WHEN Bournemouth 7s launched in 2008, the founder had been forced to bet his home on it.

Now, the event not only attracts 30,000 people for a weekend of sport and music, but is on a firm enough footing to be the envy of other festival organisers.

“In year one, it was just myself and my wife, thinking it was going to cost £100,000 to put on,” Roger Woodall says.

“We ran out of money with eight months to go. That was in 2008 when the recession hit and the banks were not interested in talking to me. No way would they lend money. We had to re-mortgage our house.

“I said it was going to cost £100,000. It ended up costing £300,000. If no one turned up in year one, we would have been out of the house.”

In year one, there were 96 sports teams, attracting 4,000 people. This year’s Bournemouth 7s, which runs at Chapel Gate, Parley, from May 24-26, can expect 400 teams.

For most people, festivals are a risky business. Dorset alone has seen the company behind Bestival and Camp Bestival go in and out of administration, while the business behind Upton House Festival and a cancelled open air Olly Murs collapsed.

“A lot of festivals we looked up to have gone bust,” said Mr Woodall.

The reason many fail is that they have to stake so much money up-front on booking big-name acts.

“They spend up to £7million on line-up, just to sell tickets,” said Mr Woodall.

“Our business model is that we’re a sport and music festival, which no one had ever done before."

The first tickets go on sale before the music line-up is announced, and for many people the decision to book does not depend on the artists. The organisers see the details of the entertainment was “value added” after the sport, the atmosphere and attractions such as Europe’s largest beer tent.

“Melvin Benn, one of the biggest festival promoters in the world, came down to see it," said Mr Woodall.

"He said it took seven years for a music festival to break even and he couldn’t believe what he saw with a sport and music festival. His words were, ‘Don’t change a thing. Keep doing what you’re doing.’”

As the event started to grow, Mr Woodall hired Craig Mathie, a then 23-year-old Ferndown local who had worked in events management in London but missed home.

“I gave him my word ‘If the festival grows, we’ll allow you to grow with me’ and today Craig’s managing director and shareholder,” said Mr Woodall.

Mr Mathie is also a council member for the National Outdoor Events Association. “When I first started going, an awful lot of them had never heard of Bournemouth 7s,” he said.

He said the challenge was to grow the festival without losing the qualities that keep so many of the public – as well as sports teams – coming back.

“We have been considered and strategic in our growth plan,” he said.

“We don’t want to change how the festival feels. We could have got more people along by doing something that wasn’t a Bournemouth 7s but it’s really important that the sport focus remains there.”

He has also been keen to forge links in the community, supporting charities such as Dorset Mind and Hope for Food, and serving as a trustee with the Steve Bernard Foundation.

“We work hard on our links with the community and we’re proud to be something that’s not just city people travelling from around the world, Local people can have amazing experience,” said Mr Mathie.

There are seven year-round staff – known as 7 Rocks – with Mr Woodall, his wife Fleur and Mr Mathie as directors. At festival time, there are 600 people working for them.

But at present, there is no danger of the event outgrowing the Chapel Gate site in Christchurch.

“We’ve got a long contract with Bournemouth sports club which welcomes us for another 11-12 years. We have a wonderful relationship with council, the police and licensing and that’s been highly important for the success of the festival,” said Mr Woodall.

“We’re up to a point where it’s important to protect what we’ve got and make sure everyone’s got a safe, enjoyable environment there. We’re really happy where we are right now.”