At a time when companies across Europe are being hit by sanctions imposed by the Russian government, one company has managed to pull off something of a coup. George Mullan and his SIS Group have just signed a second contract to provide a stadium pitch for the 2018 World Cup at Spartak Moscow.
George, who is a finalist in this year's EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award, explained that SIS in one of a few companies that builds sports pitches - both natural grass and synthetic turf - all over the world. He says that the company started in Holland 15 years ago but it currently has offices in Dubai, Istanbul, Moscow and Amsterdam. The company naturally seeds some pitches but also grows grass remotely which is then transported into the stadium. "The biggest challenge is growing a pitch in place. Stadiums are designed to be architecturally stunning but growing grass is difficult so we use artificial lights and that allows us to recreate the natural light effect," he explained.
George Mullan said he was not hugely surprised that he had been contracted to build a second pitch in Moscow given the strained relations between Russia and the West right now. "Sports surfaces is a specific and narrow market. We haven't had any issues but we are cognisant that it could be an issue down the road. World Cup 2018 is one of President Putin's key projects and it's one of the last things that will be touched," he believes.
Mr Mullan said Russia and Qatar would be the group's key markets in the coming years with both countries due to host upcoming World Cup tournaments. He said the first prototype training centre will come up for tender in Qatar this year and the group have finished two stadiums in Saudi Arabia. As for doubts about the tournament going ahead in Qatar, George Mullan said they would "wait and see".
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*** US markets are back up at record highs again after a host of positive economic indicators on home sales and factory activity in the UK. Asian markets followed suit overnight. Investors appear satisfied that the US Federal Reserve is not about to take any radical steps on raising interest rates. They'll be keenly watching Wyoming this weekend and any hints of future action from Fed Chair Janet Yellen. She will address the annual Jackson Hole summit of central bankers. ECB chief Mario Draghi will also address this year's event.