Fylde’s Media & Communications officer Allan Foster caught up with Josh Beaumont this week.
AF: Josh, you are one of a handful of young players who have come through the Fylde Junior and 1st XV ranks to make it at the elite Premiership level. You first played in the Club’s mini teams in the Under 6s. What do you remember of those days at the Woodlands?
JB: In fact, I remember as a tiny lad going to the ground on 1st XV Saturdays with my mum, dad and brothers and throwing a ball around and playing happily. I didn’t really watch the 1st team games but had a lot of fun just playing for hours and hours with family and friends.
As I progressed through the age group teams, Sundays were always taken up with playing games under the selfless coaching of club stalwarts such as Ian Cosh and John Burtonwood – and with a bag of chips afterwards! These parents and many others do so much to help and encourage young players at community club levels.
At Arnold School and at Fylde, I was a fly-half up to about 15 or 16 years old. I was quite a late starter in terms of representative rugby and it wasn’t until Fylde’s Academy Coaches Alan Holmes and Dave Wilks persuaded me that at nearly 6’5” and with the promise of a lot more muscle in the future that maybe, just maybe, I should switch to the pack! I then got into the Lancashire U’17s and then North U’18s squads.
AF: After Arnold you studied for a degree at Durham University – and your academic and rugby career took another step. I know that you are particularly affectionate about your time at Durham, especially your experience in the University Rugby 1st XV.
JB: Yes, I studied for a degree in Geography at Durham. I had an excellent time there. On the rugby side I owe a lot to the University Rugby Head Coach, Alex Keay. I joined a very talented squad, including players such as Simon Hammersley and Harrison Collins, and in my first year we won the BUCS Championship. We did the same in my third and final year.
AF: Towards the end of that period you also broke into the Fylde 1st XV under coaches Mark Nelson and Brian Ashton. How did that go?
JB: Very well indeed! I played a number of games in the 2010-11 season and this coincided with Jason Robinson, one of the greatest ever English players, joining the Club, together with former England Head Coach Ashton. We had a great 2010-11 season playing open, flowing and winning rugby. What could have been a better introduction to senior rugby? I played for the Club in the following two seasons whilst also joining Sale Sharks and eventually made my Premiership debut in 2013-14.
AF: Let’s move on to your more recent higher educational experience.
JB: In the last two years I’ve been undertaking a 2 years part-time Masters in Business Administration (MBA), ‘CEO in Sports Organisation’. This is a joint venture between training provider VSI Executive Education and taught by the University of Salford.
AF: What led you to choose this course?
JB: Numerous Premiership players decide that their future careers will be in coaching and they take the necessary educational programmes down that track. My interests are rather different, more into the management and business aspects of the sports sector. After looking around for a route into this, I discovered the VSI/Salford ‘CEO in Sports Organisation’ programme and it was right on my doorstep!
It’s been a very good experience, not only because of the areas it covers but also for the people I’ve met in my cohort. These included Christian Day, former Sale Sharks & Northampton Saints lock, Chairman of the Rugby Players Association and now Player Liaison Officer at the RPA. He was also a Fylde Mini-Junior!
Others on the programme included Maggie Alphonsi MBE, former star of the England Women’s game and now a prominent broadcaster and columnist, a very senior lawyer and numerous senior directors of Premiership football clubs. This was a very high profile and experienced set of people from the sports sector and they were very good company.
We covered financial management as well as organisational behaviour, even into the political sphere, and a lot of the learning was through case studies in sports and related industries. I became interested in important areas such as corporate sponsorship and governance. There are so many issues in the way that sports are governed at the moment that this is a very fruitful area of investigation and development.
I’ve completed the course work and submitted my dissertation on pre-retirement planning for professional players. I’m particularly passionate about the personal development of elite players as they move away from their playing careers.
AF: This seems to mesh very well with you offering time to Fylde to assist their business planning.
JB: Yes, I hope so. I’ve had an initial meeting with Chairman Mike Brennand, Dave Young and Anthony Hoskisson to explore specific tasks I can undertake. I’ve had quite a lot of contact with sponsors at the Sharks and, although this is at a different level than at a National League club, there will be commonalities too.
It seems to me that the key is to thoroughly understand the expectations of Fylde’s sponsors and ensuring that, as best we can, we meet these. Sponsors at National League level will certainly not get the national or international media coverage sought by many giant corporate backers. However, Fylde’s sponsors are incredibly loyal and anxious not only that the 1st XV is successful but that the Club delivers on its community responsibilities generally.
Many companies take their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) very seriously indeed. Putting funds towards, for instance, developing sporting participation amongst young people in a local community is a very worthy objective indeed.
Other Fylde sponsors simply enjoy the match day experience at the Woodlands including excellent hospitality and the camaraderie which is unique to community rugby clubs. The team under Head Coach Warren Spragg remains true to the attacking, running rugby philosophy of previous Fylde generations and the spectacle is very attractive.
AF: We also try to use our digital channels – the Club’s website and social media feeds – to supplement the more traditional media which covers the Club’s activities. In your experience, is this important in drawing attention to sponsors and their generous support?
JB: Yes, very important. I’ve noticed that the Club’s Facebook page and Twitter feed are very active and that these have attracted more followers amongst the 48 National League clubs bar four or five others. Young people are great users of Instagram and other emerging social media platforms and it’s very important to get the Club’s activities represented on these.
In general terms, I’d like to try to bring some new ideas to the Club’s commercial approach, talk to sponsors and get a better understanding of their hopes and expectations in supporting the Club. This will, hopefully, not only benefit the Club but extend my experience in a crucial area of the sports industry.
AF: Good luck Josh!
And on the occasion of the only senior game during which Josh played with elder brothers Daniel and Sam v Sale Sharks in August 2011 …