Profile: Carrying the Cup - Paul Vaughan, Commercial Director, Rugby Football Union

Marketing, October 27, 2004 | Go to article overview

Profile: Carrying the Cup - Paul Vaughan, Commercial Director, Rugby Football Union


Paul Vaughan is in need of a break. 'The media is full of sports stars complaining about their lack of rest days, but no one ever talks about the administrative team burning out,' he chuckles, a slightly raised eyebrow suggesting that he's not entirely joking.

It's nearly 12 months since England's rugby team brought home the World Cup to a country starved of sporting success. Since that time, the 49-year-old Rugby Football Union (RFU) commercial director and his team have been working to build on the nation's renewed interest in rugby. Identifying a proper name for the England team - similar to New Zealand's All Blacks - is the latest task (Marketing, 20 October).

On the face of it, Vaughan has little to complain about. Since the World Cup he has been the envy of his commercial counterparts in sport, as the nation basked in countless reruns of Jonny Wilkinson's winning drop goal.

It would be easy for Vaughan to rest on these laurels, but it appears that he is not entirely satisfied with how things have panned out over the past year. 'Being World Cup champions is fantastic, but the trouble with winning is that expectations become unfeasibly high,' he says. 'The viewing figures and attendances for last season suggest we maintained the interest created by the World Cup win, but the forthcoming autumn internationals will give us a better barometer to judge how far we've come.'

Troubles on the pitch have added to the pressures on Vaughan. The exit of England coach Sir Clive Woodward, as well as a string of player retirements, including captains Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio, have prompted a major restructure of the World Cup-winning team, and England have slumped to some high-profile defeats.

Not that the RFU is any stranger to criticism. As Vaughan points out, upholding the sporting values of the game while attempting to profit commercially from it is a tricky balancing act. In the past, many sports federations have simply closed ranks and ignored the flak, a strategy that in the RFU's case did nothing to dispel the impression of rugby as an elitist sport.

A slight air of public-school snobbery continues to cling to the Twickenham headquarters where Vaughan is based, although he manages to avoid its taint. …

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