Sport Tours Italia was conceived and founded in 2017 offering rugby tours around Italy for fans and Worldwide Rugby Tours came about 18 months later to focus on non-Italian business. A brilliant combination of travel and sport this inventive approach will no doubt perk the ears of many an avid rugby fan.
Founded by Chris Heald, who has lived and worked in Italy since 2003 and has been a player, coach and club general manager of rugby since 2007. It was an answer to some of the areas within the game that he saw were in glaring need of development.
“I felt I knew the rugby landscape pretty well but had noticed that there was nobody providing a service to rugby fans to watch or play out of the country,” he says, “And it seemed that Italian supporters seemed to only watch the Six Nations as spectators. So, they were missing out on the vast amount of top class rugby that exists year round all over the world.”
Deciding to create a business that centred on Rugby, Chris explains that there are numerous businesses that offer sports tour travel and have a menu of events on offer that is very similar to their own. Some of these companies are very well established but they all deal with other sports as well whereas his business is very specific.
“We are run by rugby people for rugby people.” He says.
Chris, now in his mid-fifties has been involved in rugby consistently since the age of seven either as a player, coach, manager or, since 2017, with these businesses. His business partner is a 42 x capped former Italy scrum half and the other staff are a rugby player, a fanatical rugby supporter and someone whose spare time is spent photographing rugby.
“There are always business concerns,” he says, “Like austerity, Brexit and the rising costs of everything. But when you’re passionate about something you love and work with a team with a similar mindset you always find a way.”
Both businesses can essentially be broken down into 4 key categories covering the field of rugby tours. These include:
Six Nations, Premiership Final, Champions & Challenge Cup Finals, Pro 14 Final, HSBC World 7’s Series (Hong Kong, Dubai, Cape Town & Las Vegas), Rugby World Cup, British & Irish Lions.
These tend to be (depending on location) either a 2 night hotel package with official match tickets or, for the long haul a 6 or 7 night package with accommodation, official match/tournament tickets and a range of sightseeing tours. Clients are encouraged to be self-managed on these trips, but Chris and his team do offer a fully managed trip for bigger groups and also tend to have a dinner the night before the match with former international players participating in a Q&A.
End of Season Tours:
Worldwide Rugby Tours offer tours to all of the continents around the world. South America is dominated by Argentina/Uruguay/Chile while North America is broader. Europe tends to focus on Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, but other countries do feature. Africa is largely centred around South Africa and Namibia, but they are also currently developing links with Cameroon and have done a little charity work on their behalf as well in the provision of kit. Asia focusses on Thailand and Australasia Australia & NZ.
The tours are always be managed by a dual language Tour Manager on the ground and will include transport, accommodation, matches and activities to suit the age and specific requirements of the team.
The tours are available for Club Teams, Schools and Military Regiments/Units
These tend to be 7’s and 10’s tournaments and we are lucky to be continually asked work with various tournaments around the world on team entries. However, they tend to focus on 3. Roma 7’s, Dubai 7’s and Rugby Barbados World 7’s.
They make all of the arrangements for the teams entry into the tournament and their travel, transport and accommodation arrangements. Teams tend to be fully autonomous at the tournaments, but they do offer a 24/7 telephone support service.
Pre-Season Training Camps:
Italy, Spain, France and Portugal are the 4 countries that we offer training camps.
They tend to be 7 days in duration with 5 days training and 2 days at either end for travel.
The facilities that are used are first class and used throughout the year by professional rugby teams.
“Everything is taken care of,” he says, “Right down to the availability of ice for the post session ice baths!”
As far as projects are concerned there are a few main ones that they have been working on offering including, tours to the HSBC World 7’s Series in Hong Kong, Italy tour to Argentina, Lions tour to South Africa and the Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.
The greatest challenge in Italy has been, and continues to be, a changing of mentality. Primarily in planning and booking early, particularly for things like the 6 Nations Championship! Chris still gets multiple enquiries the week before the tournament starts for matches that technically sold out months earlier.
In addition to that it is the age-old issue of the new kid on the block coming up against the well established players in the game. There is a market for everyone, and Chris is confident that the placement of their prices, their levels of customer service and the fact that they are specialised will attract the rugby fans to give them a try.
Chris explains that they are a small team of four people who are actively involved in the day to day management of the business. His business partner operates in more of an Ambassadorial role.
Staff training tends to be in house and focussed on customer service and updating on what is happening in the world of rugby, the countries that they offer trips to and any tournaments they might want to work with.
“We are going to keep offering great packages and experiences to rugby lovers who want to explore the wonderful sport that rugby is,” Chris says in relation to their plans for 2020, “We are working very closely with a South African Tour company in building towards the Lions tour to South Africa in 2021 and are very excited about the prospects of that.”
The South Africa tour has to be the best tour of all, and they are looking at trips that not only include what will be some fantastic and keenly contested rugby, but also offers the very best of the country off the pitch such as Safari’s, Wine Tours, Diving with sharks, Culture etc.
WHAT DOES SPORTING SPIRIT MEAN TO YOU?
According to Chris, each person will be motivated by different things and will have different dreams and goals, so trying to help people to be the very best version of themselves has to be done at an individual level. There is no magic bullet.
“That having been said there are certain traits that a leader should use to give others the very best chance to achieve whatever they are aiming for,” he says, “At the very core of this is caring. You must care about the other person. Find out everything you can about them. Only then can you fully empathise and know the right way to motivate and inspire them to push themselves to improve.”
TELEPHONE: 00 39 333 7647167, 00 44 (0)7956 957410