UEFA VIP Services Manager Damaris Papoutsakis sees her job as exciting and challenging. Here she describes what she does and what her job means to her and to UEFA.

What inspires you about your work?

There are many things that inspire me on a daily basis. When 1,400 guests were seated in my first VIP stand, seeing the stand from the top of the sold-out stadium and just thinking “Wow, we did it” was a great moment. Seeing my team in action – taking charge and doing what they do best – is so incredibly rewarding. And there are two moments during matches that I particularly love: the calm before the storm before the gates open – when you see the staff moving into position, empty stands, the last details being adjusted and radio checks being completed – and when the stands are full, the music is playing and guests are taking their seats and reading the line-ups. It’s magic.

 “How can I describe to my friends and family what we’ve experienced together?”

 How long have you been working in guest management and protocol at UEFA?

I started eight years ago, when guest management was split into several different projects and I was involved only as part of the welcome and information services. Since then, over the course of three EUROs, guest management has become more cohesive and sits under one roof. We now manage the guest journey from A to Z.

 What does the assignment mean to you?

It’s been a long journey for me in guest management at UEFA, delivering four years of club competition finals as well as three EUROs. It’s been a rollercoaster ride and I wouldn’t change a day of it. I love the job and, more importantly, the team that makes it happen. The project is our baby, and, as it changes and grows, we watch as the world around it evolves and creates different demands for us to constantly monitor and adapt to. There is never a dull day in the life of the VIP services team.

How has guest management and protocol evolved?

When I took over the guest management project, it needed to be redesigned. This was a great opportunity to be creative, implement new processes and come up with the required technology.

As a team, we had to rethink each step of the guest journey, coordinate with our colleagues who work in other services (such as accommodation and transport) and develop the best possible processes. We rely heavily on technology to give us optimised solutions, as we have such a vast quantity of data for each event that is linked to various services and processes. Our colleagues in ICT are key partners for us in how we’ve shaped our operations and are an integral part of our success.

What attracted you to the job in the first place?

In 2008 I wanted to be part of the EURO that was being hosted in my home country, Switzerland. I love hospitality, interacting with people and working in operations, so it seemed like the perfect fit. I then caught the EURO bug. And the colleagues we have here are out of this world. Above all, and without a shadow of a doubt, I am so proud of my team! They are all incredible, unique individuals and very service-oriented. Seeing how each of them has developed over the last few years, becoming specialists in their specific domains and working strongly as a team, with the same mission and mindset, makes me very proud. In addition, thanks to our work, UEFA’s guest management operations and the ICT systems we use are now benchmarks for our industry.

 What value does your project bring to UEFA, your career and football?

This project has challenged me, tested my limits and taught me so much about leadership and about myself. I do not believe I could have experienced so many different aspects of management in another industry. I have had an incredible opportunity to develop a project, design ICT tools, lead a great team of more than 50 staff, be part of different events and have fun throughout. The UEFA VIP programme hosts the top personalities of the football world, government members and our top sponsors, among others. It allows us to showcase what we do as an organisation to our most important stakeholders. One of my colleagues said to me during EURO 2016: “How can I describe to my friends and family what we’ve experienced together?” My answer to her was simple: after so many years, I still cannot describe it – you just need to live it.

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