Heath Harvey, chief executive officer of Saracens and Charlie McEwen, chief operating officer at the British & Irish Lions joined moderator Jill Douglas at the Deltatre Sport Industry Breakfast Club.
Leadership, culture, technology, global expansion, and grassroots were key issues of discussion from the pair, who both believed that ensuring the best company culture was key to success on the field.
Harvey said: “Our performance on the pitch will be based on a culture on the training ground that must also translate across all the organisation and the way it is run. We have a goal to be the most hard-working, innovative and caring rugby organisation in the world.
“Our core values and common purpose are familiar behind that culture.”
Moderator Jill Douglas speaking with Rob Vickerman and Nicky Robinson before taking to the stage
From a Lions’ perspective, McEwen, stated that the philosophy was that everyone counts, and referenced two aspects to this culture. “There is the culture the business creates and there is the structure the players come to within the framework of the tour.
“Our philosophy is ‘All for One’ and is about every individual preforming to their best in what they do in order to make sure the team are best prepared. On the field, it is down to every player believing they have a chance to represent the Lions.”
Technology was also a topic for the development of both the game on the pitch and for fans, with Harvey using Wimbledon as a benchmark of cutting edge technology in-play: ”Ultimately if you can get technology to the level of Wimbledon, where the whole thing lasts 20 seconds, everyone claps and engages, that for me is the Holy Grail.
“At Saracens we fly drones over training sessions to film the players and we launched a virtual ticketing system that allows fan to pan around and see what the stadium looks like. All this makes rugby more exciting.
“On the pitch, GPS technology has been used by the coaches for years, and it is amazing how the coaches use that to drive performance in the game.”
With regards to the fans and expanding to new territories McEwen believed more technology was required, “From a supporter’s point of view it helps, demystifying the game needs more investing in” with Harvey adding that “you can educate and teach the audience and that’s what makes them come back next time.”
Guests network ahead of the panel discussion from Heath Harvey & Charlie McEwen
With the Lions on tour every four years, and the team’s last appearance in New Zealand being 12 years ago, McEwen touched upon the scarcity value that is driving the brand: “There is almost too much content, scarcity is one of the most appealing factors of the Lions.
“Every four years it comes alive in the homes and clubs in UK and Ireland. From a New Zealand point of view, every street and the whole country is coming together for a festival of sport. Scarcity is driving the brand both in New Zealand and back here.”
As rugby expands, both McEwen and Harvey spoke about their plans for women’s teams. Whilst Saracens has successfully bid for a women’s side that will be taking part in the first season of Women’s Super Rugby. While McEwen said that “There are opportunities out there and in the future we may see a female Lions tour.”
The pair also discussed the global expansion of the game with Harvey explaining the key markets for Saracens as Germany, via their sponsor Allianz, alongside Japan, USA and China. McEwen said that he would love the Lions to tour new nations but highlighted the tight schedule of global rugby and limited time with players available as complications in achieving this in the immediate future.
The Deltatre Sport Industry Breakfast Club meets four times a year, memberships are available for the remaining two events, click here for more information.