In 2017, the National Football League (NFL) and the Ministry of Tourism signed a contract in which they agreed to play a regular season game every year in Mexico until 2021, at the Estadio Azteca.
Just a few days before the NFL game of 2018, which would be the second party derived from the aforementioned contract, the Azteca Stadium hosted two massive musical events, as well as the routine soccer games that are held weekly. To these events were added the fall of heavy rains in the capital of the country, causing damage to the lawn of the stadium. A new hybrid lawn had recently been installed in the Azteca field, which could not be repaired for the NFL game.
The demand in Mexico for NFL events has had a sustained increase since 1978, when the first exhibition game was played in Mexico. Currently, it is ranked as the third most popular sport in television in our country. According to El Economista, the NFL audience increases 10% annually. It is estimated that in Mexico there are more than 24 million fans, which places us as the second country with more fans, only after the United States. Also, Mexico City ranks as the seventh city with the most NFL followers (the first six are in the United States).
As if that were not enough, the record of attendees of an NFL game was given in the exhibition game in Mexico in 1994. In 2005, the NFL brought the first official game of season outside the United States where, once again , the attendance record broke. This shows the relevance of the Mexican market for American football and why it is in the interest of the NFL to do business in the country.
On the other hand, we must take into account that the reputation of a country can benefit from the organization of massive events of international stature, whether they are music festivals, Olympic games, world football or NFL games. One of the differences between developed and developing countries is -justly- the capacity and resources to successfully organize events of such magnitude.
In the case of the Estadio Azteca, there were indications that turf could be a problem long before the musical events took place. At least since last August, notes in different media (for example, this article by Gustavo Calderón in El Universal) gave an account of how damaged the lawn was. At least three months before the scheduled date for the NFL game. Even so, it was allowed to continue using the field for events that could further damage the hybrid turf.
After the NFL officially canceled the game for the state of the turf, the Tourism Ministry estimated the losses at 300 MDD. Recall that Mexico will be under the scrutiny of international media for the return of the Formula 1 Grand Prix and the organization of the World Cup in 2026. Therefore, the deficiencies of the Azteca Stadium not only damage the stadium itself, but could impact in Mexico’s reputation for hosting international events that leave significant economic spillovers.
Without a doubt, there was bad risk management. In the first place, it was decided to change the turf at Estadio Azteca to a hybrid one since it represents better technology and currently occupies some of the best stadiums in the world such as Wembley, Juventus, Estadio Único de la Plata, Athletic Club of Bilbao, among others. However, this type of grass needs at least 15 days of rest to take hold on the ground. In the Azteca, the regular season games of Liga MX began the day after their placement.
The placement of hybrid grass is estimated to cost between six and eight MDP, and the losses for expediting its use amount to 300 MDD. Risk management involves making decision makers, from any hierarchical position in the organization, aware of possible damage to their assets and interests. Undoubtedly, there was negligence in the performance of the directors of the Azteca Stadium, but the most important damage is not taken by them, but by the reputation of the country brand.
Currently, the news in the media about the lawn of the stadium revolves around the fact that the same hybrid grass that originated the damage is being reinstalled, in a critical manner. Thus, an effective communication containing the crisis in the reputation of the Azteca Stadium has not been carried out.
At Riesgos Políticos, SC, we can help your company establish effective mechanisms for risk management and crisis management. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .