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Apurva Seth, Head of Event Services - LOC - FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup India 2022 (Interview)

Our interview with Apurva Seth, who is also currently the Head of Event Services at LOC - AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022 - An experienced consultant with a demonstrated history of working with over 10 years of experience in the sports industry. Apurva is skilled in multiple areas like Sport Event Management, Corporate Communications and Market Research.

Q) You have worked across various sports throughout your career, but football has been your go-to game when it comes to choosing sports. So is it football that you are inclined to or how do you chose your projects when you have multiple options in your hand?


A) As you said I have worked on more projects in football, that specifically being because India got some good projects in football and I have been lucky enough to be a part of it. Other than football, I have worked in the Women's World Boxing Championships in Delhi in 2018 and also the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Yes, football is overall my favourite game but I am open to work in all Sports.

 

Q) You have done your M.Sc in International Sports Management from Northumbria University in the UK way back in 2011-12. At a time, when there were hardly any sports management colleges in India and when not many people knew about the Sports management courses, who or what was the motivating force that persuaded you to take sports as a career and pursue a Sports Management degree from abroad?


A) I started my sport management career way back in 2003 working in Motor Sports, and then I had not decided on which specialization I wanted to pursue my Masters. But with time, I kept on working in Sports and in 2008 I got to work in the Commonwealth Youth Games which then got me working for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

"After working for around 6 odd years in the Sports industry, I felt the need of pursuing my Masters in Sports Management and I looked around for courses abroad because India didn't have any known courses at that time, so I came across this International Sports Management course in the UK, applied for it and pursued it."

For me, it was an ideal career path as after working for 6 years in Sports, you can apply and relate to all the things that you study in your masters.

 

Q) So, how did the degree help you when you came back to India? Did it actually help you to get a better job and what were the key learning points from the course?


A) The degree on your CV definitely helps you when you apply for jobs in the industry. The sports management degree helps you to get a lot more exposure to the Sports industry. You come to know about the additional things or different fields inside the Sports industry. My experience was only with events when I went to pursue the course, but there I came to know about the different aspects or dimensions of the Sports industry, say managing a football club, broadcasting and many more. I got to work on 3 International Athletics Championships with England Athletics when I was there in the UK and I could relate how the events conducted abroad are different than those in India.

 

Q) So as you talked about your experience abroad in a few tournaments, can you elaborate on how the working culture is different in Europe than in India and touch upon the things that go on behind the scenes at both places?


A) My roles in India have always been different. I have worked across various roles which include logistics and transportation, protocols, government regulations and many more. In most of the tournaments in India, I have worked with the Local Organizing Committee where I have been involved from the planning stage till the execution and delivery of the event, while abroad I have had short stints. For example, I went as a freelancer for FIFA for two months and worked for the U-20 World Cup in Poland, where it was completely about the delivery and execution and not the planning phase. So, I haven't really got a chance to work abroad in the planning phase which I would love to, to know the different challenges that we have abroad and then can compare it with India.


Delivery of an event is always easier, because you have set objectives and deliverables, you just have to oversee and deliver. You can't change the work processes as they are already defined, but in a Local Organizing Committee you work from day one and face the day to day challenges, talk with local authorities and know their side of the story, so definitely its lot more challenging than just going and delivering an event. And for me, working in a project where I am involved right from its inception is much more exciting than just delivering the event.

 

Q) Talking about the role that you had taken up in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, the logistics and transportation part. We know the planning is always in place for every tournament, but somewhere or the other, something gets missed and things get messed up. Mostly in transportation, it is difficult to manage things in the last hour. So how do you manage things when some unwanted scenario arises during events? Also please do share any interesting incident that has happened with you during events in your entire career.


A) So, we always try and be prepared for the worst situation possible, but you can never guarantee what's going to happen. We always have contingency plans for certain things that might happen. Suppose in transportation, if there is a breakdown, then what's the best solution at that point of time. Of course, things are different in those specific situations and it needs to be seen how we handle them.


One incident that happened was during the U-17 World Cup in Guwahati, when we had a little issue over there and we had to change the semi-final venue overnight to Kolkata. Shifting the teams overnight when the teams were already in Guwahati was a huge logistical challenge. At that point, we got a chartered flight to take the teams and management staff so that the match could happen on time without any fail, and luckily everything happened as we planned at that moment. The pressure is really high during tournaments and while everything is planned beforehand, sometimes there are situations beyond your control and it goes out of place and you have to be ready to manage it at the first point with the best solution possible. So this is one of the biggest challenge that I have come across in my entire sports management career because changing a venue overnight is a humongous task but we as a team did manage to get it done on time.

 

Q) What would be your suggestions to those guys who are just starting in the sports industry and with so many colleges for sports management and education open in India now, how do you see India evolving in Sports Education?


A) Sports in India is still developing.

"Let's go 10 years back, there was only IPL and now almost every sport has a league of its own. So, with emergence of so many leagues and sport events, definitely there are jobs opening up in this field and will open up in the near future too."

Leagues like ISL, PKL, PBL, UTT and many others have evolved over the years and hopefully will continue to do so. But with this only being event-focused, league and team management, operations, etc., there are so many grassroots initiatives taken by different organizations or teams across sports. So, people just need to think which path they want to follow. The field is wide open with various dimensions, so you should always chose the work that you love to do. There are certain sports management courses that are doing well in India. You can take feedback from the ones who have already done it and then pursue it. AISTS, one of the best sports management courses is available in Mumbai now as well. That can definitely be a good thing for people who are looking at starting their sports management careers.


So, I still feel it's a small industry but the opportunities are immense. Youth sports has suffered in the past year but we all are waiting for the turnaround of that.

 

Q) The pandemic has hit the sports industry hard. With not much events happening right now, it has been difficult for newbies in the industry to get some work. It's been almost a year that many in this industry are still unemployed. Your suggestions to them.


A) Yes, it's difficult for the newbies to get work because of the limited jobs available in the sports industry because of the pandemic. All you can do is, if not a job, try for an internship or anything that is available. At this point, it's not an easy situation, so try and pursue whatever you get, it's always better than doing nothing. My suggestion would be to push for whatever is available. Or if at all you cannot wait that long, you can try and do whatever comes your way at least till things improve.

 

Q) Odisha being the venue for both the AFC Asian Women's Cup India 2022 and also the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, and it also being the sponsor of the Jr. Indian Football team, your take on the work that Odisha Government has been doing to promote sports.


A) As far as the events are concerned, they are doing a really nice job. They hosted the Asian Athletics Championship in 2017, and then the Hockey World Cup in 2018. They are also slated to host the 2023 Hockey World Cup and they are expanding their venue to another city which is also said to have the largest hockey stadium in the country. I look forward to seeing that. Talking about the infra they have put up is amazing and their support to all different sports has been immense. After the Hockey World Cup, AFC Asian Women's Cup and FIFA, I am sure there will be many more events coming up in the near future.

 

Q) Last question, the best project that you have worked on in your entire career and the best moment till date.


A) After working for so long in events, there is always one favorite moment from every sporting event.

"The first and last day of the event are always the best moments. When you kick off, you get a nice feeling that you are going to do it for the next few weeks and then on the last day you get the feeling that yes you have done this."

That feeling of accomplishment of delivering an International sports tournament is unmatched and is there for every sport event.

 

This interview was conducted by Sambit Mishra.

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