|Nick Eastwood - CEO, Wasps|
|Profile of the week|
Monday, 20 October 2014 10:38
Nick Eastwood is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Wasps Rugby Football Club.
Eastwood joined Wasps on the back of a hugely successful 12-year spell with the RFU, helping to grow the RFU's net worth from £35m to £180m and profits from a loss of £5m to profit of £15m and playing a key role in steering the governing body through an economic downturn.
Prior to his role with the RFU, the ICAEW-qualified accountant spent five years with The Body Shop International PLC as its Global Head of Corporate Services, and has previously held senior management roles at Lifetime Corporation USA and at then powerhouse accounting firm Arthur Andersen.
In a critical time for Wasps, the club has announced they will move to the Ricoh Arena later this year and iSportconnect caught up with the CEO to talk more in-depth about the issues surrounding the impending move.
By Ismail Uddin
Why did Wasps decide to move to Ricoh Arena?
It’s about securing the long term security of the club. If you ground share, especially if you are a rugby club, you simply cannot make the economic model work.
It’s public knowledge that we are currently losing £3 million a year because we are renting a stadium for 16 days a year and ultimately that would have probably meant Wasps would go out of business. It’s about securing the long-term future of the club and giving it the financial stability and security that it never has had.
What do you expect the impact to be financially?
There is a very significant non-rugby business there (at Ricoh Arena) without Wasps being there that turns over £40 million a year. The current business in the arena is twice our current business so the arena provides a set of revenue streams that we don’t have at the moment.
What has been the reaction from fans about the move?
The issue with fans was because the deal was covered by very stringent confidentiality requirement so we couldn’t say anything to our fans until the deal closed. That is clearly very frustrating and unsettling for fans. The reaction of fans in the first 48 hours were that they were very frustrated and didn’t understand the decision but now we have been able to spend a lot of time talking to the fans, the reaction has very much changed. There was actually a poll on the Rugby Club recently on BT Sport and it showed that 75% were in favour of the move.
I mean there will always will be individual fans who won’t like it because it makes it difficult for them to get there, clearly we understand that. Generally speaking, the sentiment of the fans has changed from being very negative to being fairly positive.
Do you expect to expand your fan base now you have moved to Coventry?
We expect to take a significant amount of our current fans with us but we also expect to pick new fans as well. Coventry is a very strong rugby area and rugby demographic and it’s never had a Premiership rugby club. All the research we have done suggests there is a great demand for Premiership Rugby in that area. We will be aiming to do both, take our current fans and build new fans.
What’s the current situation with Coventry City FC? Will they remain at the arena long-term?
Long term is up to them but the deal to bring Coventry City back to the arena was done before we purchased the shareholding of the arena, so that’s a legally binding agreement which we will obviously honour. They don’t need a legally binding agreement as we would welcome them anyway because our vision for the arena is to turn it into the most successful multi-use arena in the country and so why wouldn’t we want the football club there. It’s a win-win situation.
Will you work with Coventry City on marketing initiatives surrounding the Arena?
That’s something we haven’t talked about yet. It’s very early days but nothing is off the agenda because it makes sense for both clubs.
Will you consider a rebrand to coincide with the move?
No, we obviously will be working on new marketing plans but the Wasp brand will stay as it is and everything the brand stands for. Wasps have key brand characteristics and we don’t intend to change that. There is a phrase ‘once a wasp always a wasp’ and that applies to what the club stands for so there won’t a major rebranding exercise.
Where do you see the Wasps brand in the future?
From a business standpoint we can see ourselves as the highest turnover club in the country. We see ourselves as vastly stronger, maybe five times our current revenue and hopefully that gives you the financial resources to invest in the playing squad which puts back towards the pinnacle of domestic and European rugby. That’s what we are aiming to achieve.