The school was fortunate enough to welcome Jim O’Toole to the Milton Library this week, to share the inner workings of his influential role as the Commercial Director of London Irish Rugby Club.

Discussing rugby management

As he addressed a predominantly Sixth Form audience, Mr O’Toole outlined the financial problems faced by professional rugby clubs, and the various complications that they entail. As he later explained, rugby clubs are constantly forced to adapt to the changing landscape of professional sport. With fluctuating fan attendances and below-par performances from the team, the club is presented with the problem of uncertain ticket, merchandise and hospitality sales.

After contextualising that rugby clubs are not too dissimilar to any other business, in the sense that their primary objective is to generate profit, Mr O’Toole explained the different ways in which a club is able to maintain profit margins through continued fan support, ticket and merchandise sales, and lasting sponsorships. As he aptly described it, 'putting bums on seats' is above all else critical for a clubs’ survival as a moneymaking machine.

We were all given a fascinating understanding of how rugby clubs are more than just a sports team, but a business that faces financial dilemmas much like any other business. Mr O’Toole used the recent example of London Wasps’ relocation to Coventry as prime example of the lengths top-flight clubs will go in order to overcome financial difficulties.

Speaking on behalf of all those in attendance, I express my gratitude to Mr O’Toole for taking the time to come and give us an insight into the ups and downs of running a premier rugby club.