Cover: Insights on the role of volunteers in public safety at major sporting events

Insights on the role of volunteers in public safety at major sporting events

Published Dec 11, 2018

by Lucy Strang

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Research Questions

  1. What is the role of volunteers in the successful delivery of major sporting events?
  2. What are some of the key motivators for volunteers at major sporting events?

This case study seeks to examine the role of volunteers in the successful delivery of major sporting events, with a particular focus on their contribution towards maintaining public safety and facilitating positive fan behaviours. Given the importance of volunteers to these efforts, we also explore some of the key motivators for volunteers, which organisers should take note of and respond to in order to ensure that volunteers stay engaged over the course of an event. The case study also briefly considers the challenges of and opportunities for building a legacy of volunteering after an event has finished, and concludes with some key lessons for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Key Findings

  • Volunteers have an important role to play in maintaining public safety and facilitating positive spectator behaviours during major sporting events. This is at least in part due to how volunteers are perceived by, and engage with, spectators at such events.
  • Given the importance of recruiting and retaining volunteers, event organisers must understand and respond to their motivations. Key motivators identified in this case study include a sense of pride in one's community and country; the opportunity to gain experience and develop skills; meeting new people and strengthening personal relationships; a passion for sport; and a desire for a new experience.
  • Maintaining the engagement of volunteers requires event organisers to care for their wellbeing; match them with roles that suit their interests and abilities; manage their expectations; communicate effectively; and recognise their contribution to the event.
  • Building a legacy of volunteering after a major sporting event is challenging, and requires significant forward planning and financial investment.


  • Organisers can maximise the benefits of using volunteers by ensuring that volunteers in public-facing roles are enthusiastic, level-headed and resilient.
  • Investment in training, for example in monitoring crowd dynamics and communicating effectively, is essential.
  • Organisers should identify and respond to the motivations of volunteers, which may vary by background, so that they enjoy their experience and stay engaged.
  • Organisers should anticipate that a proportion of volunteers will drop out during an event, but also seek to prevent drop outs as far as possible by caring for the wellbeing of volunteers; attempting to match volunteers to roles that suit their interests and abilities; managing the expectations of volunteers; communicating clearly and consistently; and recognising the efforts and contributions of volunteers to an event.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was commissioned by Qatar University and conducted by RAND Europe.

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