This Park City man helped convey the FIFA World Cup again to the USA. Now he needs to do the identical for rugby.

Jim Brown is a soccer man. Not to the identical extent because the Pro Football Hall of Famer with whom he shares the identical identify. (“I’ve spent my life disappointing a lot of football fans when I make hotel reservations,” he says). And, truly, not even in that form of soccer.

This Jim Brown, who lives in Park City, has labored and performed at varied ranges of the opposite soccer — soccer — on and off for many years. He served as FIFA’s director of competitions for seven years, from 2003-10, and stays a marketing consultant with worldwide soccer’s governing physique. Perhaps most notably, he led the profitable bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will probably be collectively hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

But earlier than Brown had even gotten the confetti out of his hair after the United bid received in 2018, he took a name from somebody he hadn’t spoken to in not less than a dozen years: Ross Young, the newly named interim CEO of USA Rugby.

“That’s when,” Young stated, “I asked Jim if he had had enough of all that football malarky and wanted to come across to a proper sport.”

On May 12, the International Rugby Federation is anticipated to award the United States the rights to host the 2031 Men’s Rugby World Cup and the 2033 Women’s Rugby World Cup. The key cog in that profitable bid was Brown, a soccer man with an curiosity in rugby.

Brown stated he believes these Rugby World Cups can have the identical impact on American sport because the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Held within the United States for the primary time, and the final right here till the mega-tournament returns in 2026, the Los Angeles Times known as the 1994 World Cup “the most transformative event in U.S. soccer history.” It pulled U.S. Soccer up from close to chapter to profitability, led to the formation of Major League Soccer and drove most of the nation’s most notable gamers to the sport, whereas additionally creating funding for grassroots initiatives that might preserve them enmeshed within the sport.

USA Rugby faces most of the similar challenges. It filed for chapter in March 2020. Its skilled league, Major League Rugby — which counts the Utah Warriors as considered one of its 13 franchises — has been round lower than 4 years. And, regardless of document progress, rugby isn’t acknowledged as a sport by the NCAA.

“It’s not just putting on the event, it’s trying to establish and help the sport grow in a new market and a new country, to a certain extent, although there is a roving presence here,” Brown, 55, stated. “And I think that dimension of really helping build something and grow something is a lot more [edifying] than jumping on a FIFA World Cup, which is a very different process.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jim Brown has been working to convey the rugby world cup to the USA. Brown was pictured on the rugby subject in Park City on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

That 1994 World Cup had virtually as resounding an impression on Brown’s skilled life because it did on soccer within the U.S. Though he has gone on to supervise venues at 4 World Cups and three Olympics, Brown’s first gig in that subject was because the director of operations at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif., for the 1994 match. He was 26.

He hadn’t even realized venue administration was a job till 4 years earlier, when he attended the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

“Literally sitting in the stadium, it dawned on me: There are a lot of people walking around the field,” Brown stated. The former participant for Hamilton College in New York then thought, “‘Maybe one day I could do something like that,’ because I really liked the sport. I just wasn’t that good at it.”

Brown proved excellent at venue administration.

During the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, he oversaw the stadium that hosted observe and subject in addition to the opening and shutting ceremonies. He additionally ran the Olympic Stadium in Sydney for the 2000 Summer Games and was managing director of venues for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. In 2003, following his first transfer to Park City, FIFA employed him as its director of competitions. As such, he oversaw the planning of tournaments and occasions, together with securing enjoying and observe amenities and arranging lodging, journey, staff and logistics. Among the occasions he was in control of have been the 2006 World Cup in Germany — the place he met Young — and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

In 2010, he retired and moved together with his spouse and their son and two twin infants from Europe again to Park City, the place he continued to work as a marketing consultant for FIFA. In 2017, although, he was approached by USA Soccer with an intriguing proposition. It was time to convey the FIFA World Cup again to North America, and it needed Brown to move up its bid.

Colin Hilton, who has labored with Brown since he was a venue supervisor in Boston for the 1994 World Cup, stated USA Soccer didn’t need Brown as a result of he was a salesman.

“The talent Jim has is explaining,” he stated. “And in a way that makes people go, ‘Oh, OK, I think we could do that’ or, you know, ‘That helps me have a perspective that is understandable.’”

He additionally had a imaginative and prescient. Combining the U.S., Canada and Mexico despatched a message of worldwide unity and stability, which was interesting after FIFA selected Brazil (2014), Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022) to host the three earlier World Cups.

In a vote of FIFA nations on June 13, 2018, the United bid received with 134 nation votes in comparison with 65 for Morocco.

Four days later, Young obtained Brown on the cellphone.

(Shuji Kajiyama | AP) Jordan Matyas of the United States tries to interrupt by way of Japan’s Honoka Tsutsumi, left, and Japan’s Mifuyu Koide of their girls’s rugby sevens match on the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 29, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Jim Brown of Park City is main USA Rugby’s bid to convey each the lads’s and ladies’s Rugby World Cup, which options the 15-player format of the sport, to the USA.

Young wasn’t even formally USA Rugby’s CEO. He’d been named to the place in interim two months earlier. But he had a plan to take the group and the game within the U.S. to the subsequent degree by following U.S. Soccer’s blueprint. So, regardless of his being a soccer man — or perhaps due to it — he knew Brown was the one who might get them there.

“I would say it was the right man, right place,” Young stated, noting he needed somebody who would problem USA Rugby to dream huge.

“It wasn’t just his major event and bidding [experience],” he added, “it was his experiences in other sport and helping being involved in U.S. Soccer while it was going through a growth stage. There’s so many synergies to it.”

Brown wasn’t utterly ignorant when it got here to the game of rugby. He’d performed rugby as a scholar on the Hong Kong International School and had attended a couple of Rugby World Cup matches. Plus, he appreciated the concept of working to convey consideration to a sport that’s not very well-known within the U.S., in comparison with working with one of many two greatest sporting occasions on the earth.

“That’s not the most unpolitical environment in the world,” he stated of the FIFA World Cup bids.

USA Rugby’s bid hinged on two elements. The first was a novel locale. Held each 4 years since 1987, the Rugby World Cup has historically been hosted by one of many sport’s powerhouse nations, corresponding to New Zealand, France, England or South Africa. In 2019, the match ventured to Japan, to a lot success. USA Rugby positioned itself as one other outlier that, if given the chance to host, might propel worldwide acceptance of the game.

The second key to the bid was the U.S.’s proposal to host back-to-back males’s and ladies’s tournaments. The concept was that it will not solely preserve rugby on Americans’ radar, however it will make use of economies of scale, with sponsors signing on for each occasions and each sharing fundamental infrastructure.

Oh, and it made certain World Rugby promised to choose up the tab.

The U.S. bid initially focused the 2027 and 2029 Rugby World Cup. But these occasions might have impinged on a pair different mega sports activities occasions deliberate for the nation — particularly the FIFA World Cup in 2026, the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and probably the 2030 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake. So, World Rugby granted the 2027 Games to Australia and entered a “targeted dialog” with the USA for 2031 and 2033 — that means it’s not working with some other bid committees for these dates.

As they await the choice in May, organizers are busy evaluating potential host websites. Brown stated near 30 cities had utilized to host, greater than double the quantity wanted. It is unlikely any males’s video games will probably be performed in Utah if the U.S. is granted the bid, although international groups may use the world as a base camp. The chance of the world internet hosting girls’s video games is far stronger, he stated.

After all of this, does Brown nonetheless contemplate himself a soccer man, or has rugby received him over?

“If there’s a ball involved, I’ll help out anybody,” he joked. “Even shuttlecock, I’ll help out.”

In actuality, although, Brown stated he wouldn’t thoughts staying concerned with USA Rugby by way of the World Cups. He’s additionally open to taking up one other undertaking, so long as its goal is extra than simply to make cash.

“I want to work with good people and I want to work on stuff that helps a lot of people,” he stated. “And I know it sounds a little corny, perhaps. But as I get older, you know, that’s really the truth.

“Certainly if there’s an opportunity to do something new and different I’ll definitely consider it.”

Editor’s be aware • This story is offered to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers solely. Thank you for supporting native journalism.

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