Ullevaal Stadium (Oslo, Norway) by Kjell Borgersen

By June 03, 2014
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The Ullevaal Stadium in Oslo (Norway) is the home to both the Norwegian national football team and Valerenga IF. We interviewed Kjell Borgersen, Stadium Manager at the stadium to ask about the challenges of managing such a stadium. Ullevaal Stadium is a member of ESSMA thanks to the League Membership of Norsk Toppfotball.

Can you please introduce yourself to the ESSMA members?

I started my professional career as a sports journalist/editor for a local newspaper. Between 1987 and 2003 I worked for the Norwegian FA as the head of the information department. Since 2003 I have been working for the Ullevaal Stadium. I started out by building up the football museum in the stadium for one year. Then I started working as a stadium manager. I also work as a Media Officer for UEFA.
 

Stadium

What are your responsibilities at the stadium and how is your staff organized?

The stadium is owned by the Norwegian FA, but we, the Ullevaal Stadium, are running it independently. Valerenga IF rents the stadium for their home games, both league and cup games.

My job is to organize all activities on the pitch and the grandstands. I am in charge of all the logistics and safety issues. I also take care of the cooperation between the stadium-clients (national team, club and concerts). My staff is composed of seven people that are working full-time.
 

On match days, how many staff members do you employ in and around the stadium?

We have a “split organization” depending on the team that is playing. For example, if the Norwegian national team is playing, it means that the Norwegian FA is covering the service with their employees, together with the stadium’s staff. During a full-house game there are 400 to 500 (200 volunteers) people working. During a normal league match there are circa 200 to 300 people (100 volunteers) working.
 

Are there other events/activities organized than football games?

Our VIP area, Ullevaal Stadion Business Class (UBC), which on non matchdays is turned into a conference center, is very popular. So we cooperate a lot with them in organizing the conferences or events. During summertime, we also host one concert per year on average.


Vision on the industry
 

What were the biggest challenges at the Ullevaal stadium and how did you overcome them?

We have a lot of self-dependent staff members who are part of the organization. The only way to succeed is if we work together for 100%. That’s how I started, and to this day it’s still my biggest challenge. Since there will be discussions about expenses, responsibilities, etc.., I see it as my job to find the best solution for both organizations. 


Is there something that you would do differently?

In an ideal world where we would have ‘enough’ money, I would like to fill all the jobs we have with professionals. The advantage would be that you could build a different kind of trust relationship; it allows you to raise the bar. Eventually, the organization would be pushed to a higher level.
 

What are examples of projects you would like to accomplish in the future?

We have just finished the work of expanding the stadium. We have increased the capacity with 3000 seats and provided more V.I.P and conference rooms.

I think that the next challenge for stadiums, and everybody who is involved in the entertaining business, is the use of technology. With the upcoming popularity and versatility of the smartphones and tablets it would be useful to give it a place in the stadiums. The possibilities to get information and/or watch videos of the game in the stadium can increase/contribute to ‘fan experience’. We are working very hard on this topic with a couple of companies.
 

Which skills are the most important to take up the role of stadium manager?

For me it is to work for the spectators. The entertainment comes from both teams that are playing on the pitch. It’s up to me that the people visiting the stadium feel safe and have a great experience, so that they are willing to come back the next time.
 

Can you give some good advice to the industry?

From my own experience, I know that it’s not easy to run a national stadium that is also used by clubs, because you have to merge two organizations into one. If there are people struggling with this issue, we would like to discuss the issues and give them proper advice.

Because of our climate we have very tough winters in Norway. We have to pay extra attention to the maintenance of the pitch, so that the pitch is always on top-level. In that regard we work with the Company MLR which supplies rigs for artficial lightning of the gras as one of our trusted suppliers. I’m convinced that the way of thinking and the solutions we provide can be very useful for Scandinavian and European countries with tough winters.
 

ESSMA

On which specific topics can ESSMA help/advise you?

I think ESSMA can help us with processing information and assisting us in establishing relationships with countries that have a national stadium. The demands, issues and the ways of thinking of national stadiums are in some ways different than club stadiums. We can share knowledge and give each other advice in topics we’re both familiar with.

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ESSMA

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.