Posts Tagged ‘sports’

Change Lessons from Harlequins – Tony Copsey (ex MD)

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

This is the second in a series of interviews where I interview a number of the people who played a part in Harlequins remarkable turnaround from the team that was relegated in 2006 to the team which won the premiership this year.  This was a 10 year journey and it can teach us come interesting lessons.

Tony was a professional player for Llanelli, Saracens and Wales.  He came to Quins a few months after Mark Evans to help him in the transformation, with Tony focusing on the off-pitch aspects of the change.  Whilst one might imagine that a rugby club is all about winning on the pitch, the interesting thing is that in order to do this they require resources to invest in players and facilities, both for the team and the spectators.  Unless you have an owner with deep pockets, there is therefore a very strong link between their ability to generate income and the on field results.

Tony’s job was to ensure that the Stoop (their ground) was a place that people wanted to come to, where they enjoyed their match day experience regardless of the result on the day, because this bought the Director of Rugby time to get the right players in place.  Over their tenure Evans & Copsey drove the gate up from 3,000 to nearer 12,000 a game.  He also pointed out that he had to try to make the facility make money during the week when there was no game from things like conferences and events.

Effectively, there was a team behind the team on the pitch who sold the tickets, did the marketing, wooed the sponsors and did the PR, in addition to feeding and watering the public on match day.  Tony explained that a lot of work went into ensuring no one was more than 40 yds. from a beer or a sausage (metaphorically speaking) and that they didn’t have to wait too long to get served.

They did a lot of work on what the brand Harlequins stood for and what their values were and how this translated into the day-to-day behaviours of the staff.  He also explained the importance of senior players in helping to model the ‘right’ way to behave and help discipline the youngsters about what it means to wear a Quins shirt.  There is a lot of talk about their exciting brand of rugby, and the press is full of people singing the praises of Chris Robshaw, their captain, who now also captains England.  He is a walking embodiment of these values and is fine example of what Tony was describing.

An interesting observation was that emotion is a powerful force in buying decisions where sport is concerned so if you want to attract sponsors, you have to create a club that people care about, and are excited by. 

Tony was also constantly reviewing the back office team’s roles and tuning them to the needs of the club as their situation changed.  Getting the right processes in place and the right people was key.  He aimed to try and make his staff the kind of people that got headhunted.

I hope to be able to continue this analysis over the coming weeks

Previous interviews:

  1. Mark Evans