Gloucester Rugby: 'My Grandma won't let me mess this up'
NEW managing director Stephen Vaughan believes his biggest Kingsholm challenge is to keep Gloucester in the black.
The Cherry and Whites have solidified financially in the last couple of years – and new boss Vaughan wants to push for greater profits in the next couple of years to beef up the business.
The 38-year-old arrived at Kingsholm last month as the long-term successor to long-standing managing director Ken Nottage.
After finding his Kingsholm bearings, the former professional footballer with Walsall is confident Gloucester can boost their off-field situation – to usher in sustained success under Nigel Davies.
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Vaughan grew up in the Midlands but admits he has a good appreciation of what supporting Gloucester means – from his grandmother.
Ursula Vaughan lives in Fairford, and the 86-year-old congratulated her grandson on his new job by telling him 'don't mess it up.'
Targeting trophies in rugby director Davies' tenure, Vaughan explained: "The biggest ambition for me is to grow our bottom-line profit, and grow the brand of Gloucester outside the immediate area.
"We've got to make sure we're not working in a boom and bust environment.
"We'll keep the best interests of the club at heart.
"And that dovetails into what happens on the field.
"If we can get more investment into the club, to the business side of things, then hopefully that will rub off on what happens elsewhere.
"We want to get Gloucester into the play-offs – we want Gloucester to start winning trophies, and that's what drives me."
Intent on adding an innovative edge to life at Kingsholm, Vaughan said that will never come at the expense of tradition – or the view of the supporters.
He continued: "This is a massive club in rugby, and I've always been aware of Gloucester's history and heritage.
"My grandma is from Fairford and my great aunt is from Painswick, and they've told me in no uncertain terms just what it means to be in the hot-seat at Gloucester, and they've been quite comical with it too.
"My grandma's first comment was 'don't mess it up.'
"I'll do my utmost to make sure I can drive the club forwards both on and off the field.
"My grandma is 86 now, and she was on the Shed 40 years and more ago.
"So that's given me a bit of an insight hopefully into what the supporters want.
"Every time I ever want to remind myself exactly what I'm in charge of here, I can go and chat to her and she'll tell me straight.
"But on top of that there's a lot of supporters who work for the club too, so there's plenty of people I can sound out.
"Every time we make a decision it isn't just taken from a business perspective, we know we have to think very seriously what the fans want and how they will react to what we do.
"And so one of my biggest challenges is to tap into that, and maintain a strong understanding of what they want – so that hopefully we can deliver it."
Stints with Land Rover and British Gas followed Vaughan's short time in professional football, but he made his name with Thomas Cook.
Rising to lead the travel giant's Club 18-30 arm, Vaughan then handled Thomas Cook's corporate hospitality packages for London 2012.
Hailing rugby director Davies' impressive start at the Kingsholm helm this term, Vaughan said the former Wales centre makes all the calls on the rugby front – and the board simply help carry them out.
He continued: "Nigel's a great guy and he's built a very good coaching team around him.
"Nigel doesn't need smothering, he knows what he's doing.
"He makes the decisions on players and those sorts of things – and we help him get to where he wants to be on that front.
"Nigel understands how we need to run as a business.
"He's really happy with the budgets, we go to the full salary cap.
"But he also genuinely understands that if we want to do something quite radical then we'd need that to pay for itself.
"We're going to keep investing behind the scenes, and everything we've got lined up for this season and the next couple is exactly what Nigel wants it to be.
"I'd like to bring in a couple of new innovations in how we engage with our supporters, but also how we work more closely with our sponsors and partners.
"We've got a great set of supporters and we're examining how we can get closer to them.
"Hopefully a fresh pair of eyes can help bring in a few slight changes to what we do off the field.
"I really want us to be as innovative and forward-thinking as possible – without forgetting the DNA of the club.
"We're not about to mess around with the things that make the club what it is – we won't suddenly be playing in blue next year or anything like that.
"But it doesn't mean there aren't certain things we can't look at."