Sports Tourism: Belfast, Northern Ireland Assessment

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Planning such an event when it has not been done before is very difficult and time consuming.

Mistakes can easily be made on cost, time, and other issues when people are unsure as to what they should do to create an event that is successful - which could happen because the promotion company is uncertain about putting on such a large event and has questions about many aspects of it.

Volunteers and Viability

Getting people to volunteer for a mega sporting event in Belfast is possible, but it is not safe to assume that there will be plenty of volunteers without a closer analysis. How many people in Belfast like sports? How many of them like a particular sport? These are the kinds of questions that must be answered, along with the availability of these people and what they actually have to offer when it comes to what they will be able to do before, during, and after the sports event. Hundreds if not thousands of volunteers will be needed, and all phases of the event will have to be covered. It is vital to discover whether this will be a problem before committing to the event. Sporting events will not be viable, and generally cannot even exist, if there are not many volunteers to help make sure everything runs smoothly (Gibson, 1998; Hall, 1992). So many people are needed that it would be impossible to pay them all for their time and services. Because of that, large numbers of volunteers are required.

Volunteers do things because they like to help out and because they want to contribute (Backer, 1973; Beer & Nohria, 2000). Sometimes they will volunteer for almost anything that helps people or that helps their city. Other times, they will volunteer for things if they have a passion for them or a connection to them (Blau, 1993; Tonnessen, 2000). Many people are passionate about sports, but some are very particular about the kinds of sports they will help out with. Still others are loyal to one kind of sport or one particular team, and they are not going to volunteer to work with others on something in which they do not believe strongly. Part of the problem with a mega sports event is determining whether the people who are in Belfast will volunteer for it, or whether they would not be interested based on the teams or players involved, or the kind of sport that would be presented. A large pool of volunteers can shrink very quickly in these kinds of cases, and that is something that must be carefully considered.

The Motivations for Volunteering

People are motivated to volunteer in much the same way as they are motivated in their working lives and personal lives. They volunteer because it means something to them, or because it meets a need they have in their lives. In 1985, Schein talked about "career anchors" that people used to find what made them happy and what caused them to keep working or doing something even if others did not see why they valued it so highly. While it might seem strange to some, those same anchors can be used by people who volunteer. If they did not feel as though they were getting anything in return, they would not continue to volunteer - there would be nothing "anchoring" them to their commitment and no reason for them to remain (Schein, 1978; Schein, 1985). Many people volunteer to help others, but the truth is that they still get something for themselves from the volunteering, or they would not be doing it. Many people try to ignore that and claim it is not true, but it is most definitely the case.

Money is certainly not a motivator for volunteers, because they receive no financial compensation. Getting paid is not everything, though, and many people do not equate their worth with what is in their bank account (Bedeian, 1993). When they consider things that way, and do not focus on money, the other rewards of volunteering come to the surface. Helping people is one of the biggest motivators, but many people also volunteer so that they can meet and interact with other people in their daily lives. People who are not employed or who have a lot of free time are often the ones to volunteer, as are people who have gotten a lot from the community in the past and are trying to pay it back as much as possible.
They may owe a debt of gratitude to the community, and that is what keeps them focused. No matter what the reasons for volunteering, many people are clearly motivated to do so. Those are the kinds of people who could be utilized in Belfast to help out with a mega sports event.

The Value of Volunteers in Belfast

In Belfast, the value of volunteers can be measured in both economic and social ways. Of course, any time a city or an organization does not have to pay people to do a job, that city or organization benefits (Buford, 1993; Leonard, Beauvis, & Scholl, 1999). The work gets done, but no money goes out. Many times, the volunteers will be furnished with something, such as lunch or at least water to drink, but that costs far less than actually employing and paying them. Also, it is important to consider the fact that volunteers help out socially. People enjoy meeting new people who have common interests, and that could lead to good friendships and more volunteers for other places that need the help. Word of mouth can be some of the best advertising available, and when people talk to and get to know one another, they can rally around shared causes. Those causes get the benefit of the volunteers, and the volunteers get the benefit of the friendships and the knowledge that they are helping make the world better for others.

Development Opportunities for Volunteers

Volunteers also have the opportunity for development on several levels. As people, they can grow and develop their skills and talents (Schein, 1985). Sometimes, those talents as a volunteer will translate into a paid position in the future. Other times, that is not the case. Still, volunteers keep active, they network with other people, and they have something to show on their resume during times they are unemployed. All of those things can lead to opportunities for more volunteer work and for paid work in the future. It is generally never a bad thing to develop and nurture skills that can be used in the world in various professions, and it is also usually good to entertain the growth and development of friendships and personal relationships, as those can all turn into something that is far beyond what the volunteer may have expected or hoped for - but that can be quite rewarding (Leonard, Beauvis, & Scholl, 1999; Tonnessen, 2000).

The Voluntary Sector in the UK

In the UK, there are many volunteer organizations upon which the promoters of a mega sports event could call in an effort to get people who would be interested in helping out. Since help will be needed with set-up and tear-down, as well as during the actual event, people from all walks of life and with all kinds of skill sets will be needed to offer their time and talents in order to allow the show to go on. Volunteer Now is one organization that can be utilized. The promoters may also want to consider the Community Relations Council, some of the disability charities, and taking out an ad for volunteers to see what type of response they get. There are many organizations, but some of them only volunteer for certain things or help specific groups of people. That has to be taken into account when considering how many volunteers can be acquired for a mega sports event.

Where to Find Good Volunteers

Good volunteers can be found just about everywhere. Often, reaching out to the youth of the area is one of the best ways to find volunteers (Schein, 1985; Blau, 1993). Young people are often more interested in sports, and in the interaction that comes with volunteering for something "cool" with their friends and other young people. They may also have more time on their hands, especially for events during times when schooling is not in session. By considering the young people of the community, the promoters could likely find more volunteers than they would if they reached out only to older people. Additionally, when youth volunteer for something they often get their friends, acquaintances, siblings, and parents involved, which is a good way to bring in even more people who are committed to or interested in the same kinds of things (Tonnessen, 2000). That allows for an exponential growth in the number of volunteers that will be available for specific tasks surrounding a.....

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