Second ESSMA Summit welcomed over 300 participants in Bilbao

By February 08, 2016

The ESSMA Summit took place from 19-20 January in San Mamés stadium Bilbao, with 305 participants from 29 countries around the world. 

Day 1

The second ESSMA Summit opened on Tuesday January 19th with a warm welcome by Josu Urrutia (President of Athletic Club) honouring ESSMA for choosing San Mamés as hosting venue. “I would like to welcome everyone to our stadium, which I hope you leave happy after these 2 days. I hope you feel very comfortable with us",  said the chief executive of the Athletic Club. The mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto, also expressed his satisfaction: "I hope you enjoy the stadium, the city and the people. It is an honour to have this event in San Mamés stadium".

Additionally, Alfredo Lorenzo -Security Director of LaLiga- stated that “LaLiga is very happy to support ESSMA and to host everyone in Bilbao. The transformation of football required us to take responsibility to offer the best product and San Mamés is a great example.” Finally Mr John Beattie -ESSMA President- opened the 2nd ESSMA Summit officially, and expressed his satisfaction about the growth of the association in the last years ending with a memorable minute of applause of all the participants in honour of former Board Member Xavier Daniel who passed away early January 2016.

The ESSMA Summit kicked off with an overview of the association updates & growth presented by ESSMA Managing Director Dimitri Huygen.

LaLiga is very happy to support ESSMA and to host everyone in Bilbao. The transformation of football required us to take responsibility to offer the best product and San Mamés is a great example. - Alfredo Lorenzo (Security Director of La Liga)

Borja Gonzalez, who is the Director of Operations and Business Development at San Mamés Stadium, presented the unique character & philosophy of the Basque club. The presentation highlighted the construction process & preparation of the new stadium. It was interesting to learn about how the new stadium turned into an icon for the city and how the club transferred the old Athletic Club traditions to the new San Mamés stadium.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the second keynote presentation focused on how the attacks and threats impact stadium and security management. During a panel discussion with the following panelists:

  • Alfredo Lorenzo - Security Director LaLiga)
  • John Beattie - ESSMA President and Stadium Director Emirates Stadium Arsenal FC)
  • Helmut Spahn - Director General of the ICSS
  • Richard Barnes - Protective Security Operations London Police 

participated and shared their insights on the impact of the terrorist threats on shorter and longer term, the specific measures that would be implemented and how clubs could react.

This session was followed by a presentation of Ken Scott -SGSA Inspector- who presented SGSA’s Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds. Ken explained how ESSMA members can contribute to this important document for our industry.

After the break, Dirk Lubbers -Manager of the Heineken Experience- presented the Heineken strategy on how to attract more visitors to the Heineken Experience and to what this increase resulted. The Heineken Experience witnesses an impressive growth in attendance, visitor satisfaction and profitability. This presentation gave stadium managers an idea how an experience are created and how certain ideas can be transferred to the stadium business.

Last but certainly not least, keynote speaker Chris Wyche -Executive Vice President for Operations for the Club and General Manager of Sporting Park- explained how the fan experience at Sporting Kansas City resulted in a larger fan base and higher revenues. During this presentation, it became clear that the new stadium was an important building block of this turnaround and it turned the club from 'worst to first'. A truly inspiring presentation with new ideas for all stadium professionals present.

The last keynote session was followed by the first-ever stadium tours held in San Mamés. With such a large attendance list, the group had to be split up in eight. This ensured good networking and the possibility to ask questions during the tour. It was good to see how the club & architects integrated so many elements of the city, old traditions and values into the new stadium. One specific example are the doors of the skyboxes, referring to the Bilbao port (in the late 19th century Bilbao was a leading port of an important industrial area with iron mines and shipyards nearby) that also brought them football by British steel and shipyard workers.

The last stopping point was the networking area where a cocktail reception took place with drinks and food aplenty.  Pintxos -small snacks that are traditional in northern Spain and especially popular in the Basque country- pleased the participants during this closing networking opportunity. This was the ideal closing activity after the first day to exchange information, knowledge and thoughts.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ESSMA Summit: this annual event is the most relevant industry event and it is now an annual commitment from me to make sure I attend.
Neil Theuma (Head of Venue Facilities @ RFU/Twickenham)

Day 2

On the second day of the ESSMA Summit, 4 simultaneous workshops were organised, focusing on the following expert areas:

  • Fan Entertainment (click to read a summary of the presentations)
      1. Viking Fotball - Fan interaction, engagement & connectivity
      2. Valencia CF - The Stop-Start story of Valencia CF's new stadium development
      3. Pro League Belgium - How to attract more fans to the stadium
  • Operations & Hospitality (click to read a summary of the presentations)
      1. FC Copenhagen - Non-match day revenue at Telia Parken
      2. Paris Saint-Germain - Building a new operating framework to set loyalty & boost match day revenues
      3. RFU/Twickenham - Setting new standards in the sign of the Rugby World Cup 2015
  • Safety, Security & Sustainability (click to read a summary of the presentations)
      1. Panel discussion on sustainability
      2. Legia Warsaw - Fan management from a security perspective
      3. Maccabi Haifa FC - How to integrate security design into stadium development
  • Pitch & Facility Management (click to read a summary of the presentations)
      1. Panel discussion on cost-efficient pitch management 
      2. Brondby IF - Multi use stadia, pitch solutions & renovations
      3. St. George's Park - The growing importance of training centers in the development of football

Click the topics (in bold) in order to read the summary of the specific workshops. Through these pages you can visit our ESSMA member section, where the presentations are available for download.

After the last workshop session, the official event was closed with a networking lunch. Additionally, the city of Bilbao offered a guided tour in the city center and museum tickets for the Guggenheim museum were offered by Athletic Club.


Thank you words

  • We would like to thank our hosting venue and the staff of Athletic Club for providing wonderful hospitality. We believe all the people who participated felt very welcome and that everyone had a wonderful time in Bilbao
  • We are very grateful to LaLiga who took a prominent role in supporting the ESSMA Summit, affirmed by more than 70 Spanish participants present
  • To the city of Bilbao in providing logistical support and for the guided city tour
  • Many thanks to all the speakers involved in this edition
  • ESSMA Summit Event Partners ECA, EPFL & the ICSS for their advice & input in the ESSMA Summit program committee
  • Big thumbs up to all the participants present for sharing ideas, knowledge & thoughts and making this edition such a success
  • Huge thanks to the ESSMA Summit sponsors Bosch, Get2Know, Natural Grass, iXpole, Daplast, Bowcraft, SGL, Terraplas, STRI, Campey Imants & Desso Sports Systems

The next ESSMA Summit edition will take place in the brand new Parc Olympique Lyonnais (Lyon, France) from 17 to 18 January 2017!
We hope to welcome you all in Lyon next year!



ESSMA Summit presentations are available for download on the ESSMA member section (knowledge database). Click here to be redirected to the member section. Lost your login/password? Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for this matter.



ESSMA offers a platform to stadium professionals where they can share, learn and discuss topics related to ESSMA’s areas of expertise: Stadium Development, Operations & Ticketing, Sustainability & SMART, Safety & Security, Fan Experience & Hospitality and Pitch Management.