Lisa James and Graham Proud of the Seven Stars are the first winners of the year
A community pub that has rugby at the heart of its offer is the latest winner of the BT Sport Manager of the Month award.
Licensee couple Graham Proud and Lisa James took on Everards pub The Seven Stars in the Warwickshire market town of Rugby six years ago. They have built a close knit community around the sport, which was famously created by William Webb Ellis, just half a mile up the road at Rugby School.
Sporting memorabilia, rugby shirts and rugby balls decorate the pub which often sees fans of Leicester Tigers, Wasps and Northampton Saints congregate to enjoy live Gallagher Premiership and European rugby together on BT Sport.
Lisa explains: “It’s a traditional pub. It’s about beer, people and community. It has that warm feeling about it.”
Graham adds: “To have a pub in the birthplace of rugby is wonderful.
We very quickly realised that because of Rugby’s location in the Midlands we could attract fans of Wasps, Saints and Tigers. The rugby banter is brilliant in here, especially on derby games.
Graham and Lisa, who are both season ticket holders at Leicester Tigers, even arrange coach trips from the pub to matches at Welford Road.
Lisa continues: “We thought the coach would be a great way to get people in. They always come in for a drink before the game and come back afterwards. That early start on a Saturday can be quite quiet so it gives us a boost for the day.
Graham adds: “It’s very well supported. We get picked up here and park outside the ground. We started with about 15 or 16 people, but word of mouth has spread and we have had an 86-seater to go to games.
It’s good for us because when everyone is in the pub they are customers but when we are all on the coach together it is friends and the rugby family
The coach is not run for profit and any surplus is donated to charity at the end of the season. It is an example of how the pub supports the community, with pub quizzes and Christmas carol concerts other ways they have raised funds.
As well as the Tigers home games, TV sport is an essential part of what the charismatic couple offer.
Showing the games on BT Sport here really does work for us, especially the away games. Because we have the fans from different clubs, there will always be someone in whatever game is on.
“It works for us for Gallagher Prem and the European rugby and the Six Nations and internationals,” says Graham
The couple use social assets and Point of Sale from BT Sport to promote live sport. They also show football and cricket, but rugby takes priority.
They are also involved in the game at grassroots level by sponsoring local side Old Laurentians.
Lisa says: “I started playing touch rugby there and we ended up doing the sponsorship. We have the logo on the shirts, and they support us so that is also key to developing that rugby link.”
When we took it on people thought it would be a Tigers pub, but it isn’t, it’s a rugby pub and that is how we maintain it.
It offers far more than sport alone, reaching out to its community, whether they are rugby fans or not.
Real ale is a key ingredient. The pub has 14 handpumps, a broad range of rotating beers and has picked up several awards from Rugby and Warwickshire CAMRA branches.
Lisa says: “We tend to find as a CAMRA award winning pub we get people doing tours and visiting us. As we are near the train station we tend to get them at the start and the end of the day.”
The cask offer also feeds back into that rugby link.
“I think rugby has always been a friendly game where you have a beer. With Everards we have the Tiger beer that is well associated as a sponsor, so there is that natural link?”
They also offer a popular gin selection, including brands that represent Tigers, Wasps and Saints.
The pub is wet-led but Graham’s homemade scotch eggs, sausage rolls and bread provide popular sustenance during matches and beyond.
As well as picking up the BT Sport Manager of the Month trophy, the couple have scooped £1,000 to spend at the BT shop.
Lisa says that winning the prize has been a huge boost to the business.
“We are absolutely delighted, it is so nice to be recognised for what you do, especially after these last couple of years when it has been so tough.
“Our little pub in Rugby getting national recognition is great for us. When times are hard, and you get something like this it gives you that incentive to carry on.”
Graham adds: “We will also treat our staff to a night out because they do so much of the hard work, so this is for them too.”
- Do you know someone who deserves to be considered for a BT Sport Manager of the Month – or Club of the Month – award? Let us know why on Twitter by tagging in @BTSportBars and using the hashtag #BTMOTM.