Stephen Vaughan is a man who mentally gets from A to B very quickly. Now his involvement in the 2012 Olympic Games will help Gloucester Rugby be a big part of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Vaughan only became CEO at Kingsholm just before Christmas. Barely five months later, Gloucester has been selected as one of the host cities for the World Cup in the autumn of 2015, and with four games, Kingsholm will be the busiest venue outside the four stadia which will hold the biggest matches – Twickenham, Wembley, the Millenium Stadium and the Olympic Stadium.
Vaughan is first to acknoweldge the work done by the club before he arrived, and the strong partnership with the City Council, but it is now that his own work with LOCOG really comes into its own.
“Hopefully I can draw on that” Vaughan told me. “A lot of the people have made the move from the Olympics to the 2015 Rugby World Cup. I understand the jargon and I know what they mean when they tell you things. There will be red tape but we’ve got intelligent hard working people whose approach has been applauded by the committee and set Gloucester as a benchmark for a host city.”
“It’s a rugby crazy place” he added. “As part of the audit they came to the ground several times and one of the games was against Harlequins. The atmosphere was fantastic and one of the key drivers is to have full stadia. We have a great relationship with the city and the supporters here will come.”
At this stage none of the four games are clear cut, but Scotland, Argentina and Tonga are all certain to play at Gloucester, who have two Tongans in their current squad. Lock Jim Hamilton is leaving the club this summer to play in France, but he could still be in the Scotland international picture in two years time.
As hosts, England – perhaps with a sprinkling of Gloucester representation – will hope to do well – but Vaughan accepts it was never likely that Gloucester would be allocated an England game.
“I’m actually pleased we haven’t got one team here four times” he said. “Scotland will be a huge draw, especially for their first match. We have links with Tonga and Argentina are a force to be reckoned with. There is a chance for so many people to see Gloucester in all its finery.”
“I’d be amazed if our fans weren’t excited by this. We all feel a bit of ownership of it, and I’m sure they won’t want to miss it. Our job is to make sure from a ticket point of view that they get a fair crack of the whip.”
As he watched the ground staff continue the installation of a new drainage system for the pitch, Vaughan confirmed Kingsholm would not be developed before the tournament. The capacity would stay at around 16,000, although he conceded they would look at the logistics around making the experience for supporters – both the regulars and the newcomers – as good as possible.
This is the second big marketing opportunity the sport has had in a decade. The first, in 2003, was inevitably of a more reactive nature after England won the tournament. Now, as there was for the Olympics, there is the chance to capitilise in the build up as well, although as the Olympics illustrated, this can be a slow burner.
Gloucester centre Mike Tindall was part of the England team that won the 2003 tournament. Now coaching at Gloucester as well as playing, he is well aware of the opportunity the tournament provides..
“It’s great for the club and it shows the feeling of the people who come here because they come in good numbers and appreciate good rugby” said a relaxed Tindall.
“You can’t buy the sort of exposure this will bring. If we do a good job it can help our recruitment at Gloucester, and for the young English players, you’re not only pushing for a place at a World Cup, it’s a home World Cup.
We’ve got to expect a big influx of people wanting to play the game, and we have to be ready and provide facilities for anyone who wants to pick up a ball.”
Gloucester’s confirmed games :
Saturday Sept 19th 2015 – Tonga v Europe 1 (qualifier)
Wednesday Sept 23rd 2015 – Scotland v Asia 1 (qualifier)
Friday Sept 25th 2015 – Argentina v Europe 1 (qualifier)
Sunday Oct 11th 2015 – Americas 2 (qualifier) v Asia 1 (qualifier)
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