to the fan zones to the hotels, the execution of the event was seamless and we are very proud of our involvement in delivering a sell-out Official Hospitality programme that enriched an international fan base with momentous moments.

The success of Drive to Survive has powered increased interest in F1 and has helped connect new fans to the personalities that charge the sport

The Silverstone F1 Grand Prix is a key touchpoint for Match Hospitality. How has the event grown in recent years?

We have developed the hospitality offering at Silverstone over the last 4 years into the largest hospitality operation in Formula 1®. We have taken it from a basic two marquee set up to a comprehensively tiered Hospitality proposition, from al-fresco environments to luxury bespoke designed lounges, along with a number of private spaces for large corporate clients. We offer 8 different Official Hospitality environments catering to a variety of customer desires and expectations meaning that we have a product for every F1 fan.

The success of Drive to Survive has powered increased interest in F1 and has helped connect new fans to the personalities that charge the sport. The desire to experience major events has grown year on year – sports tourism is providing a channel for host nations and cities to capitalise on event attendance with fringe events and engagements, plus collaboration and merchandising opportunities.

We have been able to reach a traditional General Admission audience looking for a more comfortable outdoor experience with artisanal food trucks, DJs, simulators and undercover seating, all with phenomenal views of the race track, while pricing it at a level that captures an aspirational fan, such as our Trackside experience. At the upper end of the pyramid, we have created bespoke structures that house the Fusion Lounge and Ignition Club where we showcase the highest quality cuisine with live chef cooking stations, luxurious interiors, industry expert comperes and live entertainment, alongside incredible track vantage points and outdoor terraces.

We have presented the greatest opportunity to attend the largest sporting event in the UK within an Official Hospitality environment, and in turn we have almost quadrupled the volume of packages sold to date, reaching over 93,000, equating to an expected attendance in Official Hospitality of over 25,000 race goers.

If you were to rank the three most important hospitality events in the sporting calendar, what would they be and why?

The FIFA World Cup is an event that truly inspires generations and carries with it enormous passion and emotion globally - there is no greater prize than hosting a World Cup and the legacy of the event can have an incredible impact. F1 provides a thrilling race calendar with the aspect of a global tour which engages and involves fanatics from across continents - interest in the sport is enjoying a renaissance. The Olympics offers the diversity of a multi-sport event hosted by a singular host city that brings a unique celebration of sport, as we enjoyed here in London back in 2012.

Take us inside the idea’s room for an event. Tell us how negotiations work with a sporting venue, what are the obstacles you face and to what extent are you given free rein to come up with exciting and whacky concepts?

Each stadium and venue is unique – we have to work within a shared conceptual framework that is applied across venues for consistency but adapt to the specifications of a variety of suites and lounges and operational constraints.

Over the years we have endeavoured to raise the bar in terms of what can be delivered inside a stadium - haute cuisine is not confined to Michelin starred restaurants, what we deliver in our top product categories is an exceptional dining experience. We always focus on pushing the boundaries of innovation working with the space limitations we are often faced with and always adopt a positive 'can do' approach with venues; we have left significant legacy in terms of hospitality infrastructure, such as the case at the FIFA World Cup 2022 Final venue in Qatar where we installed a working kitchen capable of accommodating a 2 Michelin starred chef.

At times the in-stadium facilities cannot meet the client demand that we have so we have constructed temporary Hospitality areas outside the stadiums to cater to an entry level Hospitality fan - these spaces allow us the opportunity to create diverse and dynamic entertainment environments with DJs and musicians, amongst other highlights.

Over the years we have endeavoured to raise the bar in terms of what can be delivered inside a stadium

There are some sports fans who may look at the cost of an average Match Hospitality event and question the value for money. What would your response be to the doubters?

It is clear that there is a full spectrum of sports hospitality customers – at the top end there is less price sensitivity and a desire for exclusivity and VIP services. At the entry level, fans that are new Hospitality guests appreciate the ease that Hospitality provides in terms of stadium access and all-inclusive catering. These are ticket inclusive packages that guarantee an entry level fan the security of a category 1 stadium seat with the added prestige of Hospitality. Benefits such as dedicated entry gates, expedited traffic lanes and site parking are valuable benefits when considering your experience attending a sport event.

If you were to make one prediction about the future of commercial hospitality, what would it be?

The rise of sports tourism is evident. Greater innovations in fan engagement and enhanced experiences will become the differentiating measure in Hospitality proposals to capture a fan with increasing expectations. Innovation in the realms of in-suite and lounge environment alongside elevated food and drink offerings will aide fan acquisition and loyalty with an increased expectation for VIP, concierge and bespoke services, during and around match or race times. Advancements in technology and the development of virtual experiences may see fans of the future engaging in Hospitality experiences from the comfort of their living room or any far flung location. Without a doubt, General Admission will always exist but with a broadly tiered Hospitality offering you can appeal to those on smaller budgets to spend a bit more to get an enhanced event experience all round.

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