Former Weybridge Vandal at heart of 2015 World Cup
Returning hero: 2015 Rugby World Cup chairman Andrew Cosslett at Weybridge Vandals, where he was captain in the mid-80s - last week
Andrew Cosslett may now have a lot on his plate, but 30 years ago his journey to the upper echelons of rugby’s hierarchy started somewhere less complicated - the muddy fields of Weybridge.
The 57-year-old Fitness First chief executive, chairman of the 2015 Rugby World Cup organising committee, captained London Division Three South West Weybridge Vandals in the mid-1980s having moved to the area from Gloucester.
For Cosslett it is the sort of club he wants to see benefit most from the arrival of the world’s third biggest sporting event on these shores in two years’ time.
Work will begin later this year on getting the volunteer workforce together that will help man the tournament, starting with the establishment of six regional activation and legacy groups to identify the World Cup’s own Games Makers.
And the former InterContinental Hotels chief has assured sports fans it will be a World Cup that builds on the feelgood factor of the London Olympics and one for all walks of life.
“This is a professional sport, but we want to be out there with tickets cheap enough for anyone to get to see a game,” he said this week.
“There is a corporate and sponsors element, but the game’s heart beat is with clubs like Vandals, the volunteers and the people that play the game.
“There need to be as many opportunities for people to be involved with the World Cup as possible and to be able to say they were there. That is how you insure your legacy.”
Former London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog) chief executive Paul Deighton has recently been added to Cosslett’s board of directors, while former Locog director of sport Debbie Jevans its new chief executive.
And the chairman believes the two appointments – as well as his experiences of playing the game at clubs such as Vandals – are key to the World Cup’s success.
“When I first got involved in the Twickenham establishment they knew me as a businessman not neccessarily as a rugby man, because I hadn’t come up through the county route,” he added.
“I played for 25 years at junior and senior rugby level and I was the chairman of a committee at 29 years old.
“I understand what is involved with running junior clubs and playing for them.
“I have enough experience and I’ve got my business background so hopefully I can contribute.
“We only get this chance once in a lifetime and we think with the opportunity England have to perform well, with the Olympic Games behind us and the focus on sporting events in this country, it is a heaven sent opportunity for this great game to get to the next level.
“Financially there is a challenge to be met, but all the money we make – beyond the £80million we committed to hosting the tournament – goes back into the game.
“We want the game to be prosperous and the more money we generate to put into places like Vandals, the better.”
And it seems nothing would give Cosslett greater pleasure than seeing his former club, awarded an RFU Clubmark accreditation on Sunday, continue to develop.
“I came down to play for the third team one Saturday, the next week I was in the seconds, the next in the first team and then the next year I was captain,” he said.
“I fell in love with the place. It is a very, very special club. The values and spirit of it are amazing.
“I’ve travelled extensively through work over the last 25 years and I’ve always had a vision of Brownacres as the place where I was happiest.
“My first year as captain was a bad year, but in the second year we won 23 games, which at the time was a club record. I’m very proud of that.
“The playing squad was brilliant and half of them are still involved in the club, which speaks volumes.”
* Andrew Cosslett presented an RFU Clubmark accreditation to former Weybridge Vandals junior chairman John Sillwood last Sunday.
“This will be the platform that will allow the club to prosper,” he said.
“It will help build financial strengths and attract more players. The World Cup will help more people get involved in the game, but you have to have the facilities and club structure to welcome people in the right way.
"This accreditation is the starting point for that.”