Of all events I have worked on in my career, England 2015 Rugby World Cup (ER2015) was the highlight. It was the most challenging project, but was the most rewarding and fun event I have ever been part of.
I joined the Transport team in January 2015 as City Transport Manager for Leeds and Newcastle. Having never been to both cities, I had a big task on my hands. My job was to convince them that the Rugby World Cup was an important event that would have a major effect on their operations, and that we needed to put a bespoke plan in place to handle it and deliver the best possible customer and client experience.
I travelled to Leeds and Newcastle every week from January until the tournament in September. We had monthly City Steering Group meetings with every city, of which Transport had its own subgroup. Here representatives from local council, England 2015, stadium management, Highways England, Network Rail, Police, British Transport Police, bus operating companies, light rail, TOCs (Train Operating Companies such as Northern Rail, Virgin Trains East Coast, Cross Country, Transpennine), ambulance and fire services gathered to work on the plans we wanted to put in place for the tournament, highlight issues and collaborate to ensure we all had the correct and up to date information.
I will never forget around April time when the hours in the office were plenty, and sleep was a day dream. I didn’t think I could handle being that busy, that early. I always put my heart into any role I invest in, I want to do a good job, ensure quality work and not let anyone down. Still, my colleagues and my counterparts in Leeds and Newcastle kept my spirits high and positive. It’s amazing what a person can produce when they’re determined, the outcome is even more impressive when a group of people set their minds and hearts to the same goal.
Fast forward to August and we were itching to get out on the ground.
What truly wonderful and magical months lay ahead of us. If only I knew just how incredible it would be, I would have slowed down more to take it all in – if that was even possible? I don’t know if it was because of how much I put into this project meant I got more out of it, but there was something about this tournament that made it far more special than any other major event I had done before.
“…there was something about this tournament that made it far more special than any other major event I had done before.”
That something was, The People. I have never worked with such an incredible, dedicated and supportive bunch of people in my entire life. Our ER2015 teams at Elland Road and St. James’ Park were a family. We bent over backwards to help each other, support each other when were down and out and always mucked in where needed. We were all so very tired but the jokes and laughter between us kept us going.
Our volunteers were wonderful. My only regret was not being able to work with them more. I barely got a ‘Hello’ in and they were off as the event was over. Most events can only succeed with the support of volunteers, and I was lucky to have the teams I did at Leeds and Newcastle. They always bring in a wealth of knowledge and experience from unusual and wonderful backgrounds. Always coming up with new ideas or processes to streamline what we do, and they’re the eyes and ears on the ground. I rely on them in order to do my job. They made our venue transport plan a success. The Leeds & Newcastle teams were awesome and I hope they had as good a time as I did.
My role wasn’t confined to venue operations but was spread across both stadium and city operations.
It was a privilege and honour to have worked closely with members of the council, stadium, transport companies, traffic management companies, police and the emergency services. Over the course of the planning, I formed great relationships with them, and still stay in touch to this day. It was incredibly rewarding to deliver the plans we had created, developed, challenged and (finally) agreed upon. I loved working with both cities. We had a lot of fun throughout the planning stage, even in the midst of challenging situations and serious conversations.
We always kept that element of humour, which is rare but crucial, and a speciality of the Northerners if I may say so myself.
I would (attempt to) mimic the Leeds or Newcastle accents, whilst they threw out the ‘Ta be sure’ or a ‘Thirty three and a third’.
A Geordie saying ‘Ta be sure’ in their own accent is just brilliant.
I was nervous about getting started with two strong cities. Instead, over a period of a few months, we got to know each other and formed effective working collaborations. It was fun, it was challenging, it was rewarding. I have a lot of respect for them, and I learned so much from them. I am thankful to have been able to become part of their teams for the short time we had working together.
Both cities were a resounding success in the transport plan and overall event. England 2015 brought so much fun, happiness and unity to Leeds and Newcastle. It was wonderful to see.
As all good things come to an end, and, as I am sad it’s all over, I am grateful for the experience I had and the people I formed friendships with.
With all the sleepless nights, early mornings and stress i experienced, I would do it again tomorrow.
Because the people made it awesome.