Paul Vaughan: All systems go for RWC 2015
ER 2015 Chief Executive Officer Paul Vaughan speaks with Total Rugby.
Total Rugby: The offices have been officially opened, so is it all systems go now?
Paul Vaughan: Yes it is, mind you we have been planning now for at least a couple of years and it has been a long slow process to date, but this is now a seminal point that we have actually got something physical to look at, we have got a big sign outside the building that says Rugby World Cup 2015 and England Rugby 2015, so that really actually sets the tone for the future. When the Six Nations are on, there are two matches at Twickenham and 160,000 people will be able to see that we are here already. It just sets a tone I think that we want to maintain for the next three and a half years.
TR: You had some big names at the launch?
PV: We have already signed up four fantastic Ambassadors for the tournament. We have three World Cup winners in Wilkinson, Dallaglio and Greenwood and also what I believe to be the best women’s player in this country as well in Maggie Alphonsi.
All four of them were here at the media launch, well we termed it more of a housewarming and all four of them got very stuck into promoting the tournament and will be with us for the whole period right through to the end to help us promote it and I am sure they will do a fantastic job of people being able to connect with them. All four of them very recognisable and promoting the tournament is prime for us as well as them being able to help in particular in terms of the legacy as well.
TR: You were in New Zealand for RWC 2011, tell us your experiences of that and what you learned from the tournament?
PV: New Zealand did a fantastic job with the World Cup in 2011. The stadium of four million people was just a brilliant concept in terms of marketing and indeed the engagement of the whole population of the country to get behind the World Cup.
We have obviously looked at it very carefully as to what happened and how it worked, and although we would love to do that in England it is going to be a slightly different proposition. We have a population of 60 million and a wider European population of several hundred million so it does make that slightly more challenging in terms of trying to take the same approach, so we are going to have to go slightly differently.
We are going to steal some of the good ideas that New Zealand did though, particularly in terms of when it comes to the volunteer programme. We loved what they did with the guys there. The volunteers in New Zealand were a bit of a revelation to us in terms of how they were recruited, what they did, how they behaved and how professional they were no matter which part of the country you were in or indeed where they were working. We will take some of that good stuff and bring it here.
We are going to try and broaden our volunteer programme into some of the FIRA countries as well, so we are going to try and help some of the wider European countries to become engaged with our programme which will help them hopefully in the long-term legacy, as well as obviously try to make sure we have got enough people from England and indeed the UK to get them involved.
Other things that they did extraordinarily well in New Zealand were things like the FanZones. Anybody who went to Auckland saw some amazing things there and the fact that the Government kept on investing in new facilities to make sure they were bigger, make sure they were open longer, worked brilliantly. And the fact that it wasn’t just a big screen with a bar, it was more a taste of New Zealand, it was an expose of New Zealand the country, and if we can do that as an exhibition that would be absolutely fantastic if we can achieve that here in England in 2015.
TR: Will we be finding out things like tournament dates, venues and ticketing strategy this year?
PV: 2012 is going to be pretty busy. The dates for the tournament will be agreed in the coming months. Once that is complete, we will then be able to go and finalise signing up our venues for the tournament. As we go through the summer we will be working heavily on the ticketing strategy. We have got just shy of three million tickets to sell because the whole of our strategy is based on volume. We have got some very exciting things happening this year and I have no doubt that a number of other things will happen along the way. In addition to that we will also have the first qualifying game for RWC 2015.
TR: One thing that has been in the press lately is whether Wales will be able to play their World Cup matches at home, are you able to tell us anything about that?
PV: The IRB gave approval for it some time ago when they approved the use of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and secondly that Wales could play any of its games there. I think we would not necessarily play all of Wales’ games there, we would play Wales away as well, but it is still an incredibly useful venue for us because it gives us a volume capacity stadium in the west of the country and it is very easy to get to from the heartlands of Bristol, Bath, Gloucester, Worcester and that whole sort of West Midlands area and indeed Devon and Cornwall and so on, and to add to that it is only two hours from London.
TR: Will there be football stadiums involved in 2015?
PV: Yes, we have never made any secret of the plan that we will be using a lot of football stadia. We plan to use St James’ Park in Newcastle, Old Trafford in Manchester, Anfield in Liverpool, Elland Road in Leeds, the Ricoh (Arena) in Coventry. We would also use Welford Road in Leicester, which is a rugby club as we all know, Kingsholm in Gloucester, Wembley, Twickenham, Emirates Stadium, St Mary’s in Southampton and, of course, the Millennium Stadium.
That gives us a geographical spread from as far north as we can to as far south as we can go, and we have tried to work it as much as we can from east to west as well. As much as we would love to go into south west England, it is very difficult to find the right size stadiums, so we are potentially looking at training venues and that sort of thing down there in that part of the world
TR: And is it finances and the need to sell tickets that dictate which stadia are in the frame?
PV: We set ourselves the objective of first of all trying to deliver the best ever Rugby World Cup, and I am sure everybody starts out with that objective. The second thing is that we do need to actually make sure that we deliver the finances that we promised and as part of that we have a guarantee to the International Rugby Board of £80 million, of which the last 25 is underwritten or guaranteed by the Government for us as well. Hopefully we will never have to go to them on that basis.
The only revenue we get is from ticketing so we have to make sure that we get the balance right in terms of price and volume and indeed to be able to deliver to the bottom line we have got to make sure our costs are managed as well. We will pay for all the costs, we have to pay the £80 million guarantee and hopefully there will be a surplus above that as well.
It is going to be a challenge, potentially, but we certainly believe we are going to do it, because if we look at the interest in rugby in England, there are over nine million people who follow the Game in one way or another, whether they play it, read about it, watch it on TV, physically go and watch games already. If I compare that to the stadium of four million in New Zealand and where they were selling 1.4 million tickets, we have got more than double that in terms of people who are interested in the Game to start with, and if we widen that into Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy and the greater Europe beyond then I think we have got every chance of actually selling through what we need to do.
TR: When it was first mooted a few years ago that Rugby World Cup would come to England the global economy was in a much better state, have you had to readjust certain financial targets and aims in light of the current situation?
PV: Not yet. We are obviously very, very mindful of the economy and indeed the spending power that fans have got. At the end of the day we certainly believe that the market polarises towards the big events that they must see, you must go and get a ticket for, and indeed the low entry cost items. What we will try and do is make sure we get a balance of pricing, where we will believe we can actually start our ticketing at less than £10 in some of the pool games. It will get more expensive, we are trying not to go terribly much above where New Zealand were pricing and bearing in mind there is a four-year difference it will be a challenging exercise for us.
But the idea is to make sure that we give accessibility and we give price accessibility to get volume of people through in order to expose people who have not been to a live game before potentially, to get kids involved, to get schools involved, that sort of thing. We would love to be able to see new people coming into the Game because that is the future of the Game and that is the legacy that we are trying to deliver as well.
TR: You mention legacy there but presumably England’s heritage will play a big part in this tournament?
PV: Absolutely, there is no doubt that a successful England team or indeed a popular England team will actually help us enormously. England has got a huge heritage and we are expecting something like 350,000 inbound passengers coming into the country for the tournament and inevitably a lot of those people will go to places like Rugby School, they will come to the museum here at Twickenham, they will go to potentially junior games whilst they are here, whilst they are filling in their time rather than just going to the pub. It is the opportunity for England to show off at all levels what we have got to offer in terms of rugby.
TR: Even at this stage, you must have some idea of what legacy you want to hand on to Japan, could you let us know your thoughts?
PV: Well, the sort of offers we have made to Japan already are ones of very much working with us over the next four years in order to actually learn on the job. They can, if they want to, bring a couple of people in, work with us and we will give them real jobs to do as part of our team. So therefore the opportunity is there to actually see how we do it over the next four years in order for them to automatically be able to just run with the ball post 2015.
That is what we hope to do for Japan. We will obviously help them to promote as we get closer to the end of our event, but in the meantime we are looking forward to the most successful tournament in 2015, the large number of people coming in from all around the world, not just from the traditional rugby countries but from some of the newer ones as well, and enjoy England, enjoy the matches and enjoy the World Cup.