MEET THE HEAD OF RUGBY, CSM LIVE
Ahead of the first British & Irish Lions match against Japan, we sat down with Associate Director and Head of Rugby at CSM Live, Sarah Hogarth, to find out about their work at Murrayfield over the past few weeks, her experience of live events during the global pandemic, and where we can find her when she’s not hard at work.
Describe your career in 5 words:
Exciting, Unusual, Challenging, Rewarding, Evolving.
As Associate Director, Head of Rugby at CSM Live, please can you tell us about your role and what you are responsible for?
Having been in the branding and signage industry for several years, I joined CSM Live back in 2015, part way through delivery of the Rugby World Cup. I was tasked with developing and expanding our Rugby specific offering and building a dedicated team to create long-term partnerships across a range of Rugby clients and venues, post-RWC.
Rugby is a huge passion of mine. I grew up watching matches with my dad and always enjoyed sitting in the stands – none more so than a day spent at Twickenham. Hearing tens of thousands of fans sing ‘Swing Low’ still gets me every time. I count myself very lucky that my job takes me to some of the most exciting venues and sporting events worldwide, and for the past few years I’ve spent about a third of my time working alongside the RFU at Twickenham Stadium.
Through a lot of hard work from numerous people our rugby client base has expanded significantly, and I’m super proud that we now work alongside not just the RFU, but EPCR, Premiership clubs, World Rugby, and most recently the British and Irish Lions.
My days are spent in a variety of ways. One day I can be working from home on contract negotiations or pulling together some really exciting bid submissions, the next I’ll be trekking around a stadium with a tape measure and hi-vs jacket, carrying out surveys and figuring out how to best bring an event to life visually. My favourite days though are still the install weeks where all of the hard preparation pays off and you gradually see the face of a venue change. The build-up before a match day is something really special. As I write this, I’m currently sat in Murrayfield watching the home of Scottish Rugby be transformed into a sea of Red for the Lions… tired or not, it still gives me goosebumps every time. This weekend we’ll finally see fans back in the stadium, and I personally can’t wait to hear the roar of a live crowd again…
CSM Live has a rich heritage working in rugby and with the Castle Lager Lions Series starting soon, can you talk us through the work you are delivering at Murrayfield for the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup this weekend?
The British and Irish Lions engaged us to deliver the Look and Feel and tour branding for all of their UK events before the team head out to South Africa. It’s a genuine thrill to be involved with the Lions, a truly iconic event in Rugby. To have a Lions match on home soil is a real privilege, and after the last 18 months of strict COVID restrictions on live events and sporting fixtures it’s an exciting time to see fans back.
We’ve spent the last eight weeks working closely with the Lions, delivering their brand, signage and wayfinding requirements for media events, team days, hotels and most recently their training ground out in Jersey. All of this comes together this weekend for their starting fixture against Japan at Murrayfield Stadium. We’ve had a team of 16 here all week installing venue signage and décor, turning a historic (& usually very blue!) Rugby venue into a temporary home for the Lions. From player areas, through to tier dressing, in-bowl, media, entrances, and large format external banners, we’ve worked across almost every area of the stadium – hopefully it’s a great experience for both the fans and the teams.
Live experiences in the UK have been significantly impacted during the pandemic. Can you tell us how have you have had to adapt to meet Covid-19 restrictions?
I think COVID-19 has been a whirlwind of unprecedented firsts for us all – something we probably never expected to see in our lifetimes. Working in sport and event delivery, we were probably one of the first industries impacted. If I remember back to March 2020, within the space of about a fortnight the world of sport came to a grinding halt, with almost every event we were working on either postponed or cancelled.
It’s been a year of uncertainty for sure, but I’ve been amazed by the resilience of not just the industry, but of people as well. The hard work and dedication I’ve witnessed across the full spectrum of sporting organisations, governing bodies, clubs and fans to bring sport back not just quickly but safely has been inspiring.
For sure we’ve had to adapt, along with everyone else. Adapting how we operate as a business has been key, not just in the services we provide to our clients, but how we communicate, how we work with our clients, how we deliver projects remotely – it’s been an interesting learning curve. Our services have evolved – from creating new wayfinding strategies to manage the safe movement of people, to red zone implementation in order to protect players and staff, fabricating bespoke sanitiser stations and PPE, and filling stadiums with enormous banners to cover temporarily empty seats.
Similarly, our teams have had to become more flexible, with many working across events they wouldn’t ordinarily have delivered – often at short notice and to challenging deadlines. In the last 12 months alone I’ve been part of the delivery team for the return of the Premier League across 20 clubs in the UK, and recently returned from Monaco working on Formula E – things I wouldn’t normally have been involved with. I notice this across our whole company – people’s resilience and willingness to flex has been inspiring.
When not at work, what would we find you doing?
I love the outdoors, be it a morning on the beach, heading into the countryside or up to some beautiful mountains. For me, it’s the perfect way to really switch off, unwind, clear your head and blow away the cobwebs. Like most people, I spend way too much time in front of a laptop or taking calls during the week, so I relish the times when I can throw my mobile in a drawer and disappear for a few hours. Last year we stepped away from the whirlwind of London life, where I’ve lived and worked for many years, and moved down to the South coast of Wales. A big move but a really positive change. On a weekend, regardless of weather, you’ll find me early morning on the beach with our Spaniel Bruce, throwing balls, climbing rockpools and enjoying a hot chocolate.
I’m sure most people will think I’m crazy but I love the cold and snow – I can’t wait for travel to open up again safely. A return trip to snowy Scandinavia is definitely on the cards… and hopefully our postponed honeymoon as well. Fingers crossed!