Steve Jones, general manager at Newbury Rugby Club
Steve Jones, of Newbury Rugby Club, talks to Newbury Business Today
STEVE Jones has found his perfect job. The 46-year-old, who was born and bred in Newbury, is back in the town and at the helm of one of its biggest sporting venues.
The former St Bartholomew’s School pupil can combine his love of sport and his enthusiasm for hospitality as he drives Newbury Rugby Club forward.
His love of sport was realised at school, where he says he had some “good opportunities”. He excelled at swimming, modern pentathlon and football.
“Sport was my favourite subject at school,” he says. “I used to do a lot of swimming at county level and was in the modern pentathlon club, Wessex Wyverns.
“St Bart’s had a pool so I trained there before school, doing about 100 lengths before lessons.”
After finishing school, Steve went on to do media studies and hospitality at Newbury College, coming away with an NVQ in both subjects.
“I loved being around people and, although I did go into office jobs, they were all very people-based,” he says. “It was later in life that I went head-long into hospitality.”
His first job was at Sony, in Thatcham, where he started in a customer service role.
After a few years he was seconded into the role of head of marketing for digital stills cameras and phones.
“I was dealing with people from publications such as What Camcorder and What Hi-fi,” he explains. “I was working with magazines in London and although I really enjoyed it, it wasn’t what I wanted to do.
“So I became a sales trainer, travelling all over the country, taking products around to stores such as John Lewis and Currys and doing training courses on the products.”
He remembers this time fondly, particularly attending the Sony Music Awards at the Royal Grosvenor Hotel, which he describes as “great fun”.
“I met a lot of great people, like David Attenborough,” he says. “I remember having a conversation with Hyacinth Bucket (actress Patricia Routledge) about a ghetto blaster and talking to Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden about the latest developments in music.
“It was great times but when my daughter was about three-years-old I decided it was time to stop staying in hotels for about 48 weeks a year. I was missing out on so much of her growing up.”
So he had a change of career and became the assistant manager of the Carnarvon Arms in Burghclere.
“I was in charge of all the marketing for the relaunch,” he explains, “and that led me in to the hospitality sector a bit more. We did really well there and exceeded all expectations.”
But after 10 years it was time for another change and personal circumstances took Steve to live in Bulgaria for a couple of years.
On his return to England, he began working with a friend at the Yew Tree Inn, in Highclere, as a bar manager.
Shortly afterwards the staff were all seconded to the Bourne Valley Inn, in Whitchurch, which was going through a relaunch.
Steve’s experience from the Carnarvon Arms proved crucial and he was able to help guide them through a successful opening.
After that he took a role in advertising sales with the Newbury Weekly News, where he says he spent two happy years.
It was while he was working with the newspaper that his current role came up; his dream job, in his home town, was too much to resist.
The general manager position at Newbury Rugby Club combines his two loves – sport and hospitality.
“I have been here, there and everywhere but it has been really good as I have learnt a lot that helps me in this role,” he says. “This is my passion.”
Two-and-a-half years later and that passion is still very much alive and evident as Steve talks about what they have to offer and what they have achieved at the club.
“Newbury Rugby Club is a huge business in the local area even though a lot of people may not have even been here,” he adds.
“The rugby team plays in the South West division 1 (East) league and we have one of the best facilities out of the lower league clubs.
“We have a membership of about 500 people and they all own the club. We have around 500 children playing in our junior and mini section too. It is great to involve all those children.
“It’s really nice to see them up here, especially at the end of the season when they hold all of their festivals. It is a great thing for local children to be involved in.
“It is a great set up here but in order to survive we can’t rely on the rugby alone.”
So with the rugby season running from September to April, Steve is now concentrating on making the most of the facilities
throughout the summer.
The club, as a venue, has five conference rooms and can cater for two to 200 people at a time.
It hosts a range of events from personal parties to team-building days for corporate clients such as Vodafone and offers sessions such as clay pigeon shooting, archery and hovercrafts.
“Something I am very keen on at the moment is working with local companies,” he adds.
“Although we are a relatively big company, we can help small local companies, especially in this economic climate.
“I think working together and with the community is the way forward for people like ourselves.”
The venue, which employs five full-time staff, has also just brought the gym facility back in-house.
The rebranded You Fit Gym opened last month under the new management of Matthew Anderson, and Steve says everyone is looking forward to seeing how it progresses.
This summer also sees the club host a number of family-focused events, including a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party on Saturday, as well as an outdoor cinema screening and Wild West fun day.
“We are a conference venue that can offer something that little bit different,” he adds. “And we are certainly moving in the right direction.”