We sat down with Wigan chief executive Kris Radlinski to talk all things from broadcast deals, international appetite and matchday experience improvements.
Here’s what the Warriors boss had to say…
You became chief executive of Wigan in the off-season, what’s your job been like this year with the introduction of IMG?
I’ve been doing it for a while but now more than ever it’s not what’s happening at the end of the week or the end of the month, it’s about what’s happening over the next decade.
You get the title and its not a pat on the back, its a roll your sleeves up because there is a helluva responsibility to get this period right. From what I’ve found and what I’m working on, is managing my time better to take a step back to actually spend more time thinking because I’m a grafter and sometimes you work in the wrong places. It’s having a bit of discipline to think more long-term and more strategically. I think thats what I changed the most this year.
Working with IMG and Rugby League Commercial on how we take the game forward, we are working with people who know what they are doing and it’s a critical time but it’s also an exciting time. I know the grading hasn’t been passed yet, but it’s noticeable that loads of clubs have raised their game and are doing things a little bit differently, and ultimately, that’s what IMG is about, it’s about raising standards.
It seems like an exciting time, with the talk of potential broadcasters getting involved with the sport…
We all love the sport, but I think at times it can potentially drag you down as well with things that you see and hear. I understand that, I have frustrations like everyone else, but I think all people who love the sport, whether you work in it or watch it or write about it, we’ve all got an obligation to raise our games and show people just how much we love the sport and probably dwell on positivity rather than the negative, which we’ve a tendency to do that as a sport.
We all know about the product on the field, when it’s played at its best there’s no other sport like it. We’ve just got to get the five outstanding games a year, we’ve got to turn that into 25 or 35 and then you create that genuine interest from broadcasters who want a piece of our sport.
There seemed to be a big appetite for international fixtures on the back of last year’s World Cup, would you like to see more test matches?
The power of international sport is huge as seen with the numbers that came with the World Cup.
The challenge we’ve got as a sport is revenue versus product. I think that has been one of the challenges that has been discussed most over the last few years is the fact that we potentially do play too many games, but we need the money to pay the wages ultimately, so it is about getting that balance right as well.
I know IMG and the rugby league board and Rugby League Commercial are working on next year’s calendar to see what that looks like. At this moment in time we’ve no broadcast deal, we need to get that right, so we need to know what money we’re getting to play with next year so there’s a few things up in the air before we can start planning for next year.
But I think if we can continue the excitement from the first rounds of Super League and carry it through it will hold us in good stead.
I think for the first time in a long time, and there’ll be many fans that don’t like this because you want to win every week, but games are hard to call. There are so many games you don’t know (who to predict) and there are so many upsets, and this is what we always wanted isn’t it? I think rugby league fans are going to have to get used to that. Your team isn’t going to win every week, there is going to be genuine competition and that’s what we want, the excitement on the field is what drives broadcasting numbers as well.
I think we’re in a good place, if we maintain this start and carry it through I think we’ll be good.
As chief executive of one of the biggest Super League clubs, how do you switch off?
You don’t. First of all, you need good family and good people around you but it’s a privilege. I’m on, I don’t have weekends off but I can’t complain. I’m very lucky to do what I do, its a privilege and I’ve got a responsibility to represent the town but there’s no off days.
Wigan have noticeably made an extra effort to improve their matchday experience in recent years. How beneficial has that been for the club?
For many years sports clubs across the world have put barriers up in their clubs and created this mystery about what’s happening inside. I think what we’ve done over the last 18 months, and Matty (Peet) has helped because he understands what we want to do, is drop the walls and welcome everyone in.
You are our customers, you are our fans, come in and see what we do and Robin Park has allowed us to do that. We are very much at the start of our journey with it and we’re going to keep building on it but so far the fans like it and our season ticket numbers are up.
People are coming to games and are smiling. We’re not sitting here with our legs crossed saying ‘job done’ – we are onto something, so let’s make it better and better.