Memorandum submitted by Saracens Ltd
1.1 This written submission was prepared
by Mark Evans and Tim Lawler of Saracens Ltd and represents the
views of the company.
1.2 Mark Evans is the Director of Corporate
Development and was previously Director of Rugby at Saracens.
Tim Lawler is Managing Director and previously worked for the
Rugby Football Union.
1.3 Saracens Ltd are a community based,
marketing led rugby club who compete in the Allied Dunbar Premiership.
2.1 No professional Rugby Union club in
England is making an operational profit. In large part of this
is due to the way in which professionalism was introduced. There
was little forethought and initial optimism resulted in the cost
base spiralling out of controllargely in the form of players'
2.2 Nevertheless recent developments are
encouraging. A squad capping procedure has reduced wage costs,
squad sizes have fallen and salaries are now reasonably under
control. However, the wage cap must be seen as a permanent adjustment
since the cost base of many clubs need to be reduced still further.
2.3 On the revenue side signs at Saracens
are encouraging. Average crowds have risen from 3,500 in 1996-97
to over 10,000 in 1998-99.
2.4 Saracens Corporate and Sponsorship income
has reached seven figures and has increased by 87 per cent in
the last two years.
2.5 Operational losses will drop below £1
million level this season.
2.6 The club will be self-funding within
two more seasons.
2.7 In this financial year Saracens will
spend £450,000 on community, youth development and educational
work. Another £150,000 will be spent on ground improvements.
If we so choose Saracens could be profitable next season.
2.8 However, we believe that we are in the
investment phase of growing a brand. Rugby will never generate
huge profits but it could create enormous value. The establishment
of the Saracens brand is not cheap, but it has a real philosophy
and vision underpinning it. The P&L of a sports business only
sees value in the strength of its affinity groups in relation
to the team's performance.
2.9 At Saracens we buy into certain key
beliefs regarding how the game needs to develop:
greater centralisation with more
commercial rights owned by the league;
each club has to commit to a strong
youth development programme;
the wage cap must remain indefinitely;
a collective bargaining process is
every club has to commit to a strong
youth development programme;
all clubs have to be an active resource
in their community;
long term partnerships are the key
to our corporate strategy; and
a British/European League is the
immediate future. In the long term the game should go global.
2.10 In the immediate future (the next three
years) we do not believe TV revenues will be the saviour of the
club game. Rugby is not yet a "must have" for broadcasters.
Any future TV rights negotiation should see a "non-exclusive"
partnership approach that will promote the game to a wider audience.
2.11 If clubs and the league (preferably
British or European) all adopt a community led, marketing based
strategy then financial viability is an achievable goal within
the next three years.
3.1 Saracens have played at Vicarage Road
Stadium, Watford since September 1997. This a a 23,500 all seater
stadium which is shared with Watford FC.
3.2 This is the only example of English
Premiership teams rugby and football sharing a ground.
3.3 Since September 1997 Saracens have invested
over £1 million into the ground in the form of a new pitch,
catering facilities, dining areas, a Big Screen and hospitality
3.4 To date, no public funding has been
3.5 In the light of the RFU facilities strategy
still being constructed the ease of access for funding is much
3.6 The contrast with funds available for
football and in other countries eg France for stadium and facilities
development is marked.
3.7 Plans for a new training facility will
include significant community use to enable the club to continue
to provide amateur/youth rugby alongside the professional game.
Such plans need to be supported centrally.
3.8 Saracens strongly support EFDR policy
which seeks to retain a percentage of central monies for spending
on capital infrastructure linked to minimum standards criteria.
Such far sightedness needs to be matched by some kind of PFI programme.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that
community = kids and that hard nosed commercialism is a different
thing. They are wrongevery buying customer is a member
of a community. So be a part of his or her community and they
will be a part of the business.
4.1 We make no apologies for making this
section the centrepiece of our submission. Saracens are a community
based, marketing led rugby club. It is absolutely central to our
whole philosophy that our organisation, and hopefully the whole
close to the supporters; and
4.2 Such a stance is the only way in which
we will be commercially successful and the game as a whole will
grow. It is not an either/or situation. Rugby cannot remain an
exclusive, inaccessible, slightly arcane sport. We must reach
out to our community and be:
4.3 The Saracens Community programme is
at the forefront of everything we do. It is the first contact
that people have with us. Some key points to date:
65,000 children have participated
in the Community Programme since September 1997;
during which time 10,000 adults have
Awarded Sportsmatch Best Community
Programme 1998; and
Award Running Rugby Best Youth Initiative
4.4 Significant elements of the community
foundation skills which includes
coaching in schools, disabled and special needs involvement;
teacher and coach education;
Chalk and Talka cross curricular
Key Stage 2 programme;
positive lifestyle messages, assemblies,
literacy packages; and
4.5 Future plans include:
a classroom facility at the stadium;
study support groups; and
secondary schools cross curricular
4.6 To deliver such a programme we employ
three full-time Community Development Officers and two part-time.
4.7 In addition we employ two full-time
Youth Development Officers who concentrate on developing talented
young players. The key elements of this strategy are:
a monthly Academy which attracts
over 300 applications each year from all over the country. Staffed
by the professional players just over 100 applications are accepted.
The age range is 14-16. Next year we will launch a satellite Academy
in South London;
a network of Partner Schools in the
state sector who act as magnet schools in regions such as South
Wales, West Midlands, Devon and Cornwall as well as the South
smaller Elite squads which operate
at U-16 and U-18 level;
a Youth XV for Under 21 players which
plays every Saturday; and
a 12 strong group of apprentices
aged 18 to 21 who are part of the same squad as the professional
4.8 Alongside the programme outlined above
the Saracens mini and junior section caters for over 400 boys
and girls aged between six and 17 every Sunday morning.
4.9 The innovative Saracens Cashback schemean
incentivised ticketing operation has, to date, ploughed £175,585
back into local schools, rugby clubs and other organisations.
In this way we have had direct links with 332 schools and 202
rugby clubs. In this way we make a direct connection with the
rest of the game which benefits them financially and allows us
to build up their affinity with Saracens.
4.10 Saracens Junior Fan Club has 1,448
members. To the best of our knowledge this is the largest junior
section in Rugby Unionhaving been launched in August 1998.
4.11 Our nominated charities (NSPCC and
Aspire) have received £11,396 from us this year.
4.12 The Saracens matchday experience is
specifically designed to attract a new, younger more mixed audience
without alienating the traditional rugby watchers. To do this
we have introduced:
a free gift for children every game
free face painting and hair-spraying
local schools playing warm up games
amongst other attractions. We know that to keep people
interested in rugby you have to offer much more than just the
4.13 Before Saracens came to Watford rugby
was initially non-existent in the areafrom a participating
and spectating point of view. We had no choice but to adopt an
approach which put the local community at the very heart of our
operationsincluding, but not exclusive to, the young people
and sports enthusiasts of south-west Hertfordshire.
4.14 We know Rugby Union has a viable future
if enough clubs adopt the correct approach and the league is able
to operate independently without outside interference. We know
because we are living itcommunity led marketing works.
Not only is it the right thing to be doing, it also happens to
be the most successful commercial approach.