Love sport? Want to work your way around the world? Following large international sports events is how some sport-mad Kiwis have made a career.

Dubbed games gypsies, Kiwis such as Michelle Enright and Matt Cullen travel from one large international sporting event to another. When one games finishes the next big event is invariably recruiting people with their skills. It's not unusual for games gypsies to tick off a new games every couple of years.

Organisations such as Olympic and Commonwealth Games employ tens of thousands of people for contracts that can be for a few months to two to four years. Games are a huge logistical event and require people with skills ranging from scaffolders to human resources and everything in-between.

Michelle Enright and Matt Cullen are now working at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018.
Michelle Enright and Matt Cullen are now working at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018.

Enright, an accountant, is employed as head of finance and administration at Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (CG2018). It's a long way from small town Paeroa.


After roles in industry for Dominion Breweries, Pepsi and PwC, the chartered accountant took her skills to work for large sporting organisations including Netball New Zealand, the New Zealand Academy of Sport and High Performance Sport New Zealand.

In 2013 Enright landed her first games gypsy role for an international sporting competition: the Fifa U-20 World Cup, which was held in New Zealand. Like many games' contractors, her first two-year stint left her with a taste for the life along with a web of contacts. When the Fifa corporate services director role came to a natural end she jumped The Ditch to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games to become the head of finance and administration.

"After working at [the Fifa U-20 tournament] I wanted to stay in the games environment," she says. "I was lucky the Commonwealth Games were coming up on the Gold Coast and to get the role." Enright secured the GC2018 job the same week she finished her Fifa contract, but took six weeks off in-between.

Cullen's rise through the ranks of games' administration started during his OE in London. The Otago Polytechnic travel and tourism graduate had volunteered previously at sporting events, which made the move into paid games' employment at the London 2012 Summer Olympics relatively simple. His first paid games role was as a resourcing assistant. He moved on to training event leader and then workforce and business co-ordinator at the games.

By the time the games operation came to an end, Cullen was smitten with the life, and moved on to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Baku 2015 European Games and now GC2018, where he is employed as a systems analyst.

The environment in games organisations is pressure-cooker and one of mucking in and getting the job done to a tight timeline, says Cullen. In return, he says, it possible to upskill on the job.

Word of mouth is useful to get the next contract. But it's not all a closed shop. Enright and Cullen found their roles at GC2018 from advertisements on the jobseekers' website Seek.

Their prior experience did give them experience in context. There is no doubt that skills are transferable between functional areas and the varying types of games.


Not all games employ English speakers. The Baku games did, says Cullen. It was the first time Azerbaijan had run a major sporting event and it needed the knowledge. Employees passed knowledge on to local Azeri staff who were then able to organise Baku 2017, the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games, which are being held next month.

The XIX Commonwealth Games held in Delhi employed English speaking games gypsies as well as locals. But employees at the 2014 Fifa World Cup were required to speak Portuguese.

Mostly, but not always, you'll be expected to have the right to live and work in the host country. For GC2018, only local candidates and those with the right to work in Australia, such as Kiwis, are considered for the jobs. Baku was an exception, says Cullen, because the country needed the knowledge experienced foreign games gypsies could bring.

Getting your foot in the door to a paid job at major international sporting events is the hardest part.

Anyone aiming for a career as a games gypsy can boost their CV by volunteering at local events. It may be worth joining the New Zealand Association of Event Professionals (NZAEP) as well.

Events such as GC2018 do, however, employ thousands of people on contract and not all have experience. The jobs are all advertised through a jobs portal at A further 900 roles will be filled later this year.

Those roles require a wide variety of skills, including contract management, engineering, finance, logistics, marketing, programme management, procurement, technology and many other areas.

Many of the roles are relatively short term and end on April 15, 2018 after the closing ceremony.

The minority of jobs continue for a few months after the end of the games. There is a period of consolidation, audits, and a handover to the host nation of the next event.

Inevitably, however, the thousands of games gypsies on the Gold Coast will be in the market for their next role by early next year.

They will, however, have enhanced their CVs and had a not-to-be-forgotten experience.

"I think the greatest thing for me is delivering the legacy aspect of the games," says Cullen. "Being part of something like that. It is amazing." For Enright it was working for an organisation that does something "that matters".

Though Cullen and Enright love their jobs and their lives, being a games gypsy does come with its challenges.

They know that all good things come to an end and there is no guarantee when they finish one games, where the next role will come from.

There can be limited choice of what that next job will be and thousands of staff all lose their jobs at roughly the same time - the end of the games - making competition tough for the next role.

A quick search of the LinkedIn profiles of games gypsies show some have gaps where they have moved back into industry. Others end up being "one-game wonders" who never manage to land another role.