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Volume 7 No. 149
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Hangin' With ... EuroLeague Dir Of Business Operations Luca Scafati

Luca Scafati joined EuroLeague more than 10 years ago.
Photo: EuroLeague
Luca Scafati joined EuroLeague more than 10 years ago.
Photo: EuroLeague
Luca Scafati joined EuroLeague more than 10 years ago.
Photo: EuroLeague

LUCA SCAFATI is EuroLeague's director of business operations. After joining the organization in '08, he held several roles before being promoted to his current position in Sept. '17. One of the biggest projects with which he has been involved was the creation of the Business Operations & Club Services (BOCS) department, whose goal is to help EuroLeague clubs implement best business practices for sponsorship, ticketing and premium seating, among others. EuroLeague worked with G2 Strategic, which is led by former NBA Portland Trail Blazers President MARSHALL GLICKMAN, on the launch of BOCS, which is modeled after the NBA's Team Marketing & Business Operations (TMBO) department. Scafati spoke to SBD Global about year one of BOCS -- which is currently run by a staff of three, including Scafati -- and what to expect from it going forward.

On selling the program to EuroLeague clubs ...
Luca Scafati: You have to understand that sports in Europe are managed by federations. But our league, our company, is a private company. Being a private company, we need to take care of the business. In order to make our league competitive, we have to increase revenue, increase the business. One of the most important objectives is to create business. Being a private league, our clubs are the owners under this model -- it's kind of similar to Major League Soccer -- but it's not common in Europe. Because the clubs are the owners, the clubs push and want the league to help them to work in this direction. This is why it's easier for us to implement all these projects that have the objective of creating financial sustainability, which is the final objective. We want the clubs to be financially sustainable. We all know that as of today, even in European football, even though there is a lot of money around it, 90-95 percent of the clubs are not financially sustainable. They're still making losses at the end of the year. Through the creation and implementation of BOCS, we are sending a message that we want to make the clubs financially sustainable.

On increasing the number of employees focused on BOCS ...
Scafati: At EuroLeague, we have 65 people. We would love to get, sooner than later, the number that the NBA has. The NBA has 40-plus people working on TMBO, but 20 years ago, they started with one. We hope we can reach that number in the future if the program is successful. You have to understand that we are focused in this division, and we are also managing the ticket sales strategy of our main event, which is the Final Four. But obviously my department counts on the collaboration, help and support of all the other departments in the league. ... We are the reference for the clubs, so the clubs are in constant communication with us. 

On determining the success of the program ...
Scafati: Basically, we analyze the business performance of the clubs. We check it from one season to another to see how the numbers change. The good thing is, in the last couple of years, we have seen the growth in terms of ticket sales revenues, premium seating revenues and growth in terms of season-ticket holders. We see that most of the clubs are working in the right direction. Obviously, some clubs are moving faster and others need more time to get to the point, but this is how we measure.

On the challenges the program faced during its first year ...
Scafati: The first year was kind of a honeymoon, so I think it went quite well. I'm sure the challenges will come. The biggest challenge, I would say, is trying to change the culture and the mentality. For sports clubs in Europe, the mentality was always one of, "We have to win the games, we have to win the competition." But at the end, we have to be honest and say in our case, there's only one winner and 15 losers. ... Let's make money -- this is a concept [for sports organizations] that is not that present in some European cultures. One of the first challenges we have is to look at the best practices in the world of sports, mainly North American sports, where 65-70 percent of a team's employees are devoted to business. On our side of the pond, the club structures have more people working on the sports side and less on the business side.

On improving the gameday experience ...
Scafati: Next year, we are planning to work on gameday experience. We will add this third pillar [in addition to business planning and organizational structure]. We believe strongly that we have to make the arena experience the most attractive to get people to come to the arena. Fans do not come just for the game, but for other reasons. We know from research that people come to the arena because of social reasons, for business gatherings or as a family to spend a night out. We have to make our arenas places where people can gather. In order to do that, we have to create a product for the public. We have to be less dependent on the hardcore fans. We have to add the new public that come to the arena for other reasons.

Hangin' With runs every Friday in SBD Global.