Roger Lewis - CEO, Welsh Rugby Union Share PDF Print E-mail
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Roger Lewis was appointed Group Chief Executive of the Welsh Rugby Union and the Millennium Stadium in 2006. He returned home to Wales from London in 2004 to take up the position of Managing Director of ITV Wales.

Between 1998 and 2004 he was the Managing Director and Programme Controller of Classic FM and a Board Director of its parent company GWR plc. Between 1990 and 1998, Roger worked in the record industry as a Managing Director at EMI Records and as the world wide President of the Decca Record Company.

Between 1985 and 1990 he was a producer at BBC Radio 1 and then Head of the BBC Radio 1 Music Department. Between 1981 and 1985, he worked in commercial radio at Capital Radio, London, as a producer, and at Radio Tees, in the North East.

Roger was a member of the Welsh Assembly Government's Arts Funding Review Panel in 2006. In 2010/11 he chaired the successful cross-party Yes Campaign in the referendum in Wales which granted certain law making powers to the Welsh Assembly.

Currently he sits on the advisory board of the D Group, is the Chair of the International Advisory Board of Cardiff University Business School and a non-executive director of the European Rugby Cup Ltd and Celtic Rugby Ltd.

Roger is a Member of the Six Nations Council and a Non-Executive Director of the Race Course Media Group.

Roger holds a number of honorary degrees, including doctorates from the Universities of Nottingham and Glamorgan, honorary fellowships from Cardiff University and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and honorary membership of the Royal College of Music.

By Steve Moorhouse

After spending so long in the broadcast industry, what attracted you to working in sport?

I’d always planned to return home to Wales and having spent close to 30 years working in England and primarily in London, I returned to take on the position of Managing Director of ITV Wales. I saw that as one of my final jobs and the opportunity to work in sport actually came completely out of the blue, when the WRU decided to head-hunt a new Chief Executive. I was approached to put my name forward and what pleasantly surprised me was that the skills I learned in broadcasting and in particular music were very transferable.

Throughout my career working in radio, in records and within television I was working with exceptionally talented people. You had to identify, nurture and develop that talent, then you had to create content. In sports you have to work with talented sports men and women, create great games and connect with the public, and then you have to commercialise it and monetise it, working with broadcasters, major sponsors and create a real sense of event.

What was your greatest challenge when you arrived at the WRU and what are your proudest achievements?

The fundamental challenge was a business challenge. The organisation didn’t have the basic building blocks of an organisation that could succeed. There was no sense of vision, clear strategic purpose and below that the systems and structures were not robust. They were not matched by the staffing and skills within the organisation, let alone any sense of style or collectively held values or beliefs. That very simple business model was not present in the WRU or the Millennium Stadium so that was my biggest challenge. That’s what I spent the first year doing. I assembled an outstanding team of people with the right skills who could drive the enterprise forward. I’d say I’m probably most proud of the people that we’ve bought together to work, both on the field and off the field.

It has been reported that the Millennium Stadium may use an artificial surface in the near future. What commercial aspects will influence the final decision?

When I arrived in 2006, working with the stadium manager and the grounds men, we came up with a solution which improved things considerably. That was based on where we were sourcing the turf but also how we were looking after the turf through the purchase of a lighting system from Holland. That allowed us to lay a pitch once a year instead of three times.

However, it is not the ideal solution because looking after a pitch with a stadium that has a retractable roof, that doesn’t allow as much sunlight into the ground as we would want, doesn’t allow as much heat to be generated or the air circulation that we want, still causes problems. We are considering three options. The first is the status quo. We’re also considering a Desso pitch, a dual hybrid pitch. The third option we are looking very carefully at is the artificial surface and we’re watching the developments at Saracens because they have laid an artificial pitch for rugby. The early reports coming from there are extremely favourable.

The reason why we are considering such a radical move for an international rugby stadium is because we use the stadium for a range of other activities. As well as other sporting activities we also have rock concerts, so the demands on the pitch are considerable and if we can avoid having to take the pitch out and then bring it back in, we  would save a minimum of a quarter of a million pounds. Laying an artificial pitch is roughly half a million pounds which is obviously a considerable cost saving.

But our principle criterion for making the decision will be how it impacts on the sport. We have to be absolutely confident that international rugby can be played on an artificial pitch in such a way that doesn’t affect the game and has no adverse impact on the players. I’d emphasise that we wouldn’t do anything with the pitch without first discussing it with all of our stakeholders. That said the Desso pitch is something that is used in rugby. Twickenham have just laid their pitch so that as a principle is well established. Two of our regional rugby sides in Wales have played regularly and one plays every home match on a Desso pitch.

You have stated your desire for the England vs. Wales Rugby World Cup (RWC) game to be played at the Millennium Stadium. What economic benefits would you see and do you think there is a realistic chance?

My offer to stage the England Wales match in Cardiff was done with my tongue very firmly placed in my cheek! I think one would see pigs flying over the Millennium Stadium if that were to take place! The real point is that the International Rugby Board (IRB) has publicly said that there will be RWC games at the Millennium Stadium and that’s what we are excited about.

When the Rugby Football Union (RFU) put their bid in for the RWC, they included the Millennium Stadium. The good news is that the Welsh government and Cardiff City Council have said that they will financially support the prospect of eight games coming to Millennium Stadium and so there will be £1.4m worth of economic support for that. It’s critical for the financial success of the RWC that Millennium Stadium is used. It is a 74,000 capacity stadium and we can fill it for those games. It has been voted by many organisations throughout the world as the finest rugby stadium in the world, so it’s a fantastic opportunity for the RWC not only to succeed financially, but to also use what is one of the great rugby stadiums.

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