Andy Martin- CEO, London Irish Share PDF Print E-mail
Profile of the week

Andy Martin Cropped

Andy was appointed Chief Executive of London Irish in late 2009, after a successful career in the City.

 After his early education in the Lake District he completed an MBA at Henley Management College in 2003. Andy spent over 20 years in banking where he carried out a variety of different roles, whilst also representing his company at both Football and Badminton, culminating in an appointment onto the Corporate Banking Board of Barclays PLC in 2008 with responsibility for global corporate sales.
His first few seasons at London Irish have seen good commercial success for the club and most recently the receipt of an eagerly awaited planning consent that will see the club transformed in coming years.
Andy is married to Catherine and has two children Alicia (13) and Joshua (12).
As CEO of London Irish, what are your main roles?
To create a sustainable business model at London Irish Rugby Club, while delivering a competitive rugby team and ultimately produce exciting rugby for our supporters.
Since you’ve been in the role, how have you progressed through it?
Given the management team we’ve brought in have predominantly come from outside the sports world we’ve brought a different way of looking at some of the commercial and business challenges that we’ve faced. Whilst I’m sure we’ve made some mistakes along the way, we’ve improved the trading performance of the business and ensured stronger footings such that we’re in a position to grow over the next three to five years. We’ve grown most of the important revenue streams and started to deliver an improved business.
How has your previous experience as Managing Director, Global Sales at Barclays helped you in your role with London Irish?
A lot of what I was doing at Barclays was brand building, sales and governance related - things that are pretty important in the industry that I’m now in. You get a lot of broad experience in a big blue chip like Barclays that stands you in good stead when you’re having to get your hands dirty on an awful lot more things in a small business like a rugby club. Ultimately the role I was doing at Barclays was a senior leadership job and, like in the rugby world, you need to be able to lead the business forward through some extremely difficult times,  especially when a lot of rugby clubs aren’t making any money.
What has been the most challenging aspect of going from your previous work with Barclays to your role now with London Irish?
I guess balancing two things. One, the need to secure the future of the club and two being able to make sure we can drive forward at pace whilst also delivering on the field. The big difference within a club in the competitive sports world is the level of emotion that exists, and in rugby in particular it is huge.  It just doesn’t manifest itself in the business world to the same degree. Some of the decisions you take might be right for the business but they drive emotional responses and balancing those two is critical. Ultimately our supporters want us to play exciting rugby, they want us to win and they want to have a great time when they come to watch us play.
You’ve always had a passion for sports and rugby. Did you ever see yourself mixing your love for the sport with work?
I joined Barclays in the first place on a kind of sports scholarship. It was at a time when big corporates would hire people not only to work for them and develop, but also play representative sport for them. In the early 80s when I joined Barclays I was playing football and badminton for them competitively. So throughout my banking career, I’ve had a very strong sporting slant -from watching and playing to funding sport - we had a lot of clients that were sports clubs that we provided finance for. I guess there was always a chance that there was going to be a sporting end to my time with Barclays. The way it worked out was brilliant, it was by chance, but it was something that was fantastic and once the opportunity was presented it was too good to miss.
At the time of your appointment Chairman Andrew Coppel said he was confident you could lead the club to greater financial success. Have you managed this and have you achieved as much as you would have liked in your time at the club?
We’ve halved the losses in a very short space of time, so from a headline perspective we’ve certainly improved the financial side of the business, but there’s an awful lot more to do. The desire is to make the club profitable and sustainable and we’re probably half way on that journey. A lot of the building blocks are in place, but there’s still a lot more hard work ahead of us. We are happy with the progression and we’re heading in the right direction.
When appointed you mentioned being impressed with the club’s ambition, on and off the pitch. In a business sense, what ambitions attracted you personally?
The club has a fabulous brand. London Irish is known around the world and has a huge following from outside the UK, off of the back of the Irish diaspora, so there was an opportunity to do something with that brand. The club also had plans to develop a training centre of excellence facility for which we managed to get planning consent very recently.  We intend building a new training complex that will be on par with the best in Europe. It’s a ground breaking and game changing deal for London Irish. It secures the future of the club and it enables us now to build something that we’ll be proud of that will bring in both amateur and professional players in the future.
You had these plans last year, but they were rejected weren’t they?
They were knocked back by the Secretary of State last year in November. Since then we’ve been working very closely with the residents and with the Council to try and find a solution that met all of the stakeholders requirements. That went to a Special Planning Committee and we secured approval to both schemes. It was quite a momentous day for all of us.
When the scheme was being knocked back, were you concerned that it wasn’t going to happen?
We were quietly confident that we had something that would eventually get through, but as I mentioned with all the emotion knocking around in sport, the same exists when there are planning developments near to people’s houses. There was a lot of emotion to deal with and overcome. We were very disappointed in November but we felt we had an angle to get through and that was proven.
What sort of strategy does the club have for the stadium? Are you planning on staying at Reading or would you like to have your own?
No, we inherited a long-term deal at Reading, at the Madejski Stadium and it works fantastically well for us. We’ve built a great supporter base out in Thames Valley and the relationship with the Football Club is very good. We’ve never really had any conflict. I think there’s only been one game we had a problem with, when Reading had a cup run. So we’re there until 2026 at least.
Do you work closely with Reading Football Club to ensure the relationship runs as smoothly as possible?
Yes, all of my team are paired off with members of their team. We have good relationships with them. We’ve got to be working with them daily to be able to deliver our operation , for example making sure there are no clashes in the fixture list, making sure there are no clashes in approach, and where we can we’ll work together on corporate or retail opportunities. Broadly the businesses are run separately but absolutely they help each other when they can.
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