Aviva Stadium by Martin Murphy

By February 21, 2013

Mr. Martin Murphy has been always linked to his beloved Aviva Stadium at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.  From 1995 to October 2007 he was the Director of Cooperate Affairs and Operations for the Irish Rugby Football Union.  In 2007 he was named Stadium Director of the Lansdowne Road Stadium or what today is well known as the AVIVA Stadium.

The AVIVA Stadium is the home of the Football Association of Ireland and the Irish Rugby Football Union, hosting all the international matches of national teams.

The AVIVA Stadium is also considered by UEFA as an Elite Stadium giving it the chance to be the host of the UEFA Europa League Final 2011. It is also a multipurpose venue, ready to host business conferences and concerts.

Mr. Martin Murphy has been deeply involved with ESSMA since the beginning; sharing his vast experience and knowledge in favour of the organization and its members. 


Which is your current position and how long have you been working at Aviva Stadium?

I’m the Stadium Director of AVIVA Stadium, also the Chief Executive of the company which runs the Stadium.  My role is briefly all aspects of the stadium, from the operational to the commercial success and in particular the delivery of safe and secure events.  We run around 20 events a year.  Apart from those events we also have conferences and business here.

Do you also organize concerts in AVIVA stadium?

Aviva Stadium is a multipurpose venue, our main activities are international rugby and international football as the stadium is owned by the Football Association of Ireland and the Irish Rugby Football Union.  In addition to does matches or field events, we also have concerts; concerts are an important part of our business.

How many employees do you have in your staff?

Between direct employees and outsourced functions there are 70 people working at the stadium.  The stadium itself was completed in May 2010; it was built in 3 years exactly including the demolition of the existing structure.  I was involved during the construction.  We had to recruit the entire staff and put all the structure and procedures in place.  This modern stadium replaces a quite old antiquated stadium that was only used occasionally and which now is a totally different venue.  On match days, for example; when Ireland played against England on the 10th of February in the RBS 6 Nations championship, we had 2.000 people working here over the weekend.

What is your day-by-day work?

As Chief Executive I work with the stadium board in developing our strategy and direction. I report our progress in sync with the strategy; I oversee the operations, the event planning, the conference and banqueting business, this all goes with the function.  I work very closely with my head of Finance to make sure the financial position is secure and that budgets and planning are all in place.

Which of your achievements will you like to share with our members?

I’m particularly proud of my role in the construction of the stadium, as it was delivered on time and on budget.  In a longer term, I’m proud about how the stadium functions; we have a very good team of people here.  We built a culture, which advocates flexibility, helpfulness and also continuous learning.  We are a very modern stadium but we need to ensure that we stay up there at the highest level, in terms of technology and customer service as our main focus, that´s our biggest challenge.

Martin Murphy Aviva StadiumYou mention technology, what are the most relevant aspects that AVIVA STADIUM can show?

Technology is a great tool and makes the business running easier.  We have access control, we have a CRM system, but it is about getting the information and the data needed to understand our customers.

In terms of technology as well, if you look back 10 years and analyze what our customers were looking for and compare that with 2013, today I think Wi-Fi is certainly one of the big challenges.

We are dealing with the Internet generation; people are very active on Social Media. 3G and 4G are fine, but they really want access to Wi-Fi, they want good service on that area.  Our stadium was built just before the proliferation of Wi-Fi, so that is one of the big challenges we have.  It is very fine to equip the stadium with Wi-Fi and to have it available, but there must be a Return on the Investment.  Also you have to question who should make the investment; Should it be the Stadium or should it be the service providers?

What is your perspective about Stadium Management in Europe? In Ireland?

Different jurisdictions have different legal arrangements.  Certain aspects of our business are common across the board; to provide a safe and secure experience for people, to provide a place where they can enjoy themselves in comfort and in a safe environment.  This is achieved in many ways depending on the jurisdiction, some countries are highly regulated and licensed, and others are operated on the basis of codes of practices and best standards.  The overall approach of our business, which is the entertainment business, is to deliver an entertainment package in good surroundings in a secured environment.

In Ireland there are two major stadia with fulltime staff. The big sport in Ireland is Gaelic games and is mainly a volunteer sport, so a lot of their venues are only operated on the part time bases.  We are not licensed in the same fashion as in the UK, but we apply the same standards. Some of our standards are higher in terms of the legislation for access and fire safety.  What we do is we look at the best practices and we implement them.

What are the biggest challenges for the Stadium Industry in Europe?

The biggest challenge is the state of the economies in each of the countries.  When people are deciding to spend their money to come to an event, the first thing they are looking for is an experience and that must be a positive experience, but they are also, in the current climate, looking for value for their money, that means we´ve got to tailor our offer to give them better value, to improve the experience.  There are other issues, which always have been there like crowd management and so on, but it depends on your intelligence and risk assessments how you manage those issues. 

Which current projects are you running and like to share with our members?

Sustainability is a constant; becoming more efficient from the point of view of utility use and consumption.  A stadium by its nature is a very big building and can be very hungry for utilities. So power consumption is a big issue, obviously it is also a significant expensive.  We are very focused on sustainability and from the financial point of view in driving down our utility consumption and being efficient. 

How many years have you been active in ESSMA?

I have been active since ESSMA was founded, from the very start, through my involvement with the Irish Rugby Football Union.  I operated the old stadium at Lansdowne Road which was owned exclusively by the IRFU as part of my role.  It was a very simple basic stadium. 

What is the added value of ESSMA for you?

The value of ESSMA is the fact that you have a network of specialists who can engage, talk to each other about particular aspects or possible problems you have with your venue.  I think the exchange of information through ESSMA is the Key.  Certainly when we were planning the design of our stadium, interacting with other stadium managers was very important and we certainly learnt a lot.  It resulted in having a more efficient stadium because of that interaction and because of things we had discovered through discussions and visiting other venues. 

Can you give us one advice for our Stadium Managers? Which skills do you think are important for future Stadium Managers?

The stadium business is a business, which is the most important aspect.  We are very lucky to work in an area where there is sport and entertainment but at the end of the day it is a business.  What we are looking for are people with business skills so they can apply the basic business fundamentals to what we do on a daily bases.  Obviously there is a very strong and important operational aspect, but business also involves customer services, which is very important.  It is essential to be conscious of the market that you are operating in and the business environment.  All of those aspects that would be normal in any business, certainly apply to our industry.  The industry also needs specialists in the area of Health and Safety, Operations and Event Management.

Are you involved in other kind of organizations such as ESSMA?

Yes, the Stadium Managers Associations in the United States, the Institute of Directors, domestic business organizations such as the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations in Ireland.

What should ESSMA do to develop further in the future?

There is a proliferation of organizations at the moment especially in the sports business space. ESSMA needs to stand out as THE organization that is the voice of STADIA Management. Alliances with other organizations are very important as well, such as UEFA, FIFA and the International Rugby Board.  There is a role for ESSMA to advertise itself and to get its name out to those organizations, and to work in association with them.  A lot of those organizations are doing very good work in the area of Stadium Management and in the area of Safety and Security.  ESSMA needs to arrange that stadia managers and people in the Stadium business have access to that valuable knowledge, rather than reinventing the wheel and maybe trying to create resources on its own.  There is a lot of work and information out there, the International Center for Sports Security for example, organizations like that are very valuable.  ESSMA could be the link between the Stadium Management and them.  

Thank you very much for your insights ...


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