Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director of the Renault DP World F1 team and Keith Pelley, CEO of the European Tour, open up over the challenges they have faced and the important decisions they have had to make in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of a three episode mini-series produced by their partner in common, DP World.
The conversation highlights the contrasting personalities of each CEO, but also shines a light on their shared approach to progressive leadership and their determination to ensure sport continues to deliver for fans safely despite coronavirus.
They explore the challenges of working with hundreds of people, across multiple geographies and discuss the huge logistical complexities of their organisations in the wake of the current pandemic.
"We always say that one of the biggest advantages we have is the fact we play in 31 different countries, and from a partners perspective, a global partner that is absolutely fantastic," Pelley told Abiteboul.during the discussion.
"At this particular time its our biggest challenge, there is no doubt. You’re dealing with so many different governments, different rules and regulations."
Both are responsible for not only maintaining profitable businesses, but also bringing their respective sports back to the fans. They speak with incredible openness about the inner workings of their organisations, how they reacted when global sport was put on hold and how they have adapted over time.
What has this unprecedented time meant for the European Tour?
During the discussion, Pelley acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge he has ever faced.
"I don’t know about you but the job changed overnight," Pelley said. "I think for me its been the most trying, the most challenging time, but how you approach is has been absolutely critical.
"Every single day you were getting knocked down, knocked down and knocked down, another tournament cancelled, more revenue lost and every single day you could get more and more negative if you wanted to.
"It really came down to, for me, is thinking outside of the box but more importantly getting our staff and seeing some of the young leaders rise to the occasion and watching them almost get almost energised by the challenge and looking at is as an opportunity as opposed to a challenge and that was incredibly rewarding."
Asked by Abiteboul to describe the process and logistics of putting on a tournament behind closed doors in this time, Pelley said his ultimate focus remains on the safety of everyone involved in upcoming events.
"Number one priority obviously this year is playing in a safe environment, safe for our players, safe for our caddies, safe for our broadcasters and for our staff," he said.
"Then our entire schedule will be 24 events that culminates with the DP World Tour Championship, I hope by the time we get to Dubai that we have, for sure we’d love to have 30,000 fans but I think if we could have our DP World partners, our Rolex partners and some of the key sponsors of the European Tour in terms of their VIP hospitality guests, that would be a real win this year. I think it’s going to be very difficult for us to get back to the point where we have 30,000 fans on a weekly basis.
"Behind closed doors for us is caddies, players, staff, broadcasters and we’ve got it down to just under 500 (people). For the UK events we’ve created a bubble so the hotels as you get off the plane, you’ve had to have a PCR test before you get there.
"We are all together in the UK so you are not allowed to leave that bubble, then all the testing then again happens at the golf course. We have labs that are standing by, we’ve created a medical health truck that will double as a lab, so for us we’re going to have thermal imaging, you’re going to have all the symptom tests, but it is something we have spent a tremendous amount of time on."
The European Tour will resumes with two dual ranking events in Austria in July, which will precede the Tour's full return with the launch of a six-week UK swing at the Betfred British Masters hosted by Lee Westwood at Close House.