Sports facilities and equipment: getting the right suppliers

Readily available sports equipment provides a list of physical and psychological benefits to communities. Having good facilities is particularly important for social bonding, especially in younger age groups. For that reason, ensuring that your community has the best equipment available is a challenge worth taking seriously. Finding the right supplier is the most crucial step in the purchasing process, because if you don’t start out with quality then you can’t expect positive outcomes to materialise at the end of the process.


Why are sports crucial for communities?

It is common knowledge that sports are one of the best ways for people to reduce weight. Given the international epidemic of carrying extra kilos, this should not be understated. On top of this, many sports are fantastic for boosting the health of your heart, staving off one of the biggest killers there is: heart disease.

There are also indirect positives. For instance, improving your endurance has its advantage in the rest of your daily life — more energy for work, for the family, and so on.

The release of stress is also one of the powerful benefits of reasonably intense exercise. This is good for the individual and for everyone else they collaborate with. And of course, last but not least, the social bond crafted through competitive sports or coordinated team work are something that strong communities thrive on.

When local authorities or private organisations are determining what they want to bring in to support the health and happiness of locals, they must first understand what facilities and equipment people would appreciate, and what they will be able to make good use of.


Choosing your supplier

Important considerations include understanding how much you are willing to invest in equipment or facilities with the latest technology or innovation; and, of course, squaring yourself with the notion that buying cheap can mean buying twice.

Quality is absolutely a priority, followed by trust in the supplier. Knowing that your supplier has a strong reputation of past successes, at the appropriate scale for your needs, can alleviate a lot of your concerns.

Example case study: you are in the market for ball sports installations — football goals, to be specific.

It makes a lot of sense to look to a group that has been involved in fitting equipment at major sporting events. For the FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia, for instance, the French company Metalu Plast garnered plenty of attention through winning the tender to supply VIP touch shelters for stadiums.

Why were they a good choice? Over the course of this project, changes needed to be made not only to the initial products, but also to the deadlines for completion. FIFA brought dates forward by a matter of months and it was a very large order for the company. And yet, the installations were completely successful. This tells you that the company is dependable, flexible, and — crucially — competent.

Metalu Plast is also a manufacturer that speaks openly about its commitments to the environment and good management practices. This tells you that they have their house in order.

To talk only of football pitches would be selling the company short. It also offers a wide range of equipment and fencing for sports enclosures, and goals and infrastructure for whatever sport. Metalu Plast’s expertise are highlighted in particular in its multi-sports playgrounds, which demonstrate a deep understanding of how to get the absolute maximum value out of a site through meticulous attention to detail and quality.

Reputation is fundamental, and quality needs to be demonstrated through example projects. With both these criteria ticked off, you are on track for success.


Knowing where to install facilities

Clearly, you need a supplier who has proven absolutely dependable, and has a reputation for accomplishment in areas that align with your needs. This is particularly true as the scale of projects grows. The cost of delays can be financially untenable if the scale is large enough.

When it comes to choosing where to place facilities, inter-stakeholder dialogue is vital. At the same time, deferring to the supplier’s understanding of how products and facilities function is definitely a good idea too. It is easy to take on an autocratic approach to project management out of fear of being messed around, however, if at the end of the day this causes problems later on then the only losers are you and your wallet.

When setting up an athletics field, for instance, choose a national heavy-weight (relatively speaking) with robust experience. A hyper-local supplier might be able to give you a good deal, but can they guarantee that the layout of facilities accommodates for particularities of a given site? Do they have the background to prove it? Better that you go for a national operator, such as Athletics Direct, the UK leader in the field.

The company’s website lists example projects that paint a clear picture of working successfully with schools, local authorities, and leisure centres. Good. They have fitted facilities in Manchester’s Sport City, the largest concentration of sporting venues in Europe, and for the Elmbridge Borough Council, as just two examples. Excellent.

Based on the positive feedback of client testimonials, customers know they can rely on this company to be professional and make use of its expertise to provide guidance on where and why to place facilities where they need to be.

At the same time, balance and an even temperament are key: never put too many decisions in the hands of the people writing up the bill. There is a well-known issue in larger projects referred to affectionately/despairingly as “scope creep” or “kitchen sink syndrome”, in which projects seem to grow expensive arms and legs.

Keeping a close eye on budgetary limitations is essential, as there are companies that will not lose sleep over a customer’s flexibility or the sunk cost fallacy, in which fear that cutting off a project that is already in motion cripples decision making. As a supplier, if it makes me more money, I might just give things a nudge in the desired direction, consciously or unconsciously.


Understanding the terrain

When in doubt speak with industry insiders about the right products and companies to bring to the table. Perspective is key, and far surpasses throwing money at a project or purchase.

Another concern should be what other value the supplier comes with. The nature and/or existence of after-sale support might be a major consideration. Who does the supplier work with?

If for instance, you are in the market for an ice rink for your community or sports centre, all of the earlier considerations apply. However, a one-stop shop can be invaluable. If you were to work with the operator The Ice Rink Company, you would know that this is a dependable partner with international delivery capabilities. You would know that they have repeated projects at the desired scale many times, and that testimonials demonstrate that clients have been happy with the results.

You would also see that the company provides secondary services for skate sharpening machines and score boards, through its partners, that would ensure smooth operations and peace of mind far into the future.

In many situations, it is worth considering your supplier the way a young company might evaluate investors: what is the added value coming with the “capital” (read: service or product)? What useful services are available through the supplier’s network? Think of it like a strategic partnership, if circumstances permit.

Lastly, consider your warranties and guarantees carefully: it is always better to be asking yourself the what-ifs before a contract has started, instead of after.


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