More than 600 participants from 25 countries, 340 companies & 65 speakers at Front Runners 5.0
The biggest conference in Greece focusing on sports, sustainability, the role of women in sports and sports tourism, “Front Runners in Sports Management 5.0”, was successfully organized for the 5th year, by the Sports Management Program and Sports Management Student Society of Deree – The American College of Greece, with the Center of Excellence in Food, Tourism & Leisure, The American College of Greece and the multi-award winner ActiveMedia Group on Thursday, December 7, Friday, December 8, and Saturday, December 9, 2023 at Deree – The American College of Greece.
More than 65 eminent speakers, 35% of whom were women, met at the Front Runners 5.0 with more than 600 participants from 25 different countries and more than 340 companies, related to the sports industry and watched the latest developments in the field of sports tourism, sustainability, and the sports industry.
The conference started with a video message from the Greek Minister of Tourism, Mrs. Olga Kefalogianni who stated among other things:
“Tourism and Sports are two areas that mobilize hundreds of millions of people around the world”.
“We envision Greece evolving into a hub for international sports events attracting athletes and fans from around the world and further establishing its position as a premier destination for sports enthusiasts”.
The Secretary General of Sport, Mr. George Mavrotas stated: “Sport is not only about medals, titles, cups. Sport is much more than this. It is a social platform and while in the past it was mostly a tool of dominance and superiority for the nations now it has become a platform, a tool for inclusion, for integration, for respect, for solidarity, and this is essentially the actual power of sport”.
The President of the Greek National Tourism Organization, Mrs. Angela Gerekou highlighted: “Our country, the birthland of the Sports Ideal, of the Olympic Ideal, satisfies all the requirements needed for hosting top sporting events but also high-level conferences of similar substance”.
The Vice President of the International Olympic Academy and member of the International Tennis Federation Olympic Committee, Mr. Spyros Zannias mentioned: “Founded on the pillars of education and dissemination of Olympic values, the International Olympic Academy has been instrumental in cultivating a global community devoted to promoting the ideological and educational dimension of the Olympic movement. The values of respect, friendship, excellence, and fair play extend far beyond the sports arena and should resonate deeply in the corridors of sports management”.
The Director of the International Olympic Academy, Mr. Makis Asimakopoulos highlighted: “Olympism is not only about the Olympic Games but also about the way of living. A lifestyle that our values are in the center of everything in order to lead to a better world”.
“Empower the sports industry with the knowledge and networking needed in order to cope with the challenges of today’s world. Let’s work together for a better world, a better sports industry, a better Olympic Movement”.
The Vice President for Academic Affairs, Deree – The American College of Greece, Professor of Education and Philosophy, Honorary Professor of Education, Macquarie University, Australia, Dr. Panos Vlachopoulos stated: “This year is a very important year for us, as we celebrate 100 years of continuous existence in Greece. So, we are very happy that we are hosting this event. Our commitment to excellence extends beyond the classroom activity that we do as a college. We have around, at the time, 4.500 undergraduate students in over 40 different majors from 65 different countries. More than 1.000 students from public Greek universities and students from the United States of America”.
On Thursday, December 7, 2023, the only research carried out on Sports Tourism in Greece in the last three years with the support of Deree – The American College of Greece was presented. In the last three years, surveys have been conducted at Zagori, for Zagori Mountain Running, at Costa Navarino for Navarino Challenge, at Pefki for the Authentic Marathon Swim, at Santorini for Santorini Experience and at Syros for the Stoiximan AegeanBall Festival.
According to the research presented, sports tourism events are more than just a weekend, for example in Syros the visitors stayed on the island for 4 nights on average. At the same time, it was emphasized that we require high-profile tourists and in Santorini, we had such visitors.
The Director of Ios Beach Volleyball World Tournament and Co-Director of Sport Vacation Greece, Mr. Vaggelis Polimeropoulos stated: “Ios used to be characterized by low-income tourism and an intense party scene, but we successfully transformed it into a sports destination. So Ios for the 1st time became known for something different than parties. Beach Volleyball!”.
The Chief Executive Officer of ActiveMedia Group, Mr. Akis Tsolis highlighted: “With the results of the financial footprint of Navarino Challenge in Pylos and Messinia (almost twice the annual expenditure per visit in the Peloponnese), the event contributes to the strengthening of tourism in the region (based on SETE data), a place that has significant development prospects, both for the local and national economy”.
Local Government & Sports with significant announcements
According to the Water Polo Olympian, Vice Regional Governor of Piraeus, Deputy Regional Governor of Attica, Ms. Stavroula Antonakou: “The goal of the Region is also to highlight unpopular sports, such as open water or long jump, but also major sporting events that take place in the Region and contribute to the local community. When thousands of people come to be accommodated, this has immediate benefits. They will stay somewhere, eat somewhere, shop. We want better facilities to host even bigger sporting events. At the same time, the facilities must be modernized, made more humane so that no one feels isolated, they must be accessible to people with disabilities, and competitions should be held for people with disabilities”.
On his part, the Municipal Councilor of the Municipality of Piraeus and Advisor to the Mayor of Piraeus on Sports, Mr. Nikos Gemelos stated: “Sports events can not take place without sports venues. The Municipality of Piraeus is a sports Municipality”, while he announced the 2nd Piraeus Street Long Jump for June 2024!
Accordingly, the Deputy Governor of Tourism, Sports & Volunteering in the Central Greece Region, Mr. Ilias Bourmas said: “The Sterea Run helped to highlight not only the cities that participated with the running events but also the destination when more than 4,000 runners participated from the first time!”.
In addition, the Chief Executive Officer of My Adventure and Technical Director of Zagori Mountain Running, Mr. Vasilis Tzoumakas mentioned, among other things, another piece of news: “The new race that will be announced soon of 33-35 km will include all the cultural heritage of Zagori”.
Powerful women in Sports were heard for the first time in Greece
In the context of the conference, the Chief Operating Officer of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, Ms. Matina Kolokotronis, with 22 years of experience in the NBA, in her first speech in Greece, addressed to all women saying: “You have to be curious, bold, and fearless. When an opportunity presents itself, you just do it. That’s how I got ahead in life”.
While she never forgot her ties to Greece: “As a Greek individual, I hold strong ties to my family, and the concept of ‘Philoxenia’ (hospitality) is particularly important to me. I carry this sense of hospitality and warmth into my meetings and professional work. I am very proud of it”.
The Chief Executive Officer of Women in Football, Ms. Yvonne Harrison stated: “Society is not equal, and inequality exists in society, in sports, and particularly in football. I became CEO at the age of 34 and I had three children at the age of 7, 5, and 3 years old so it is possible to have a family and balance a career although it can be a challenge as well”.
While she made some significant revelations in the field of football:
“Less than 11% in board positions are filled with women within Premier League and that goes down to 5% in IFL”.
“82% of women in football have experienced discrimination in the workplace”.
“23% of those who experienced it felt able to report it”.
“47% of women working in football have experienced sexism in the workplace”.
Olympians Set the Example – Disclosures from the top Greek Athlete
In the context of this year’s conference, the two-time European gold champion, bronze world champion, and Olympian Antigoni Ntrismpioti said, among other things: “I agreed with MOTODYNAMICS Group in 2021 before the European championship where I won and got my first medal there. I mention this because it really gives us the push to try a little harder because someone believed in us. Believed in what we do, that we work hard, we have dedicated ourselves all our lives and despite my age which was then prohibitive for some others, these people saw in my eyes that something existed. It was a great motivation for me”.
Accordingly, the Olympic bronze medalist in sailing in Rio and 8th Olympian in Tokyo Pavlos Kagialis said: “Our relationship with MOTODYNAMICS Group is a family relationship. We have been together since 2014 before I was even an Olympian. We spent very difficult times but also very pleasant ones. Through defeats, we become better. With MOTODYNAMICS we have common values such as perseverance, cooperation, and teamwork”.
In total, more than 7 Olympians and Paralympians were present on various panels of the conference giving their opinions and sharing their valuable experiences with the audience.
Disability in Sports
At the Front Runners in Sports Management 5.0, in a question set to the Paralympic, World & European Champion in Boccia, Holder of 6 Paralympic Medals, Grigoris Polychronidis, on what kind of support do we have to offer to people with disabilities who want to excel and go to Paralympics, he highlighted: “It all starts with the keyword that for me is respect”.
On her side, D.D.S., M.Sc, Scientific Associate MSc “Global Health – Disaster Medicine”, School of Medicine, EKPA, Marathoner & president of The Hope Runners Association, Ms. Maria Eluisa Stavara stated: “We believe that a society with increased empathy, respect, and a society that promotes equality and most importantly equity, is a society that can lead to a better world for all”.
In addition, the Co-Founder of Trexe Mazi Mou (Run With Me), Mr. Vassilis Gerogiannis highlighted: “Our goal is the acceptance, respect, and inclusion of disabled persons mainly by participating in running races”.
Need for Unity & Cooperation
The General Director / CEO of the Hellenic Athletics Federation and General Manager of Athens Marathon. The Authentic, Mr. Sotiris Kyranakos stated: “How did we overcome challenges? One word: synergy. Companies, local government, runners, athletes, and governmental bodies all collaborate with a shared goal”.
The General Secretary of the Athens Attica & Argosaronic Hotel Association and member of the Hellenic Hotel Federation Board, Mr. Evgenios Vassilikos highlighted: “We must evolve by providing our guests with experiences that go beyond mere accommodation, ensuring they not only stay at our hotels but also want to return or share their experiences. It’s not all about money, it’s about people wanting to get into synergies”.
The General Manager of COSTA NAVARINO GOLF, Mr. David Ashington stated among others: “It will only help to have more golf courses in Greece. It will have bigger coverage inside magazines and media in general if you have more products in the marketplace”.
The Golf and Sports Manager of Porto Carras Grand Resort, Mr. Panagiotis Sabaziotis stated: “The desire for Golf Destination is increasing. In 2022 we had more than 14 million golfers in Europe!”.
In addition, the President of the Organizing Committee of Mykonos Running Festival Ms. Christina Karamihou highlighted among other things: “Collaborating collectively with Santorini and Syros, we can synergize efforts to maximize results and enhance publicity for the Cyclades region”.
The technical director of Metsovo Ursa Trail, Mr. Nikos Kalofyris mentioned on his side: “We are lucky to have two big mountain running races in Epirus like Zagori and Metsovo, and let’s not forget what the wise people say, ‘when neighbors work together then the neighborhood prospers’”.
Sustainability & Sports from The Sports Footprint
For the first time in Greece, there was a Sports and Sustainability section with many big names from all over the world. With the help of The Sports Footprint, leading figures talked about the environmental, social, and financial sustainability in the Sports Industry.
Executives of basketball and more specifically of the NBA, but also the Hellenic Basketball Federation, distinguished academics from Loughborough University and Bergamo University, from Japan, Australia, European football as well as that of the Middle East participated by conveying the latest developments in the field of sustainability.
The Chief Executive Officer of The Sports Footprint, Mr. Ioannis Konstantopoulos, stated, among other things, during the second day of the conference: “In this dynamic world of sports management we often find ourselves at the intersection of innovation and responsibility. As the first and only consultancy implementing CSR and sustainability projects in the Greek sports industry, we take pride for a number of projects towards this direction. Our clients reflect our dedication to sustainable practices in sports”.
On his side, the Head of Sustainability of FIBA Asia, Mr. Themistocles Karvountzis stated: “The approach is clear: we need to influence, educate, and break down the challenges that we are facing. Acknowledging that resistance to change, financial constraints, and lack of knowledge may be hurdles, the imperative is to persevere and encourage change”.
The results presented by the Project Manager of WWF Hellas, Mr. Konstantinos Tsoukalas, were extremely significant: “Each year 570.000 tons of plastics, end up in the Mediterranean Sea. It is like throwing 33.800 plastic bottles into the Mediterranean Sea per minute”.
“In 2050 if things do not change plastics will be more than the fish in the sea”. “700,000 tons of plastic are produced annually and only 8% of plastic waste is recycled”.
While he highlighted that: “The sports industry has the ability to motivate and inspire large numbers of people towards a more sustainable way of living”.
The Football Market
The Founder & CEO of PROSPORT, Mr. Paschalis Tountouris with more than 350 placements in 30 different countries stated: “The most difficult thing is to find a good deal for the appropriate player” while he explained the new FIFA regulations for the managers of athletes as well as the legal problems facing their implementation in countries such as Germany, England, and Spain.
The international football player of the Greek National Team, Tasos Bakasetas, commented on the influence of social media on football and emphasized that hate comments can affect you at a young age. What can you do? “Take a step back from everything. Agree with yourself that you do not have to read the good comments when you play very well and the bad ones as well. Focus on what you have to do. Focus on how you will become better in every game. What you did wrong or what you did correct. Be honest with yourself”.
On his side, the Founder of Stars Inc. 11, Mr. Panagiotis Aroniadis stated: “You can do a lot of things that they are the playbook of new media in order to create content but we do not see a lot of players leading their footprint. You need to motivate the people who listen to you and follow you”.
The Sports & Athlete Marketing Manager of Digital Minds, Ms. Christina Koromila presented the successful case study of the Greek national football team.
The magical world of Sports Cards & Memorabilia in the modern sports industry was presented and analyzed by distinguished guests. The International Sales and Business Development Director of Panini America, Mr. Billy Mayhaw said among others: “During COVID, we saw one of the largest peaks in the industry, even to this day”.
The Vice President, S&E and Strategic Global Business Development of GTS Distribution, Mr. David Reel highlighted: “The growth of EuroLeague coming at the beginning of 2024 now gives a new audience to the trading cards market”.
On his side the CEO and Founder of Trace ‘n Chase S.A., Mr. Ioannis Sompolos said: “To every new person who wants to get involved with trading cards, it is all about the sport; having fun, being proud of what you hold, not what you sold”.
Drive Change Speaker Contest Powered by MOTODYNAMICS
MOTODYNAMICS Group of companies, as the conference’s Platinum Sponsor, gave this year the opportunity to a student, undergraduate, master’s, or PhD student, to win a place among the speakers of this year’s conference. Those interested participated in the Drive Change Speaker Contest Powered by MOTODYNAMICS and the winner took his place among great names from Greece and abroad. Also, the winners will have the unique opportunity to meet some inspiring and accomplished MOTODYNAMICS athletes. At the same time, MOTODYNAMICS Group participated in a panel with its athletes, the two-time European gold champion, bronze world champion and Olympian in race walking Antigoni Ntrismpioti, the 4th Olympian in pole vaulting Emmanouil Karalis, the Olympic bronze medalist in sailing Pavlos Kagialis, the champion of Greece in sailing Ioannis Orfanos and its experienced executives, the Corporate Affairs Manager of MOTODYNAMICS Group of Companies, Ms. Maira Passia and the Marketing Specialist, Business Development Division SIXT Greece, Mr. Antam El Malaouani. During the session, the following values were analyzed:
which are at the core of the Group’s actions, MOTODYNAMICS’ investment in sports as well as the successful cooperation with its athletes.
Official Outdoor Partner was the leading outdoor clothing and equipment company The North Face which also sponsored the Mountain Running section which included the races Zagori Mountain Running and Metsovo Ursa Trail.
Bronze Sponsor of the event was the Vikos company, which offered the necessary hydration with Vikos Natural Mineral Water and Vikos Natural Mineral Soft Drinks to speakers, coordinators, participants, and the audience who visited Deree – The American College of Greece on the first day of the conference.
The Sports Footprint was the conference’s Sustainability Partner, which sponsored the entire second day dedicated to sustainability. The Sports Footprint is the only Greek-based company dedicated to promoting sustainability in sports events and organizations, making Sustainable Development a fundamental pillar of the sports community.
LiveOn was the conference’s Digital Platform Partner, the integrated Digital Communication and Events platform, which contributed to the unlimited networking of industry professionals and students who attended impressive thematic sessions that exceeded 35 hours in duration and received more than 130 questions from the audience.
Free Participation & Access to Education
Participation in the conference was free again this year as the purpose was to educate students and executives of the heavy sports industry about the present and future of Sports Management. The conference stands out every year for the completeness of the information it offers to the public and aims to properly prepare this very important market to build a stronger and healthier community. Supporting the continuous education and training of the new generation is highly necessary and is part of the event’s sustainable development and social responsibility.
The conference is moving forward with another innovative step, acquiring an all-year newsletter communication, through the innovative platform created by the Greek company LiveOn, to the registered users of the conference, giving them a significant advantage in networking with those who have attended or will attend.
The experienced team of ActiveMedia Group and Deree – The American College of Greece were responsible for the conference’s production.