Rugby shirt

The final is over the winner are all in black and this has been the most successful Rugby World Cup ever from so many angles.

More money, more spectators in the grounds and on the TV, more participants, more close games, more TV coverage, more global, the list goes on.

Despite England leaving the competition at an early stage the World Cup was still embraced and supported by the great British public and their millions.

So what will be the legacy?

Rugby has come of age as a sport and as a business

This world cup was the most profitable in history and significant revenues will now be returned to the world game and can be used as a spring board to establish the game as a world sport which is commercially viable and sustainable.


Rugby was able to demonstrate that it has strong values which are very attractive to the public. As England Rugby expresses on its website “Rugby's values of Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship are what makes the game special for those who enjoy the environment and culture they create. They define the game and define England Rugby.”

There are so many examples throughout the competition of positive behaviours from all the teams which support these values. Significantly there were no reported issues with crown disturbance, arrests or dangerous foul play. The only thing which might be argued against this was the behaviour from some quarters to a refereeing decision which was perceived to be inaccurate. I am sure that on reflection some of these reactions were a little over emotional and now things have died down may be regretted by those who made them.

To build any business and indeed any sport business there needs to be a foundation of values which are agreed by all and supported not only by the laws, but most importantly by the behaviour of the players or rather employees.

Rugby took a giant leap forwards in this world cup and can now realistically be considered as a serious challenge to the football, cricket and US sports even the Olympics.

The challenge will now be to leverage the excellent PR and public engagement and to attract even more people to enjoy the game. It is critical that the values remain strong and that players, teams and governing bodies recognise that the public admire these values and behaviours. These factors will continue to attract more people to attend games and to watch on TV. With this comes more exposure and more revenue.

As with any business, it is critical that the sport stays close to its values and polices any poor behaviour and mis-alignment to these values. These challenges will come as this is a competitive sport played by competitive players - and who represent teams run by competitive owners who themselves are competitive people who want to win.

And this is where things get interesting for the business world. Possibly the greatest legacy of the world cup is that it was not just about winning, it truly was about competing and upholding the values of the sport.

As a business, or as a business leader, you may wish to reflect upon the following questions as you develop your own memories from the world cup.

  • Do we have a clear set of values which act as the foundation of our business?
  • Do all our employees live and behave in accordance with the values?
  • Do the values support the commercial interest of the business?
  • Are the values admired by our customers?
  • How do we deal with those who do not uphold the values?
  • And finally, are we committed to winning but only within the remit of our values?

By John Neal, psychophysiologist and a member of faculty and director of the Sport Business Initiative at Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School