Following Wigan’s trip to Australia, TotalRL’s Matthew Shaw caught up with Kris Radlinski to discuss the trip.
Matthew Shaw (MS): Kris, thanks for joining us. What are your overriding thoughts following the trip?
Kris Radlinski (KR): It’s been an amazing experience. We’ve done ourselves a lot of favours as a club and for Super League.
A lot of planning has gone into it but it couldn’t have gone better really. We won the game which was obviously important, but I think the relationships we’ve made and the accessibility we’ve given the press, in particular, has blown people away really. We’ve made a lot of friends really.
MS: There were a number of pros and cons for the club to weigh up ahead of the trip, in the end, did the positives outweigh the negatives?
KR: Yes, without doubt.
We had to weigh it up from a commercial to performance standpoint. The bigger picture was that its great for the club and the game. It wasn’t an ideal week of preparation, but once we sat down we got their buy-in. The coaches and players, in particular, were great. The nature of the trip was that it was a tourist sponsorship, so we had to use our players to get off into the community and to the tourist attractions to get the most out of it. We worked really hard away from the fixtures themselves.
MS: Behind the scenes, I imagine putting a trip together like this must be incredibly complex?
KR: It’s been one hell of an operation. Particularly the Super League game because in essence that’s our home go. So all of our sponsors in Wigan who have paid for billboards, we’ve had to get them reproduced in Australia so the companies were shown around the field. There was a list of Super League obligations we had to fulfil, such as post protectors, corner flags and balls. We had to do all that, we literally were given the keys to the stadium and told to make it happen. From a very small team in Wigan, we’ve done a pretty amazing job. I’ve no doubt we’ve made mistakes along the way but it has been a great start for us.
MS: Do you have a rough estimate of how much money the club has made from the trip?
KR: It’s hard to answer because of the unforeseen costs, such as doctors, dry cleaning and so forth. They all add up to the overall total. But the sponsorship deals we obtained right from the start with Destination Wollongong, Destination New South Wales and Sydney.com, which was on our jersey, were deals that each represented hundreds of thousands of pounds. It’s big money and I don’t think many people in Super League would have thought you’d get Sydney.com on the back of a jersey. I think that got lost by people along the way.
We’re crying out to get bigger, blue-chip companies into the game. With that comes different activations and one of the activations of this was playing the game out here. If we were going to go and get one of the biggest companies in the world, let’s say Emirates, for example, be prepared to play a game in Dubai. That’s the nature of it.
I know Rugby League struggles for sponsorship. Wigan this year will have its most expensive jersey ever. From a real estate point of view, we’ve attracted some big sponsorships. One of the reasons is because companies want to be involved with other big companies. For us to be playing a game in Sydney is making our sponsors rub their hands together because there are huge kicks for them also.
MS: It’s also been reported that you provided a big economic boost to the areas you visited, have you heard much on that?
KR: The economic impact is worked out. They say each person spends $270 a day on food, hotel rooms and so on. You multiply that by the number of days people are out there and the number of people there, and that’s how they work out the impact on the region and it came out at A$10,000,000 which is huge. I think the Wigan and Hull fans have been tremendous, we definitely chose the right team to come out with us. I’m sure they have a lot of memories of the trip.
MS: Now this trip is behind you, do you have any plans in place for another next year?
KR: They’re not in place but there have been many discussions out here with many different people. And why not, if everyone can make it work. If it’s promoting the game, your club and you’re getting buy-in from everyone, then it can only be a success.
MS: Do you believe more clubs will be keen to join you on a similar tour next year?
KR: Me and Ian (Lenagan) were at the chief execs meeting when it was first announced that we were taking the game to Australia and not many people in the room asked a question about it, they just accepted it.
I think when the next one comes around and we discuss it, people will ask more questions and ask how we did it.
KR: So as it stands, there are no plans for another trip, but you’re open to doing something similar if you can make it work?
Yes. There’s nothing in place, but what I would say is that it’s a big world that’s getting smaller. I’d like to play everywhere. I know a lot of Wiganers and Hull people who couldn’t make this trip but I’m sure if we did it again they would do because of the images going back home. There have been some really cool events. You sit back and think it’s great to be a part of.
MS: You say you want to play everywhere, where next? North America, perhaps?
KR: Obviously there’s a lot of things happening in America at the moment, I had the privilege of sitting through David Argyle’s presentation to the Super League clubs. He speaks with pride and passion about Toronto and their vision. If it comes off it will be huge for the game.
Who knows where we’ll play next, but I don’t think anything is impossible anymore. I’d love in maybe ten years time to say we’ve played in another five countries we’ve never been to.