Richard Graham was today announced as the interim CEO of CGE, here’s a quick Q&A with him

Richard, congratulations on the appointment what would you say are your biggest challenges over the coming months?

I think the first challenge is to create the Strategic Plan that will give Team England the platform it needs to replicate its achievements of Glasgow 2014 – where we topped the medal table for the first time in 28 years.  To win in Glasgow was a massive achievement – and to repeat that success on the other side of the world in Australia will require a whole new set of obstacles to be overcome.  Attention to every detail will be vital.  Let’s not forget that we also want to succeed at the two intervening Youth Games as well – taking place in Samoa and St Lucia.

Once that “master plan” is in place we then have to sell it to the other major parties involved – Sport England (who will decide how much financial support to allocate to it),  the governing bodies of over 20 sports (who must join with CGE in a coalition that shares the same goals), the prospective Commercial Partners and Sponsors (whom we must convince of the merits and appeal of backing us) and the millions of potential England fans  both at home and overseas (whom we need to inspire and keep interested in the project through a four year cycle).

What spurred you to go for the role?

It was a mixture of patriotism, pride and professional ambition.

I’m a keen student of history and very aware of the evolution of the Commonwealth and how it comprises a group of nations that have shared a common heritage over an extended period of time.  I’m extremely proud of the Commonwealth Games as a means in which friendship between those nations is preserved and respect between them is developed.  To me, sport is the most beautiful expression of nationalism and patriotism. 

Finally, I was conscious that having just had a domestic Olympics and Commonwealth Games in the UK it might be presumed that we couldn’t match or surpass those achievements again.  I don’t subscribe to that presumption and it would give me enormous professional satisfaction to be part of an effort to make English sporting history by going on to even better results in the next cycle of games.

What’s your favorite sporting memory?

There are many – but Allan “Sniffer” Clarke’s diving header to win the Centenary FA Cup Final for Leeds United  against Arsenal at Wembley in 1972 tops the lot. 

I will also remember “Super Saturday” at London 2012 for the rest of my life – particularly when I  was one of probably 40m Brits screaming “Come On Mo!” at the telly  as Mr Farrah performed his magic and powered down the finishing straight.  Magical moments

What’s your favorite Commonwealth Games memory?

It’s not an English one!

I remember watching Ian Stewart of Scotland winning the 5,000 metres in front of his home crowd in Edinburgh 1970.  He saw off two track legends, Kip Keino and Ron Clarke.  It was the first Commonwealth Games I ever watched and the fact that such a memory has stayed with me for 44 years illustrates the impact that sport can have on a young mind.

Who is your sporting idol?

The late Billy Bremner – Leeds United and Scotland captain.  As you can probably guess – I’m a bit of a Leeds fan.

What’s your favorite sport to watch?

Football, rugby, athletics, boxing.

What’s your favorite sport to play?

I may have lost any blistering pace I once  possessed – but still waddle around the 5-a-side pitch on occasion in the “Makelele” role. 

I’ve played chess to a high standard since my youth and never turn down the chance of a game.

Pride plays an important role in all things Team England, what the proudest moment of your career to date?

It’s a recent one.

I set up a project called “Seats for Soldiers” on behalf of Aldershot Town FC for the 2014/15 season.  It is a collaboration with a number of FTSE 500 companies who purchased special matchday tickets that we distribute amongst the 11,000 troops and their families garrisoned in the Aldershot area.

It’s been very well-received by the Army and MOD, it’s given the club a profile that it wouldn’t normally enjoy and it’s given some large British firms the chance to show their appreciation of our men and women in uniform in The Shots’ stadium through the conduit of sport.

As an Army kid myself (my Dad served for 37 years) it was a project that was very close to my heart – but it took the support of Club Chairman, Shahid Azeem, his fellow Directors and club staff, the Army and some great British companies to make it successful.  It shows the value of “teamwork” in every sense.