Cork woman Gemma Crowley is the Team Services Manager at the Rugby World Cup for Ireland’s Pool D. She offers an insight into some of the logistics that have gone into planning England 2015...
What’s your background and how did you get the job?
I’m from a football and hockey background and I came to rugby later in life. I worked as a training venue manager for the football teams competing at the London 2012 Olympics for six months and then I had the honour of managing the Irish women’s rugby team. But to work at a men’s Rugby World Cup and be at the heartbeat of it is something special.
I applied for the job last year, and after the Women’s Rugby World Cup in France I had a four-day turnaround to pack my bags and move to London. For a few months I stayed with former Irish rugby player Lynne Cantwell, but now I live just five minutes from Twickenham Stadium, and love what I do.
What are your primary duties as Team Services Manager?
My job covers a range of things, but primarily it’s to look after the teams in Pool D, which are France, Ireland, Italy, Canada and Romania.
We look at the logistics of getting them to the tournament, from their flights, accommodation, training bases and also liaising with the match venues for them.
We’re also in charge of hiring and managing staff, which includes two liaison officers for each team and two security advisers.
What’s entailed in organising the teams’ bases?
We work under the Event Delivery manager, who is Gethin Jenkins who was the CEO of Newport Gwent Dragons, and for last two years the Team Services Department has being working on getting everything set up for the teams during their stay.
Each team base must consist of an outdoor pitch, an indoor sports hall or a 3G pitch, a gym, a swimming pool and a hotel onsite. It varies then from team to team as to how often they want to move. So, some teams will set up a central base and operate from there and move back and forth to the different match day venues, while some teams choose not to set up a base and just move from venue to venue. Ireland for example are travelling quite a bit, and are looking at each match as almost a separate camp.
Where are the teams based during the World Cup?
There’s a variety of bases including Surrey Sports Park, the FA headquarters at St George’s Park or Woodbury Park in Exeter, but the one thing I found interesting was how teams differ in where they want to base themselves. You’d think that they’d automatically want everything on site, but not every team likes that. Some teams want to stay in old style hotels, and others modern hotels, so it’s interesting to see what floats the boat of one team, is completely opposite to another.
What was available for the teams on their arrival?
Each team was given a kit on arrival which includes everything from beanbags for their team room to kettles, toasters, ironing boards, travel adapters and cables etc. We thought of all that stuff because the majority of us working here have come from sporting backgrounds.
My boss, Charlotte O’Neill, is a former SuperLeague netball player. There’s a hockey international, someone with a canoeing background, two colleagues have competed at the London Olympics in water polo, so it’s very much player and team focused. We really do look at what will make the players’ lives easier and the managers.
Is it not a logistical nightmare?
You’d think so, but it’s not. There’s been years of planning gone into this, and my boss started on the England 2015 project as far back as November 2012. We initially had five people employed and now we have 10 working on a number of different functional areas.
So, we work with the accommodation team and the logistics team which looks after the freight and movement of all the teams’ kit from their country into the UK. Each team has two trucks allocated to them that will bring their equipment from hotel to hotel, and the second one to bring equipment from their hotel to their training base pitch.
What has the experience been like for you?
It’s been amazing. England 2015 has surpassed everyone’s expectations already. They’ve upped the game and set standards that the Japanese will no doubt be looking at in 2019.
The London Olympics was a massive learning curve for them but they really know how to do events.
The experience on the team too is incredible. We might not have a lot of rugby experience, but colleagues have worked on the London Olympics and other Olympics, summer and winner, from Commonwealth Games to football World Cups, and Formula 1... you name a sport and an event, and I guarantee you someone in the office has worked at it.
The average age in the office is 30 and it’s a really energising environment to work in. I can honestly say I’ve never come across people who take such pride in their work. You’re here to get the job done and it’s all player centred which is very important to us. The motto is to put on the best rugby World Cup ever and to set the standard, so it’s not work when you come into an environment like that every day.
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