|Tony Copsey - CEO, London Welsh|
|Profile of the week|
Tuesday, 02 April 2013 08:10
Tony Copsey is working with London Welsh as their interim Chief Executive Officer. He described the challenge and his role as helping the club develop a business strategy and plan as well as to develop the club to cope with the growing pains associated with being new arrivals to the Premiership.
Tony has over 12 years’ experience within the sports rights holder sector, with a broad knowledge in the commercial & marketing field and has a major network of contacts especially within sport and sport associated brands.
The former Welsh international rugby player has a solid track record in running clubs and business plan strategy & development, sports marketing, stadium redevelopment and stadium & facility management.
Tony has previously held roles as the Managing Director of Harlequins, CEO of London Wasps, CEO of London Scottish, and the Commercial Director of Llanelli Scarlets. Tony is currently the Director and Co-Founder of Copsey Consultancy Limited.
Copsey Consultancy is a management consultancy business which works primarily in the Industry; Sport and Finance Sectors. They specialise in achieving higher levels of distinction for businesses by improving and maximising organisational performance. Apart from working with businesses improving business performance, Copsey Consultancy covers management consultancy, management and team performance, HR and Health & Safety.
London Welsh are currently battling to survive in the Premiership. A five point deduction by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) for fielding an illegible player has made their task even more difficult and has caused controversy and criticism from Tony and other people associated with the club.
You have only been in the role for a few months. How have you found your time at the club and what has been the greatest challenge?
Well first of all, the reason for the appointment is to really help the team in the Premiership and hopefully push on further, despite our league position at the moment and it is really to help the club with their growing pains. When you consider a club like London Welsh, coming up from the Championship, obviously there are a lot of challenges from the infrastructure and a club organisation point of view, as well as trying to develop your business plan and strategy.
Being a former international rugby player yourself, does that help you understand the role better than someone who hasn’t?
I think so because a big part of the role is the performance side of the club as well. So the playing side and the playing structures of the team. So yes I think that part of my background obviously helps enormously.
The big news around the club at the moment is that you have been docked points for fielding an illegible player (Tyson Keates). You’ve mentioned that you’ll fight against this. What are your overall views of the situation and what are your options now?
It is extremely disappointing. Personally the club feel very strongly that the five point deduction is incredibly harsh given the situation and the extraordinary nature of the case. It is obviously a massive blow to the club and the aspirations of the club. You can’t hide away from the fact that short-term the real challenge for the club is Premiership survival and Premiership status. Really, to enable that to happen we need investment, work the capital and if the club is relegated that proposition of investment and capital becomes so much harder to achieve.
You have said that the RFU aren’t ‘very sharp’ in the way they proceed over cases like this. Do you think there needs to be a change in assessing situations like this at the highest level?
I think to a degree. With this case, we always say ‘great things in hindsight.’ My criticism comes from where the club has been judged. It should be judged by the RFU standards but we should all realise how extraordinary this case is, to the point where both the RFU and the club were deceived. Honestly, I do not think there is a club in the land that is guarding itself from fraud and administration issues from a rogue employee. It is just such a bizarre case.
You have just mentioned it and it is no secret that it was one member of staff who made this happen, but do you think there was more London Welsh could have done as a club and have you changed your procedures to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
Well we have already made changes and hindsight will obviously tell you, you should do x, y and z. But the measures we have now put in place are really bolt and braces type measures, which I don’t think before this case, anyone would have been expected to do or are considered all that reasonable.
The point deduction obviously does not help London Welsh in your bid to stay up. How important, financially and commercially is it for the club to stay in the Premiership?
It is crucial really for the club’s ambitions to stay in the Premiership and at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford. It attracts new investment which it desperately needs to do and push on. Without premiership status, that leaves a much bigger uphill struggle to gain that investment.
So if you are to be relegated, what steps would you need to take to bring yourself back up?
Well again it is all about investment and it always has been, pure and simple. Short term, it is about the desire of the current board of investors to supply more money, or to attract new investment. I would have thought, really for the club, it is about attracting new investment, but as I said that will be harder if we are not in the Premiership.
When the club was promoted, there were other problems with the RFU, because they deemed the stadium to be inappropriate. You battled this decision and won, but how do these episodes affect your club’s relationship with the RFU?
It is a love, hate relationship (laughs). No, there is a mutual respect between us and the RFU. I think the case last year was obviously very well publicised and it was difficult. But we have all moved on from that, the sport moves on and we as organisations have to move on. That is the way it happens. I really do not think there are any hard feelings. But the effect it has on the business is incredible. There’s the time, the financial side of things and the resources. These kinds of cases put a huge strain on the resources of the club and they can really take away from the day to day business.