"Engagement" the focus for incoming Waratahs CEO

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Incoming Waratahs CEO Paul Doorn says “engagement and participation” will be the key benchmarks for NSW Rugby in years to come.

While he was reticent to reveal any specific plans when speaking to the media ahead of his official first day, Doorn said growing the rugby base in NSW was his primary focus.

While Doorn admitted that winning would obviously be a key benchmark of success, his focus was just as much on other elements.

“For me it's about engagement and participation,” he said.

“I'm really looking forward to seeing what are the ways we can get as many people as possible watching the game, learn the stories, learn a bit more about the players themselves, both in the men's and the women's games and actually look to see if we can build a little profile so that actually people start to understand the people behind the game.

“I think that's really important.”

Paul Doorn joins NSW Rugby from Venues NSW. Photo: NSW Rugby/Julius DimatagaOne of the key challenges for Doorn and many of his counterparts will be recouping lost revenue as the 2021 Super Rugby season reduces to a 15-team round robin format, cutting team’s home games down in turn.

While that will see the potential for home game revenue reduced, Doorn said he felt it could be an opportunity for the Waratahs.

“Yes there's a huge disadvantage, you don't get as much game time with your fans and your membership base to come along but what are the opportunities that having a concentrated number of events might do for you,” he said.

“Every single event has to become an event in its own right so I think we're looking forward to coming up with a bit of a strategy that actually just generates as much attention to those games as possible.

“I'll wait until I get my feet under the desk and actually figure out what the financial implications are and look at what other revenue streams that be able to help us.”

Bankwest Stadium is one of the venues Doorn has looked after in recent seasons. Photo: Getty ImagesDoorn, who will join from Venues NSW, said growing participation numbers was his first point of call when it comes to trying to arrest that trend.

“I think you live and die by participation numbers in this business,” he said.

“For me, I think the customer experience and trying to make the game day experience something special is challenging.

“I know this year we're playing six different home games which is a disadvantage but also a huge opportunity to engage with a whole new set of markets that we perhaps haven't done or haven't done as regularly as we have in the past.

“For me, it's about trying to find out how we can get people along to the venues in the short period of time when we're displaced but then what are these massive opportunities (down the track)?

“And that's not just bums on seats but it's actually about sponsors, it's about corporates, it's about a whole range of different things.

“There's a really exciting future, we just need to work really hard between now and then.”

Working with the Sydney Rugby Union will be pivotal, says Doorn. Photo: SuppliedOne of the key elements of Doorn’s role is the relationship with the Sydney Rugby Union and the Shute Shield clubs.

The integration of that competition into the upcoming Rugby Australia broadcast deal was a key development in that relationship but Doorn said he wanted to work towards more alignment.

“I think from my perspective, the concept of what we're trying to do from the television deal perspective and aligning both SRU, or the Sydney clubs, into a television deal through NSW Rugby and then with Rugby Australia, that's really important,” he said.

“I think that's a pretty good example of people needing to see that, whether that's the person who's watching on television or people in clubland, actually starting to see there is a pathway from grassroots through to whatever level you might be playing.

“That's a pretty good indicator of how I see things, we need to make sure the Sydney clubs whether it;s through television and a global audience or whether it's through just the sorts of things we do and how we relate to Rugby Australia, it's going to be important that we're aligned.”