Dear Prudence – running a rugby club the right way

16th May 2012

Well, the rugby season is all over bar the shouting now, and thoughts naturally turn towards the summer break and a well-earned rest. Unfortunately for Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, summer breaks are just a bit of a pipe dream. Whilst others will be putting their feet up, Geoff will be pondering what to do next season, which players to bring to Priory Park, and setting targets for the coming campaign. Being a Director of Rugby is no part-time job: it’s full on and demands total dedication and commitment. However, if you love what you do then it needn’t seem like a chore. It can feel like a privilege and a pleasure, even when you realise you haven’t got the budget at your disposal to do all that you’d like to do. Well, that’s how it is for Geoff. Macclesfield Rugby Club is his passion and it shows in everything he says and does. In the final part of the end of season review Geoff talks to Macclesfield Rugby about acceptance, agents and acquisitions.

Do you find the budget restrictions frustrating, when you look round and see other club’s spending money like it’s going out of fashion?

“Well yes, but we all have to live within our means, and I knew what the position was when I came here. Clive Hammond, our Chairman and Treasurer, has done a fantastic job in the sense of what always trying to give the team what we need, even if that means stretching things here or straining things there. The Club has always been willing to give as much as it could reasonably afford to do. But underlying all of this is the knowledge that you have to run a club prudently and live within your means. Granted you might be tempted to blow a little too much of the budget and believe you’ll be ok, but sooner or later this will catch up with you. You only have to look around the country to see how this has happened to other rugby clubs. Cambridge this year came pretty close to going out of business.  So yes, it’s been a strain at times. We’d all like more money to spend on players, but I accept the restrictions and temper my enthusiasm because I know we can’t spend more money than we’ve got. Besides I take some pleasure from the knowledge that we’ve managed to live within our means, yet still produce a quality rugby club.”

Given these financial restrictions, what sort of ambitions have you got for the immediate future and the longer term?

“Well, our immediate priority next season is to kick on from what we’ve achieved this year, and to try to improve on that. Now obviously I’ll have to look at recruitment carefully and try to assemble the best set of players available on our budget, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle for what we’ve already achieved in National League One. Ultimately I’d like us to get promotion to the Championship, but I’d like us to be in such a position that if we were to be promoted we’d be confident of staying there and more than holding our own. Now that’s something that can’t just happen overnight: it takes time and careful planning.”

How’s the recruitment drive going?

“Not too badly in the circumstances, but I’m also being prudent. I’d love to be able to sign proven players, or wonder kids with the world at their feet, but I have to think of the budget at the end of the day. Everybody tends to want what they can’t have. So I’m looking at local players from the area, rather than searching for players nationwide. Agents are constantly ringing me up with offers of players, but I won’t have any truck with these people. Firstly they charge finder’s fees which I find objectionable, and secondly because if a player’s got an agent then it stands to reason that he’ll be wanting too much money to come within our budget. Ultimately what I’d like to do is build a side from within our area: a side that has local presence and local pride. There’s no point chasing players from miles away who’d struggle to make training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For a large part we’re already on the right track with building a local team, and that’s the way we’ll continue.”

Have you set your sights on any particular players?

“Well, I’ve already spoken to a number of players about next season, and we’re just waiting on decisions about whether they will or won’t be joining us. Now I’m not going to panic about recruitment as generally these things work out in the end naturally. But I suppose because we’re losing Charlie, Fergus and Ross, it’s put the matter into sharper focus. Obviously I’m sad that Charlie and Fergus are going off to Rotherham, but I’m pleased for them none the less as they’re going to seek their fortunes at the next level in the Championship. What I’ve now got to do is look for players to fill their boots, and let’s face it; they’re pretty big boots to fill. I’ve also got to look to strengthen the squad as a whole, because it’s no secret that we were a little thin on the ground last season. We struggled to put out a team at times because of injury. So my priority will be on strengthening the squad.”

Any names you’d like to share?

“We’ve got a few irons in the fire with possible signings, but there’s no point rushing to the media to make big announcements until you know you’ve definitely got the player. It’s not like soccer or other professional sports where you know you’ve got their signature on a piece of paper well in advance. We shouldn’t kid ourselves. Macclesfield are still at the top end of what might still be described as amateur rugby. Still I’m confident that I’ll be able to bring in some new blood and generally strengthen the team. In the end that will be good for the Club as a whole and good for the individual players, as we all respond better when we’re challenged and have to compete for places.”