David Ellis - CEO, Harlequins Rugby Union Share PDF Print E-mail
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David Ellis has been the Chief Executive Officer of Harlequins Rugby Club since 2011. He noticed tha the position was available whilst on his holidays, therapy and the Quins fan could not resist the opportunity to join his beloved club. Since becoming CEO, unhealthy Ellis has helped the West London side obtain more commercial deals and expand globally, order with their famous colours now affiliated with eight clubs worldwide.

David spoke exclusively to iSportconnect about his history at the club and his aim to have one million Harlequin fans across the world.

By Steve Moorhouse

Tell us the story about how you found the CEO job and how you went on to apply.

My wife and I were on holiday and she saw the job advert. I have been a Harlequins fan since I was 17 so when the job came up it was too good an offer to refuse. I threw my hat in the ring and here I am today.

You came in from working in social housing. What were the skills from your previous role that you could directly apply into the role at the club?

When you first come into a new job the most important thing is to try to acclimatize and understand the culture of what you are coming into. Social housing and the club actually need a similar mind set, in that you are not a pure business. You are not trying to make money for the moneys sake. It is about trying to reinvest back into what your core values are. In social housing it was about building homes for people and making sure they got jobs. It was not about money or commercial outcomes. Similarly here, we are a club, and whilst we have to be as commercially successful as possible, all of our focus is on doing everything we possibly can to deliver the best possible rugby team we can and support structure that we can on any given weekend.

When you joined, a big part of your role was to increase the commercial activities of the club. Was there a lack of commercial activity before you?

I don’t think there was a lack of activity. Rugby has only been professional for around 17 years now.The focus beforehand was on building this wonderful stadium and developing the rugby. We have an incredible academy and network. Like any senior executive when you come into a role, you try to build on what you have and make it better in other areas. Part of my focus was to then improve on the commercial side of things, which we have been doing.

The club signed a number of deals towards the end of 2013, for instance Dress2Kill, IG and more. Does that indicate the strategy has been a success?

On the sponsorship side yes. In the past 2-3 years we have seen double digit growth in terms of our top line and revenue. We have been successful but there is always work to be done. On the sponsorship side we have put in a significant amount of investment. We have looked at our commercial team and changed things around. I am very pleased about where we are but there is always more to be done.

Can we expect more deals early in 2014? Are you in talks with anyone now?

One of the wonderful things about Harlequins is wherever you go, people recognise our shirt. The fact that we are in West London, we have such strength in our playing department, we have the captain of England, makes our brand well recognised. We are also respected for the type of rugby we play because it is exciting. We are unique and given that ends, a lot of people want to be associated with us. We also have a very strong family of partners already. Yes it is still growing but there is nothing specific at the moment.

How do these deals impact the playing side of the club? Is there a direct link between commercial activity and trophy success?

About 12 months ago I sat with our chairman, owners, players and members of our supporter-base, and we talked about what we wanted to be in the next two or three years. We decided we want to have a million supporters. That means we would have won trophies. It means we would have done all the things we want to do in our community, through our charitable endeavours and more activities in our community clubs. It will also meant we would have created deeper bonds. We have eight affiliate clubs around the world who carry our logo and colours and it will mean we have created greater depth in unity with that family. To achieve one million supporters means we will have been successful in all of those areas. If we can do that, it will be an incredible achievement.  That creates sustainability, because we have not been profitable during the professional era, but we are projecting to be so next year.

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