Douglas McCrea reflects on Glasgow Warriors’ journey from wet nights at Hughenden to European finals

Club's longest standing sponsor will watch European Challenge Cup Final clash against Toulon in Dublin with sons Andrew and Ross

Douglas McCrea of McCrea Financial Services has been a constant in Glasgow's evolution over that last 15 years. Image:Craig Watson
Douglas McCrea of McCrea Financial Services has been a constant in Glasgow's evolution over that last 15 years. Image:Craig Watson

IT’S a big day for Glasgow Warriors in which they will take on Toulon in their first ever European final, and there won’t be a single person inside the Aviva Stadium in Dublin for the Challenge Cup showdown more invested in the team’s performance than Douglas McCrea, managing director of McCrea Financial Services, who are the club’s longest standing sponsors.

While planes, trains, automobiles and boats are being utilised by Warriors fans in the scramble to get to the game, Douglas is taking a fairly direct and conventional route to the match, via a short flight between Glasgow and Dublin airports with his sons Andrew and Ross, but that is only the latest instalment in his journey with the club which stretches back over 15 years to when his eponymous business first became commercial partners.

“I go to most of the away games at my own expense,” he explains. “I class myself as the unpaid help as I would be going anyway as a fan. I try to help Al Kellock represent the club wherever we go, and when teams come to us I’m also happy to host the visiting directors as well as any prospective sponsors. I can speak to people interested in joining the sponsor family about our experiences and it can be really helpful being able to tell them what has worked for us and the real benefits they could potentially get by sponsoring the Warriors.


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“We take clients along to games as well as staff as a thank you for their hard work. Scotstoun has a great atmosphere which you can take anyone to, and we make sure it’s not just that individual who is invited! As a dad of three I know how important it is for many families to go to the games together.”

While Warriors are part of a wider portfolio of sports teams supported by McCrea’s – alongside Partick Thistle football club, Hillhead Jordanhill rugby club and West of Scotland cricket club – it is clear that the company’s founder has a particular affection for the Scotstoun outfit … largely because he has been part of a transformative journey this last decade and a half.

“I have been going to see Thistle and Scotland from age of 10 – which wasn’t yesterday! – and have always been sports daft. Being rubbish at most of them made it easier because I didn’t have to go and play on a Saturday,” he reveals. “I would go and watch Glasgow District in the days before pro rugby and caught the Thistle bug when my uncle took me to a 5-0 win against Meadowbank Thistle in the Spring Cup at Firhill. The pro game came along which put a slightly different dynamic on the rugby, and we started doing a bit of hospitality in the old Hughenden days.

“At that time they were struggling for hospitality spaces so they stuck us in One Devonshire Gardens and you went from the sublime to the ridiculous. From being wined and dined in this fantastic venue – I seem to remember they had a fantastic Brazilian beer called Brahma – and then wandering round the corner to get absolutely drowned at Hughenden, and it has really just evolved from there.

“I was invited onto the club’s advisory group when it was still very much in its infancy. It was me, Charles Shaw who is still the chairman, and Walter Malcolm got involved slightly later. Since then we have been joined by Scott Mathieson and Frank Mitchell from SP Energy Networks, and Alan Lees and Paul Taylor from BT.

“It was good to be able to also look at the club from a non-rugby perspective, not just trying to get rugby people in the door,. We also looked at the top clubs and went to speak to Leinster, the thinking being they had been on a journey that had taken them to being the best team in the Celtic League and one of Europe’s top sides.

“Leinster were brilliant and asked us over the day before we played them in Dublin, Charles, Ian Riddoch the CEO at the time and myself joined them for lunch. We expected a couple of their Board members to turn up but there were eight of them, including Stuart Bayley and Mick Dawson who remain good pals. We spoke for three hours and brought a lot of what they have done to make Leinster successful back to Glasgow.

“I remember the early days and everyone asking how to increase the crowds. In my simplistic mind it was a case of start winning and they will come as Glasgow would support a winning tiddlywinks team! We also started to target people who weren’t already watching rugby, as well as using Leinsters strategy of attracting families to the games not just blokes on a night out. If you bring the family then the kids buy in and that’s your future generation, and women at that time were the most under-represented demographic for rugby supporters so there was huge potential for growth.

“The other big thing I brought to the table was that Glasgow were a rugby team and needed to become a rugby club. You play for a team and you move on, you maybe watch a team, but a club is something you want to be part of and stays with you forever. So, one of the things we worked on in the early years was developing the club mentality.”

 

There is no mistaking Douglas’s enthusiasm for all things Warriors related, but he is a realist and recognises that there is always more to do.

“We’ve been there from the club’s infancy, and it’s been great to help in a very small way to build Warriors to what it is today, and I firmly believe we can keep building next season and beyond,” he says. “The great thing about having Al Kellock on board is that he’s looking at it from the players’ side, and he’s done a great job developing the business side of it too. Like a number of us, he is Glasgow through and through and wants us to be the best.

“We don’t want to rest on our laurels and just be happy getting to finals, we want to win them. During the period when Al captained us to the PRO12 title [in 2015], we sold out 25 out of 26 home games, and we want to get back to that again and are just about there.”

A win tonight would certainly help boost season ticket sales for next season, and Douglas is in no doubt that Franco Smith’s side can deliver the goods.

“It doesn’t seem too long ago we were watching the European finals on TV thinking how great it would be to get there,” he reflects. “Our form over recent months has been fantastic with the squad pulling out one great result after another, including a number of big away wins such as Perpignan, Bath and Munster.

“Dublin will hopefully be the first of many European finals and if all goes according to plan this 6ft 3ins Weegie might just have a tear in his eye!”

 

  • THE OFFSIDE LINE’S coverage of Glasgow Warriors is powered by MCCREA FINANCIAL SERVICES. McCrea Financial Services sponsor Glasgow Warriors and provide a wide range of financial advisory services including mortgage, pension and retirement planning advice. See www.mccreafs.co.uk to contact them for more information.

Challenge Cup Final: Glasgow Warriors name team for Toulon clash

About David Barnes 3959 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

1 Comment

  1. The Douglas McCrea loyalty to Glasgow is quite remarkable.
    From a french Glasgow fan,
    “nights at Hughenden”
    Indeed, crowds of 800 people and poor facilities, but good memories with Sean Lamont peroxide hair.
    From the time Glasgow played at Firhill, something was going to happen.
    From a distance and my memories, one of the turning point was the win in the Heineken Cup v Montpellier at Firhill in 2011,
    Sad to remember the loss of M.Aramburu…
    Hope there is a big contingent of Glasgow fan today in Dublin.
    Go Glasgow!

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