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Case Study: The British and Irish Lions

Arguably the most iconic rugby team in the world, The British and Irish Lions tour once every four years to one of the southern hemisphere’s quintessential rugby nations – South Africa, Australia or New Zealand.

The tour is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, broadcasting to over 100 million people across 50 countries. The Lions boast one of the largest travelling supporter groups in the world, with over 50,000 people travelling to the 2013 Tour of Australia.

What they needed

In this era of modern sport, the Lions have to ensure they remain competitive both on and off the field of play. To achieve this, they leave no stone unturned in their search for the very best people. Players are selected from the international teams of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, and the management team is recruited from all over the world.

A Director of Operations was sought, based on the following key qualities:

  • Outstanding people management skills, with the ability to build and develop strong and effective teams.
  • A team player, demonstrating a strong collective responsibility.
  • The ability to build positive relationships with a range of stakeholders.
  • The ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously and to operate in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment.
  • Driven, high achiever with international experience.
  • Outstanding communication, diplomacy and negotiating skills.
  • Calm under pressure, resilient, and hard working.
  • Top level budget management and financial planning experience

What we did

As Director of Operations, Guy Richardson planned and implemented the tour in collaboration with many stakeholder groups, including senior executives, Lions management, governing bodies, national squads, professional clubs, sponsors, travel companies, supporters and international embassies. Collaborative leadership, vision, communication and flexibility were the key components of the project. The many challenges included careful planning to meet commercial targets, alongside meticulous transit and freight scheduling.

What the results were

The Lions achieved a series win for the first time in 16 years. In so doing they won two prestigious awards at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, as voted for by the public – Team of The Year and Coach of the Year.

The importance of the Operations Director role should not be underestimated.  If not up to the job, the tour will almost certainly fail off the field and very likely on the field as well.  As tour manager, I was very fortunate to have someone of Guys experience and calibre.
Andy Irvine MBE, Tour Manager, The British and Irish Lions Tour 2013


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