Davide leads new off-field team at Featherstone Rovers

Featherstone's club shop at the Big Fellas Stadium has been extended and reburbished. Other changes include a new reception area for visitors at the Freddie Miller memorial gate entrance.
Featherstone's club shop at the Big Fellas Stadium has been extended and reburbished. Other changes include a new reception area for visitors at the Freddie Miller memorial gate entrance.

Recently appointed general manager Davide Longo is one of several new faces in Featherstone’s off-field team.

Liam Geddis is the club’s new commercial manager and Ryan Sparks will take up the role as head of communications on January 2.

Chris Drury, who has worked at Leeds United and Leeds Rhinos, is the new head groundsman at Big Fellas Stadium, with former groundsman Rob Smith as facilities supervisor.

“Chris Drury has a background working at Leeds United and Leeds Rhinos and is very skilled and knowledgeable,” said Longo.

“Rob Smith will be supporting him. He has other roles to play as facilities supervisor. Rob does a grand job and he does a lot of hours.

“There has been a seven and a half grand investment put on the pitch.

“Chris’s role has been to improve the drainage and the look of the pitch. We are in the second week in December and I’ve never seen a pitch look as good at this time of the year, although I know we’ve been lucky with the weather.

“We’ve got quite a few games coming up because we’ve got BARLA cup finals and four pre-season home games so the pitch is going to get some hammer in January.

“With the amount of work and attention we’ve done over the last couple of months and the money we’ve spent on it, it should hold up, weather dependent.”

Former Dewsbury, Bradford, Swinton and Keighley player Longo has quickly settled into his new job at Featherstone.

As a young half-back. he played for Great Britain academy in 1994 as the scrum-half partnering Sean Long at stand-off in a team that also included Paul Sculthorpe, Kris Radlinski and Simon Haughton.

Longo joined Wakefield’s off-field staff after his playing career ended when he broke his femur and snapped the ligaments in his knee.

“Keighley paid me my contract out. I only had about six months remaining,” he said.

“I was out of the game for about a year and James Elston who was at Wakefield Wildcats at the time was a friend of mine and had just taken on the community manager’s role.

“He asked if I fancied delivering rugby league in the community. I did a lot of that at Bradford and really enjoyed it.

“I never had any ambitions to become a head coach. Coaching the kids and putting something back into them the same way as I got involved in rugby league is kind of where my passion was so I went to work at Wakefield and quickly realised that’s what I really enjoyed doing.

“Me having a bit of a business head on me as well realised that you could start writing applications and get funding and it just seemed win-win for me.

“Then I was involved with James Elston in 2008 in setting up the Wakefield Wildcats Community Trust of which I then became community manager.

“In 2011, I had a chance of coming to Featherstone.

“Mark (Campbell) had offered me the CEO role and I’d unofficially agreed it all with Mark and at the same Wakefield were golng through the administration so the administrators came in one day and said we were all redundant. The same hour Andrew Glover had taken on the club as chair and the spirit of 1873 was formed as such. Andrew Glover pulled me to one side and said I’ve heard you are going to Featherstone and I told him I was.

“He said I’ve heard good things about you and I need good staff around me so can we have a chat and see where we go again.

“Being a Wakefield lad and having worked there a long time I thought to myself that I’ll give Andrew a chance and give Mark the back word which was totally against some of my principles in life that if I give my word it’s my bond.

“In that instance, I had to make a hard decision and remained at Wakefield for another two years. Things didn’t really work out at Wakefield like they should have done and then Gary Hetherington gave me the chance at Leeds.

“I was the general manager of the Leeds Rhinos Foundation and the very simple remit from Gary was the job description to grow the club revenue stream to the Foundation but to also bring in more staff to cover the area of Leeds. My first week of being there I quickly realised Leeds is a huge area and we had eight members of staff and we were generating around half a million pounds of income.

“When I left a month ago we’d got that up to around 37 members of staff and 1.3 million pounds of income.

“I felt I’d done what I set out to achieve at Leeds.

“I was quite pigeonholed because as the general manager of Wakefield Wildcats, I had had a lot of freedom to dip in and out of different industry and at Leeds I was given that specific role and felt I could have offered a little bit more.

“At Leeds, they have a lot of resources and they didn’t need that help.

“I kind of knew what I was there to do and believe I achieved that and I’m here now at Featherstone to put some of those principles in action here because I think it’s needed here as well.”

Longo paid tribute to the work done by Rovers chairman Mark Campbell at Big Fellas Stadium.

“Mark Campbell is an absolute legend in my eyes with the amount of work he does down here that people don’t probably see,” he added.

“Everyone sees him putting in a bit of money maybe every so often or whatever but it’s the actual day to day work he does.

“He turns up in his scrubs as such and he’s ready to do work. I’ve said it to him personally that he’s got the same traits that Gary Hetherington has got where they never switch off.

“They are on it constantly. They are not just on it from a playing perpective, they are on it from a business perspective, making sure that all the areas of the business are being driven properly.”