‘Best ever’ SportAccord boosts Birmingham & the West Midlands’ bold sporting ambitions

WMGC Chief Exec, Neil Rami

Exactly one month on, Neil Rami, Chief Executive of the West Midlands Growth Company, reflects on the region hosting the world’s premier summit for sports leaders and decision-makers. 

Barely 24 hours into Birmingham and the West Midlands hosting of SportAccord, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach staged an impromptu walkabout of the exhibition hall and congratulated us on a fantastic event.

It was this praise at the start of the summit from arguably the most powerful man in international sport and global affairs, which showed that the decision to bring SportAccord to our region was the correct and natural next step from the success of the UK’s most popular Commonwealth Games in 2022.

Bach’s endorsement would later be echoed by high-profile delegates, including SportAccord President Prof Dr Uğur Erdener and outgoing Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) President Francesco Ricci Bitti, who both proclaimed the 2024 edition as the ‘best SportAccord to date’.

Effectively the ‘Davos of Sport’ or the ‘Olympics for sporting event organisers’, with more than 1,700 international attendees from 125 global sporting federations, SportAccord provided the West Midlands with an invaluable opportunity to further showcase our bold ambitions as a major sporting events host.

Supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Major Events Fund, this was only the second time the UK had hosted the prestigious summit in its 20-year history.

We were determined to position the West Midlands as the heart of sport in the UK, and an optimum host for business events.

The Commonwealth Games two years ago was our postcard to the world. This event – hosted at the ICC – reinforced our credentials as the perfect global sporting hub and backdrop to those who shape the future of sport.

We showed delegates that we can provide sport and its federations with access to fans at unprecedented proximity and scale.

We reinforced how major aspects of the global sporting movement began here. From rugby to lawn tennis, to the first football league; it started in the West Midlands.

We highlighted our transport connectivity by road, rail and air, and our world-class sporting infrastructure, with settings such as Edgbaston Stadium and The Belfry – host to more Ryder Cup tournaments than anywhere else in the world – set for multi-million-pound developments.

Crucially, we forged and strengthened relationships with our global sporting guests, identifying real opportunities to collaborate on hosting new, exciting and innovative major events, which match our ambition and values. Constructive meetings with federations and rights-holders, including both Olympic and non-Olympic sports, could see us add to a pipeline of events, which already includes the first Kabaddi World Cup outside Asia next March, the 2026 European Athletics Championships and the 2026 IWG Conference on Women & Sport.

Significant, agenda-setting announcements made during the summit included the news that the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games contributed £1.2 billion to the UK economy, with nearly half of that in the West Midlands alone.

It was particularly pleasing – following months of support to Birmingham City FC chairman Tom Wagner – to be able to reveal Knighthead Capital’s purchase of the 48-acre former Wheels site on Bordesley Park during the summit. The news highlights the region’s huge sporting ambitions and a commitment to delivering a globally recognisable sporting and entertainment location, featuring a new, world-class stadium, within walking distance of Birmingham city centre.

Like Birmingham 2022, SportAccord was a great, collaborative effort between stakeholders such as DCMS, DBT, UK Sport, the WMCA and Birmingham City Council; and a team of more than 120 volunteers, who performed their duties with the same energy and enthusiasm that lit up the Commonwealth Games two years ago.

The West Midlands is open for business. We are accessible, affordable and approachable with the venues, infrastructure and sporting history to ensure an outstanding, all-round offer for the international sporting federations who have been persuaded to come back to the West Midlands with their event in future.

To coin a sporting phrase, it is very much a marathon not a sprint. The region’s position as the heart of sport has enormous potential; this is only the start of our sporting race.

We know that the SportAccord effect will live on beyond five fantastic days in April 2024, and that the West Midlands has successfully emerged as a distinguished global leader in sport, with a bright sporting future.