AS many of our supporters know, as part of the transfer deal for Joe Bullock, Wigan Warriors offered us the opportunity to look behind the scenes at the way they conduct business and we recently took advantage of that.

I took along members of our commercial, media and events teams all with the aim of improving our operation. It is best practice in industry to benchmark and learn from the companies excelling so who better to pick than the Super League Champions.

It was re-assuring to know that a lot of what Wigan are doing I have also recognised as areas for improvement and I don’t think we are a million miles away in terms of ideas, although a few years behind them in terms of implementation.

In the fairly recent past they have had a different mind-set with regards to their key sponsors and they have focussed on building relationships rather than focussing on the hard sell of specific sponsorship packages.

They try to work out what their customers want and Wigan is part of providing a service. They have restricted themselves to a small number of very lucrative deals with national and international partners, and really work at their relationships.

Beneath that they still have a multitude of regular sponsors and they again work hard with relationship building, but perhaps not to the same extent.

Wigan obviously has a brand. When you think of the town of Wigan you immediately associate it with rugby league and I would imagine it is a lot easier selling to the nationals when you are sat near the top of Super League and on TV every other week.

However, for Barrow I still feel that a lot of the methods they have adopted we can incorporate. It goes without saying that we should look after our sponsors and build relationships with our main players. Even a simple thank you goes a long way.

I also think that our comparative isolation can work to our advantage. We aren’t competing with any Super League clubs on our doorstep and we have the whole of Cumbria as a target market.

In fact, with many of the suppliers to BAE Systems national organisations then we shouldn’t be shy in targeting them.

Wigan also does a lot of work in the community and that is another area that I wish to improve at Barrow. We have already set-up a partnership with MIND In Furness and would welcome links with other charities. We also see areas of deprivation in the town and we are working hard at putting a programme together to target these areas with a view to making rugby league more accessible and to promote a healthy lifestyle.

They have also recently acquired a top training facility adjacent to the DW stadium that they are leasing at peppercorn rates. They plan a series of events and make it a facility for use by their partners. It was quite impressive to see but at the same time reassuring. They were planning a whole series of events that mirrored our own thoughts. In fact we are probably slightly ahead of them in some respects. We held our own pop concerts for the last two years and have lots of ideas that we can work around our fixture list when it comes out.

We also have the added benefit of owning our own ground in that all the profit from events comes directly to us, not to mention the match day sales.

Also on the agenda was the possibility of using some of Wigan’s players on long term loan. We discussed one or two individuals in particular who are on the fringe of the first team who could perhaps benefit from playing at Championship level and also take advantage of Paul Crarey’s ability to improve players. I sense a really good relationship being forged between the clubs, though I did say they’ll regret it in a few years’ time when we have overtaken them – their nervous laughs confirmed I wasn’t joking.