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Thursday, December 08, 2005


Walkinshaw seeks to run European tournament

Mark Souster

TOM WALKINSHAW is to propose that English and French clubs take over the running of the Heineken Cup and make it more profitable by maximising revenues and commercial opportunities.

Walkinshaw, who has never been afraid of taking on the establishment, has written to Jean-Pierre Lux, the chairman of European Rugby Cup (ERC), asking for a meeting to discuss “several points”, including the “management of the tournament”. Writing in his capacity as chairman of Premier Rugby, Walkinshaw, the owner of Gloucester, does not detail his intentions in his letter, but it is being widely interpreted as the first step in attempting to wrest control of the tournament.

It is no secret that he and Serge Blanco, his counterpart at Ligue Nationale de Rugby, the French clubs’ association, who has also contacted Lux, believe that, as a club tournament, the Heineken Cup should be run directly by and for the benefit of the participants and not through their respective unions.

Derek McGrath, the chief executive of ERC, confirmed receipt of correspondence from both individuals. “Their letters were presented to the board of ERC last week,” he said.

The overtures have been made at a time when ERC has begun to conduct an overview of its role, its plans for the future and the direction of the tournament. The review started in September and should be completed within a year.

“The current shareholders’ agreement comes to the end of its eight-year term at the end of 2007,” McGrath said. “It is the first time since 1999 that shareholders have had a chance to get together and say, ‘OK, let’s open this up, let’s start with a blank piece of paper and start discussing what is and what is not appropriate to take this tournament to the next level.’ What changes do people want to make? Let’s all get together and take this further. We want to get all parties together by the end of January.”

The tournament is now in its tenth season and after a hesitant start it has established itself as the most popular competition in Europe after the Six Nations Championship. Since 1999, when it separated from the Lions and Six Nations, it has been a stand-alone entity.

That Walkinshaw can possibly scent an opportunity is an indication of its success. “Perhaps they are saying we value this so much we would love to own it,” McGrath said. “We know the tournament is a success, whether it is accessible for anyone to take ownership of is totally different.”

The notion that somehow the clubs could do a better job on their own is being scoffed at. Walkinshaw, though, has figures to support his argument that financially English clubs could do better. Income from all sources for a Guinness Premiership game is estimated to be in the region of £1 million, from the Anglo-Welsh Powergen Cup about £625,000 but, from Europe, it is between £300-£325,000.

That, however, supposes that the tournament is about self- interest rather than fostering the development of the tournament on a pan-European basis whereby some clubs and countries have to be carried for the greater good. Indeed, the ERC mission statement says: “To realise the potential of European club rugby by pushing back boundaries, connecting stakeholders and creating matches of unique drama.”

On the face of it, Walkinshaw and Blanco’s proposals are a non-starter, but they may be using it as a tactic merely to ensure that ERC reinvigorates itself, which ultimately will be to everyone’s mutual benefit.

“We do not have a problem that everybody buys into this tournament,” McGrath continued. “Can we make the commercial programme better? Well, everyone wants to make more money. It is in our interests to have clubs involved who believe in it and what we are doing as an organisation.”

This year’s tournament, the final of which is in Cardiff, resumes tomorrow night with the first leg of home and away games against the same opponents. Sale Sharks travel to Castres today knowing that victory against the club they beat in a pre-season friendly would consolidate their position in pool one. Philippe Saint-Andre, the Sale director of rugby, has named a 25-man squad. Kingsley Jones, the assistant coach, said: “All the players know we face a tougher test tomorrow.” The second match is at Ravenhill, where Ulster entertain Saracens.
Dragons, Drake, Dragonians. Walkinshaw is a dragon!

Lets see, did I leave anything out? Oh before I forget, Ig is 3rdday!
No, Ig is St Michel!  
So, Walkinshaw 'owns' Gloucester.

I know he's fabulously rich but if he owns a whole city he must really have the midas touch.

He must 'own' Quinton Davids as well then...
lol @ Rasp

Doesn't say too much for his business acumen then does it

That's like 'owning' a Trabant factory
Gloucester owner Tom Walkinshaw will be diluting his control of the club by the sale of the GRFC shares to members of the Kingsholm Supporters Mutual.

MD Ken Nottage: 'We are starting from ground zero - our target for the first phase is £2 million from fundraising activities'

Club president and former captain Peter Ford: 'We are turning fans away each week - to have the facilities we need is very important'

Darren Stevens, season ticket holder and Kingsholm Supporters Mutual steering group member: 'As a fan I'm delighted'

Fact File
+ Kingsholm's current ground capacity is 10,800.

+ Kingsholm is famed for its atmosphere and the raucous vocal support of fans in 'The Shed,' but has the most spartan facilities of any Zurich Premiership club.

+ The redevelopment will increase capacity to almost 14,000 with 3,500 seats in the new £6million grandstand stand, which would cover the whole south side of the ground.

+ The club must raise £2 million by January 2004 in order to borrow the rest of the £4 million needed to finance the project.

+ Phase one, the new grandstand, is planned to be completed in summer 2004.

+ Phase two and three will involve improvements to the Shed terracing and the Kingsholm Road end of the ground.

Talking about the redevelopment plans for Kingsholm unveiled this week, he said: "When I think back to several years ago, it was quite clear we had to find a way to build the club up and establish it at the top echelons of the league.

"We then had to put the proper structure in place, on and off the field, to achieve that and it has all been done.

We have always said when the time was right, the fans would get the opportunity to own part of the club.

"The next step was a big step, either a relocation or a redevelopment of Kingsholm, which is a substantial project to undertake.

"We are now ready to go and do it but we need to know that the supporters and the community at large are supportive of it.

"We are saying we have got the performance on the field right and now we need the facilities to help that grow."

Walkinshaw added: "Since I have been involved, we have always said when the time was right, the fans would get the opportunity to own part of the club.

"The demands of the league insist we need more seats than we have so there is no point in us being in the top three and then failing to meet the criteria.

Minimum requirements

"There is a period of time when we have to meet the minimum requirements and other clubs are looking at similar things.

"We are approaching a time window when we have to say 'right, we are going to press the button on this.'

"Renting a football ground, I believe, is not the way forward and the people of the West Country want their own stadium that is exclusively for rugby."

I am passionate about Gloucester. This is rugby land. The stadium project is not just for the city of Gloucester, but the whole of the West Country and wider community.

Walkinshaw is inviting all supporters and people from Gloucester to be part of what he believes will bring benefits not just for the rugby club, but also the entire region.

All the funds raised will be used for the new Kingsholm development, he promised.

Walkinshaw said: "The mutual is a membership structure and from that, the fans will be offered the chance to purchase new equity.

"That money will be used exclusively for rebuilding the stadium.

"If we can find a third from the fan-base, the management has got the job of finding the other two thirds from other sources. In total, it will cost £6million.

"I am passionate about Gloucester because I have come here for years.

"You have to understand the fan base - they live, eat and breath their rugby - just like Manchester United supporters live, eat and breathe their football.

"This is rugby land. The stadium project is not just for the city of Gloucester, but the whole of the West Country and wider community."
Tom Walkinshaw (born November 17, 1950 Mauldslie Farm, near Penicuik, Midlothian, Scotland) is a Scottish racing car driver and the founder of the racing team Tom Walkinshaw Racing.

Tom began racing in 1968, starting in an old Lotus FF1600. The following year he won the Scottish FF1600 title at the wheel of a Hawke. 1970 saw a move south to England and a change to Formula 3. Early in his career, Walkinshaw broke both his legs in a racing accident while racing for the March works team. Continuing his career despite this setback, he has driven in many classes, including Formula 5000 and Formula 2.

Ford hired Walkinshaw to drive a Capri on the British Touring Car Championship circuit in 1974. This resulted in him winning his class that year.

In 1975 Walkinshaw established Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR), a group whose business is the manufacture and design of racing and road cars. He spent 10 years in this position before retiring from competition to concentrate on TWR's Jaguar Sportscar Programme. In six years the programme won Le Mans twice and the World Championships three times.

In 1983 Tom Walkinshaw led the TWR team to an amazing eleven wins in eleven races in the British Saloon Car Championship in a Rover Vitesse.

Walkinshaw was Engineering Director of the Benetton F1 team which subsequently won the 1994 Formula 1 World Championship amid much controversy.

1997 saw Tom voted Autocar Man of the Year. By this stage the TWR Group employed 1500 employees in the UK, Sweden, Australia and the United States. At the time, Tom was also Managing Director of Arrows Grand Prix International.

His racing group went into liquidation in 2002 following a bid to revive the ailing Arrows racing team.

Tom has been awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering by Oxford Brookes University

Tom Walkinshaw is also Gloucester Rugby Club Chairman becoming the new club owner with the majority shareholding on 29th April 1997. He has also been Chairman of the Premier Rugby Board.
That's me

I'm outta here

Really sorry to miss Branasnacht

Make a 500 post!
Belated dragons!  
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