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Volume 24 No. 157

People and Pop Culture

Melville started playing
rugby at age five
USA Rugby CEO & President of Rugby Operations NIGEL MELVILLE is using his years of playing and coaching experience to spread passion for the sport to people of all ages. Born into a rugby family in Yorkshire, England, Melville grew up with the game. He started playing the sport at the age of five and later captained England's national team in '84. After his playing days, Melville went on to coach teams in the English Premiership before moving to the States to join USA Rugby. He recently took time to talk about his plans to grow the sport in this country.

News source: I will watch any current affairs news program on TV, and get my global news from the BBC online. I read Newsweek, business magazines and the Economist when traveling.
Person to follow on Twitter: Mark Cuban -- a passion for sport and business (and a former college rugby player!)
Non-rugby team: I live in Colorado so it’s the Broncos, Rockies, Nuggets, Avalanche and Rapids.
App: I played Flick-Kick Rugby with my son on his phone last night.
Vacation Spot: The south of France

Tell us about…
Your Management style:
I like people to be responsible and accountable for what they do. I don’t like to micro-manage, but I want everyone heading in the same direction together -- one team, one dream!
How you hire: Resumes are useful but no replacement for spending time together and getting to really know someone.
Quality you look for in new hires: Of course, staff need to be experts in their field, but they have to be passionate and care about what they do.
Executive you most admire: Our return to the Olympic family coincided with the appointment of a new CEO, SCOTT BLACKMUN at the USOC. He’s doing a great job pulling everyone together at the USOC and building momentum and focus ahead of the 2012 London Olympics.

Q: Your organization's motto is “Inspiring America to fall in love with Rugby.” How are you doing that? What have been the two most successful activations you are doing to grow the sport among young people in America?
Melville: In 2008, we introduced Rookie Rugby, a non-contact version of rugby for boys and girls aged 6-12. The uptake has been tremendous. In 2011, we will have over a half million kids playing rugby for the first time. ... We’ve partnered with Sports Authority to help provide free Rookie Rugby balls to educators along with free resources for teachers, parents and coaches to support to enable them to continue teaching the game. Check them out at We’ve also built a very good relationship with the United States Olympic Committee, giving our international athletes an opportunity to become Olympians. Their support and guidance with our high-performance programs has helped our men’s and women’s sevens raise in prominence, and that success transfers to all of our programs.

Q: You are an avid blogger and active on Twitter, have you seen a positive response from your social media efforts?
Melville: I enjoy interacting with the rugby community, not just in America but around the world. I like people to know what’s happening at USA Rugby. Being on Twitter and regular blogging has been well received and a lot of fun, being accessible, listening to others' opinions is extremely important as we grow the game of rugby in America. I think all CEOs should have a social media presence.

Q: USA Rugby is currently sponsored by companies such as Emirates Airline, Canterbury of New Zealand and Bank of America. Do you have plans to include more U.S.-based companies?
Melville: We have fantastic support from sponsors like Emirates. They are a global brand associated with the premier sporting teams and events in the world, and they are helping us to grow the game in America. Sponsoring USA Rugby is not just about sticking a logo on the website, it’s about connecting with our community and being engaged in our programs. We are now one of the fastest growing sports in America, and through positive partnerships with corporate sponsors we are seeing explosive growth across all areas of the game. I believe USA Rugby is in a unique position to partner with American sponsors wanting international reach (our national teams play in domestically and internationally broadcast matches tournaments) and also international sponsors that want to get a foothold in the American market. We are now an Olympic sport (rugby sevens will return to the Olympics in Rio 2016) and part of the Olympic movement. That’s an exciting development for our players and the sport in America. It’s a great opportunity for new sponsors to join our team.

Q: What regions of the country seem to be the most popular for rugby? Do you have a target region you would like to spread to next?
Melville: Traditionally rugby has been strong on the Pacific Coast and in the Northeast, those areas are still very strong. But programs in states like Alaska, Idaho and Montana are getting more established. The South has also developed outstanding college programs. It’s very exciting to see the talent coming through; the game is truly growing everywhere. We have nearly 100,000 members and almost 1,800 high school and college programs. We, as a governing body and the American rugby community, are developing a strong national presence for the game.

Finish Line Chief Administration Officer & Corporate Secretary GARY COHEN plans to retire on March 29. He will step down from his posts today and help with the transition until his retirement (AP, 11/29).....The National Football Post has hired veteran Silicon Valley businessman STEVE FROST to become CEO, effectively immediately. Frost has held prior roles with Netscape, Google, and most recently photo sharing outfit Plixi. In addition to running the site's day-to-day business operations, Frost will help lead the raising of a new round of venture capital funding (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal)....EPL club Everton Dir of Communications IAN ROSS "has left the club after his private emails, some of which criticised" CEO ROBERT ELSTONE, were published online (, 11/30)....The White Sox named Blue Jays Dir of Latin America Operations MARCO PADDY Special Assistant to the GM/Int'l Operations (White Sox)....Performance Bicycle named CAROL WENTWORTH Senior VP/Marketing (Performance Bicycle)....Eastern Univ. named Western Kentucky Baseball Dir of Operations DAVID JONES Associate AD (Eastern)....SUNY Brockport named Associate AD ERICK HART interim AD, replacing NOAH LEFEVRE, who accepted a position with Manhattan College (SUNY Brockport)....The AHL Worcester Sharks promoted MICHAEL MYERS to Senior Dir of Business & Community Development (Sharks).

Do you have an executive announcement? If so, please send to

In Utah, Lisa Riley Roche notes the 10th anniversary of Salt Lake City's Winter Olympics "will be celebrated in February with a variety of events, including a free sports festival and a special 'Stars on Ice' show." The events will begin Feb. 8 "with the relighting of the Olympic cauldron at Rice-Eccles Stadium." The "big day for marking the 10-year anniversary will be Feb. 18," when a "free Olympic sports festival will be held at the Gateway entertainment and shopping complex downtown, including athlete demonstrations and exhibits promoting the upcoming 2012 Summer Games in London." That evening, the "2002 Stars on Ice" show "will be held at EnergySolutions Arena and include highlights from the Salt Lake Games." 2002 Winter Games COO FRASER BULLOCK said that sponsors are "being sought to cover the estimated $300,000 to $350,000 price tag" (DESERET NEWS, 12/1).

PAY THE PIPER: In London, Oliver Kay reports EPL clubs paid US$112.8M "to agents this year, the highest such figure in the three seasons since payments were first made public." Manchester City's US$15M in agent payments "was the most among the 20 Premier League clubs in the 12 months to September 30, followed by Tottenham Hotspur" at $11.9M. Swansea City, "who were in the npower Championship last season, spent only [US$389,508], while Wigan Athletic, who spent the whole year in the top flight, paid" US$1M (LONDON TIMES, 12/1). 

ON THE BOOKSHELF: SI's Alexandra Fenwick reviewed MARK RIBOWSKY's "HOWARD COSELL: THE MAN, THE MYTH, AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN SPORTS," and notes the "doorstop of a book at 477 pages ... is exactly the kind of hefty tome that Cosell would have agreed his career deserved." Ribowsky's "clear-eyed take on the broadcaster who built his career on 'telling it like it is' reveals the insecurities that fueled Cosell's bravado." The book's "widely sourced account of Cosell's career, including over 40 new interviews with figures like MUHAMMAD ALI cornerman ANGELO DUNDEE, lends the book an authoritative, academic air." But Fenwick notes it is "also a treatise: Ribowsky makes the case that Cosell ... deserves credit for elevating sports to the level of news by putting them into the context of world events" (SI, 12/5 issue)....In Providence, Bill Reynolds reviewed MICHAEL HOLLEY's "WAR ROOM" and wrote the book "tells you more about BILL BELICHICK than his press conferences ever will." The book also "gives insight into both Belichick's football philosophy and how he's used that to become one of the great coaches in NFL history" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 11/30).

NAMES: Baseball America named Brewers VP & GM DOUG MELVIN its major-league exec of the year. Melvin will receive the award next week at MLB's winter meetings in Dallas. Melvin was previously recognized by Sporting News as its co-exec of the year, sharing the title with Tigers President & GM DAVE DOMBROWSKI (, 12/1). U.S. Olympic sprinter LASHAWN MERRITT has signed with Ella Bee Media Group for representation in PR, social media and marketing management (Ella Bee PR)....The Packers and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield "are partnering this year to promote the team's Fit Kids program, including sending fourth-grade students to a game at Lambeau Field (, 11/30)....Boxer AMIR KHAN has invited President BARACK OBAMA to his world title fight against LAMONT PETERSON on Dec. 10 in DC (London TELEGRAPH, 12/1)….Vikings Owner ZYGI WILF purchased a $19M luxury apartment in one of N.Y.’s Park Avenue co-ops (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/1)….Bears QB JAY CUTLER is again engaged to reality TV star KRISTIN CAVALLARI. No wedding date has been set (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 12/1).