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No Bid? IAAF's Stance Might Be the Starting Gun for the Future

22 Feb, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

When the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) made the announcement that it was about to ditch its long-standing bid process for sports events, the reaction from the world of sports business was pretty much the same as a track and field athlete suddenly faced with a 100-foot-high hurdle: a dead stop and a slack-jawed stare.

What the…what?

But the IAAF was firm in its assertion: it was moving from a competitive bid process to a method of awarding events through use of targeted recruitment partnerships between itself and specific cities.

According to an article in Inside The Games, the plan, proposed by IAAF President Sebastian Coe is due to come into operation for the awarding of all IAAF World Athletics Series events after 2021.

It will create hosts better tailor-made to each event, says the governing body.

“Council approved a proposal made by Sebastian Coe to no longer continue with the formal bidding process by which the IAAF has traditionally attracted applications to host IAAF World Athletics Series competitions, including the IAAF World Championships,” a statement explained. “In future, the IAAF will now assess the strategic goals for growing the sport in relation to each IAAF competition, targeting cities from countries and regions which will best assist the delivery of those aims. The aim is to create a true partnership matching the hopes and ambitions of potential hosts with those of the IAAF. The new selection process will commence with the awarding of IAAF World Athletics Series events after 2021; until then the established bidding process will continue.”

This marks the latest attempt to react to the growing difficulty in many Western countries to justify bidding for major events.

It hasn’t helped that allegations of corrupt bid/award practices have surfaced, casting aspersion on many events, such as the FIFA World Cup. And as cities increasingly begin to back away from bidding on large events such as the Olympics, the lack of a bid process may become more popular as an inducement. In fact, it is already growing at everything from the local level upward.

Already, Broward County in Florida has noted its preliminary agreement to a ‘no-bid’ stance for events awarded to its cricket stadium, according to an article in the local Sun-Sentinel. The article notes “the park is already reserved for 209 dates this year, Parks Director Dan West said in a February 3 memo, and is one of Broward’s top money makers. The vast, 110-acre park has practice fields, a stadium, a water park, a library and a performing arts center.”

Other municipalities have elected to forego bidding in other aspects of sports venues and events; in fall 2016, the Montana Standard noted that a county-appointed committee was considering an alternative, no-bid method of choosing a primary contractor to oversee construction of the planned $8.7-million Stodden Park pool (this announcement came even though a top official said the project would go to bid). And the previous year, in Middleton, Massachusetts, a high school sports complex went to construction with contractors, subcontractors and more in place – without a bid process, according to an article in The Salem News.

Moving forward without a bid process is a revolutionary idea – or is it?

BidNet, an online publication dealing with governmental contracts going out to bid, published an article, entitled, “How No-Bid Contracts are Interfering with Competitive Bidding.”  The article claimed such contracts led to ‘wasteful or inefficient use of government funds,’ noted there had been various governmental crackdowns on no-bid contracts, and stated in conclusion that the competitive bidding process was still alive and well.

“Getting involved with competitive bidding is a great opportunity for vendors to become known and introduce their company to potential customers; it also allows vendors who are new to the public sector to promote their brand and build relationships,” the article noted. “Sole source contracts aside, there are still plenty of opportunities available that give vendors a fair shot at winning a government contract and the chance to grow their business within the public sector.”

But the case for no-bid contracts also has been made soundly by many owners. Gilbert Aranza, CEO of Star Concessions at Dallas Love Field, for example, noted in the Dallas Business Journal that when the city was waffling on whether to extend Star’s contract, or put the matter out for bid, that it would be derailing an arrangement that had consistently met with approval from the public as well as from city officials.

“There is no valid concern the city is not receiving a great deal,” Aranza noted.

According to the article in Inside The Games, it might not be the process itself that causes the challenge,

Finding a way to maintain transparency is seen as a key challenge,” the article states.

IAAF notes that discussions could take place between representatives from both the destination and the governing body, after which the IAAF could rule a city might be best suited to a particular event, such as the IAAF World Indoor Championships or an age group event.

Every outdoor edition of the IAAF World Championships has already been awarded up to 2021, meaning the 2023 edition is the earliest which could benefit from these changes. Other earlier events such as the 2022 IAAF World Indoor Championships will also be affected. And Eugene, Oregon, had already been awarded the 2021 outdoor event in 2015 without a bidding process.

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