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SBD Global/January 10, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Newly Appointed ARU CEO Talks About His Priorities, Influences, Social Media Plans

Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver said engaging with sponsors will be one of his first priorities.
The Australian Rugby Union has named multimillion-dollar businessman Bill Pulver CEO on Wednesday, following the resignation of John O'Neill in October. When asked about his top priority, Pulver explained that he wants to take the first month to learn about the organization and about the desires of Australia's rugby fans. He also promised "engaging with the sponsors will be one of my first priorities." Pulver, currently CEO of linguistic technology solutions company Appen Butler Hill, has also worked in Tokyo, as Group CEO of ACNielsen Japan and Korea; in London, as President of ACNielsen eRatings.com; and in N.Y., as President of NetRatings. He said the experience he brings to his new role comes from "a combination of all of the various roles I've had around the world." Pulver spoke with SBD Global Staff Writer Kristen Heimstead just hours after the press conference announcing his appointment.

Q: Outside of your career, you’re also known as a family man and coach of youth rugby. What from these experiences will carry over to your new role?
Pulver: I’m hoping rugby is going to continue to evolve as one of those games that brings families together. The values we have in rugby -- things like character, integrity, team first -- they’re the sort of values that carry everybody well in life in general. I think rugby is the sort of game that is consistent with family values. And that will benefit the future of the game in greater attendance and more revenue.

Q: You listed expanding the participation of women in the game as one of your goals. How do you plan to accomplish this?
Pulver: I think women are very important to the future of rugby. Point one, mothers in particular carry a significant influence on the sports of their children. Point two, women pay the same entry price to a game as men, and more eyeballs on the TV are a very important part of the financial model. And more recently, and really exciting in my view, is the fact that Sevens Rugby is now available for women in the next two Olympic Games. There is truly a unique opportunity for women to represent their country with a Gold Medal at the Olympic Games playing Sevens Rugby.

Q: How do you plan to rally support and keep up the momentum for the debut of Rugby Sevens in the 2016 Games?
Pulver: There’s already terrific momentum in Rugby Sevens in Australia, but I want to up the ante even further. I think Sevens represents the terrific game for a starter environment for young kids. The first time a 7-year-old plays rugby, the 15-man’s game is quite difficult in terms of organizing the kids, but a 7-a-side game I think makes a lot more sense. And with the opportunity that the Olympics provide it’s a truly wonderful situation to bring elite athletes into the game who want to represent their county at the Olympic Games and potentially bring home a Gold Medal. So you’re going to see a continuation of the major focus on increasing the emphasis behind Sevens Rugby in Australia.

Q: Are you a social media guy? How can the sport better incorporate Twitter?
Pulver: Right now I work with a linguistic technology solutions business, which is investing in social media, and if you want to engage with the younger generation -- teenagers and 20-year-olds -- you need to be heavy weight in social media. So that will clearly be one of the major points of focus at ARU going forward (Kristen Heimstead, SBD GLOBAL).

GOOD OUT OF THE BAD: In Sydney, Jessica Halloran wrote a year ago, let alone two years ago, Pulver "never imagined he would be awarded this job." It was his neighbor and Wallabies great John Eales "who encouraged him to apply for the job." Pulver described how he felt, as the "luckiest man alive." (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 1/10). Also in Sydney, Wayne Smith reported Pulver, whose daughter was the victim of the fake collar bomb extortion attempt in Aug. '11, "somehow went through the whole selection process without reference once being made to his teenage daughter." Pulver said, "It's interesting, in the lead-up today, it's never been mentioned anywhere at any time" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/10).
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