|Nigel Wood- CEO, RFL|
|Profile of the week|
Tuesday, 13 March 2012 13:54
Nigel Wood joined the RFL in 2001 when he authored the RFL Strategic Review. The Review made over 120 recommendations, the most fundamental of which instigated the RFL Governance Structure, the creation of the Independent Board of Directors and the re-unification of Super League (Europe) Ltd into the RFL.
In 2002 Nigel was appointed Finance Director and led the RFL’s financial recovery from the losses of 2001 and the incorporation process which was concluded in 2003, where upon he was appointed Chief Operating Officer.
Nigel became Chief Executive in November 2007 and takes responsibility for day-to-day running of the RFL. Nigel is also a director of Super League (Europe) Ltd, a position he has held since the creation of the company in 1996. Over the past three years, under Nigel’s stewardship, the RFL has seen consecutive years of increased turnover from £13.4 million in 2007 to £21.9million in 2009.
Prior to working for the RFL, Nigel was Chief Executive of Super League Club Halifax Blue Sox and Deputy Head of Finance for BBC North.
It was a real good grounding. The BBC has a long and proud track record of covering sport, particularly across both local radio and regional television. To a large extent, it gives you an understanding of the importance of having good broadcasting partnerships, which Rugby League is blessed to have.
What would you consider to be the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect of running one of Rugby League’s most historic club, Halifax?
It was always privilege to run a club that was a lot of people’s second favourite club. I spoke to a lot of people, who might be Wigan supporters or St Helens supporters, but they always have a quiet respect for Halifax because it was a traditional Rugby League club; it had a knowledgeable fan base, it produced good quality players, had a decent trophy cabinet and honours board. Also, it is the biggest sporting team in the town so it carries their sporting hopes, which can prove both a burden and a privilege. The other thing that was pleasing was that I use to play there in the famous blue and white jumpers for a number of years so there’s a bit of pride from a personal perspective.
The challenge was that we were always punching above your weight as a club. Even though the sport has a very successful salary cap, the clubs with the deepest pockets and the greatest resources are the ones that tend to attract the best talent. When you’re playing in front of 5,000 people and other clubs are playing in front of 10,000, you have to be very innovative and have great survival instincts to continually put a team out on the park that is capable of doing justice to the league, that is capable of winning its fair share of games and that is also capable of making progress off the field.
Without fear of contradiction, I can put my hand on my heart and say there was not a day of work that wasn’t a significant challenge in every dimension. But, it was a terrific training ground to learn all aspects of running a professional sports club in the current era.
How important was the move from Thrum Hall to the Shay Stadium?
You’ll be familiar of the revolution that took place in sports facilities and sports stadia on the back of some of the tragedies that occurred in the 80s. There was a whole new industry created around safety at sports grounds and improving customer comfort. Of course, whilst it was stimulated originally by the issues that were in football, the ramifications were that the other professional sports had an obligation to consider how it provided spectator accommodation. The difference was that there weren’t the great sums of money available in rugby league to the extent that it was in football to finance this revolution.
As far as Halifax was concerned, as a former player, I can testify to the intimacy of that ground and the unique place it had in the history of the sport. It was an intimate, intimidating, atmospheric ground, but even its most strident advocate will never claim that it was fit for the 21st century in terms of the standards of spectator accommodation that people demand and deserve. There was one old stand that was condemned for being made out of wood and it became an illegal structure. Not withstanding all that, the most important thing was providing a facility deserving of the athletes, supporters and commercial partners.
Moving on the right terms was exactly the right thing to do because the club went there as a partner rather than a tenant. The club now has a terrific venue where all four sides are covered and it’s a daunting 21st century ground for that level of the sport. It wasn’t a straight forward decision. Moving spiritual homes is never an easy decision and not one to be taken likely. Arguably, it’s the single biggest decision a club can be asked to make, but in truth there wasn’t much of an alternative for Halifax.