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Richmond Football Club’s off field success built on the industry skills of key staff

Richmond Football Club’s off field success built on the industry skills of key staff
February 27, 2016

The health, fitness and recreation industries have in recent times become a breeding ground for senior roles at AFL clubs. Nowhere is that more evident than the Richmond Football Club.

Despite the fact Richmond has not won an AFL Premiership since 1980, it has become one of the more successful clubs off-field in recent years. It boasts a membership in excess of 70,000, which places it behind only Collingwood and Hawthorn football clubs when it comes to total membership. In 2015, Richmond was also ranked number one in the AFL for total attendance.

Beyond this, Richmond has a booming retail business, where significant online growth is underpinned by their bricks and mortar outlet located at its Punt Rd headquarters in the shadows of the MCG. These key performance consumer metrics have been of great appeal to existing and prospective corporate partners. As a result, Richmond has managed to increase sponsorship revenues every year for the last five years, with the likes of Jeep and Bingle, now long term partners of the club.

Richmond’s General Manager of Consumer Business, Cain Liddle, himself a graduate of the health and fitness industry, puts much of the off-field success down to a relentless determination to put the member at the centre of the club and ensure that every decision is made with them in mind.

Liddle explains “It is our strongly held view that consumer growth is a lag indicator of a number of other metrics.

“When supporters feel a connection to the club and genuinely believe that they can personally contribute to its success, through their financial support, then that’s an incredibly powerful motivator.

“Equally important is the service quality that these supporters and members are provided. I think that in the past, AFL clubs may have at times taken their members for granted.

“At Richmond, that is the antithesis of our beliefs. We feel enormously privileged for the support we receive. To have more than 70,000 financially committed members, and countless other supporters who turn up every week to watch us play, is something we are very grateful for and we hope that our members and supporters feel that gratitude when they interact with us.”

External confirmation that Richmond is on the right track comes from Professor Heath McDonald, Associate Dean of Research & Development at Swinburne University.

For more than a decade, Professor McDonald has worked with the AFL, cricket (Big Bash League), rugby league and union, netball and football to run annual membership surveys across each competition. As a result, Professor McDonald has compiled a rich pool of longitudinal data, across a number of key consumer metrics in various sports.

Professor McDonald is lavish in his praise when it comes to assessing Richmond’s performance in recent years against key satisfaction and service metrics, stating “in more than 10 years of undertaking member research across multiple sports, we have never seen such consistently high scores in service quality as we have seen at Richmond over the last five years.

“Richmond has regularly ranked number one across the league for service quality and have not been out of the top three for five consecutive years. At times we have witnessed service quality scores that are unprecedented in any sport that we undertake research for. Richmond is often referred to as industry best practice in service quality and management of large membership bases.”

The Clubs commitment to engagement with members and supporters extends across the entire business and its significant growth in key digital metrics, as well as its community programming, plays to that agenda as well.

Richmond’s General Manager of Media and Stakeholder Relations Simon Matthews comments “we want our supporters to feel connected with their Club and our digital platforms are an efficient way to build that connection.

“We have consistently been rated in the top three Clubs in the AFL for engagement across our key digital platforms and that takes into account metrics such as unique browsers, page impressions and time on site.

“Our community programming – which includes a preferred charity partnership with the Alannah and Madeline Foundation and the work we do with Indigenous youth in the Korin Gamadji Institute at Punt Road Oval – is about members and supporters feeling good about their football Club and what it stands for beyond winning games of football.

“All these activities build engagement and that ultimately flows into consumer sentiment.”

It is at this point that it is worth referring to the health and fitness industry to find out how Richmond has done this.

As Liddle explains “from a consumer business perspective, we have unashamedly targeted the health and fitness industry for many of our staff.

“The transferable skills are so obvious.

“If you work on the frontline in health and fitness and you can’t build relationships, adapt to different personalities and sell memberships, then you are not going to last long. If you can do all those things, and you have honed your skills in the cut throat health and fitness environment, then you have some very attractive skills for a football club, many of whom for which membership is now the number one revenue generator.”

Daniel Giese and Alex Jolley are two recent success stories who have forged a pathway from various health and fitness roles at the Ascot Vale Leisure Centre and Werribee Sports & Fitness Centre into the consumer team at Richmond. Both became Membership Manager’s at Richmond, with Jolley following Giese into the role in 2014 and both have now been specifically targeted by two of the country’s biggest NRL clubs. Giese is now the Head of Consumer at Melbourne Storm and Jolley is set to take over as the Head of Consumer at the Sydney Roosters.

Daniel Giese and Alex Jolley

Liddle adds “Daniel and Alex have been incredibly valuable contributors to Richmond’s off field success.

“They applied a number of their learnings from health and fitness and successfully executed them as major acquisition and retention campaigns in football, all the while underpinned by high levels of service quality.

“If you were ever in any doubt about the capacity to take health and fitness processes, such as member inductions, referral campaigns, intervention campaigns, upsell campaigns and prospecting, and apply them to the AFL setting, then you only need look as far as Daniel and Alex to be sure that they will work.

“Throughout their five years at Richmond, membership grew by a staggering 30,000, Richmond has ranked in the top three for member retention for five consecutive years and have ranked number one for first year member retention for the last three years, a legacy of a highly-structured first-year member nurture program.”

In 2015, Richmond also added another highly-respected health and fitness figure in Shane Dunne to their team. With 15 years of health and fitness experience, Dunne is responsible for consumer strategy and is currently leading a project that will allow Richmond to take data from many disparate sources and centralise it into a cloud-based solution. This will be a key strategic plank of the club’s consumer strategy moving forward, providing a single customer view of its database.

With Giese and Jolley’s recent departure, Richmond is currently searching for a new Head of Consumer to oversee the important portfolios of Membership and Retail. With approximately 25 casual and full-time staff and managing revenues of around $15 million annually, the Head of Consumer is responsible for generating the maximum possible profit for the Club while building the strongest possible emotional connection with Richmond members and supporters.

It’s no surprise to hear that Richmond would welcome applications from the health and fitness industry and a copy of the full position description can be requested by emailing 

Applications close on Friday 4th March.

Images courtesy of Richmond FC.





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