James Rule: CEO and Part Owner of Widnes Vikings

James Rule is Chief Executive Officer of Widnes Vikings and is a part-owner of the club.

James joined Widnes Vikings in September 2012. Under his tenure, the club has enjoyed considerable progress both on and off the field.

James has supported Widnes Vikings to develop thriving commercial partnerships, one of the world’s leading sports community engagement programmes, and an Academy system that has been independently rated as Outstanding by the RFL. These efforts have supported the on-field growth of Widnes Vikings, by providing investment and talent for the club’s first team, and helped the club to reach new audiences.

Since joining the Vikings, James has placed significant focus on the club building an effective youth system, to enable it to find and develop outstanding local talent. Under the stewardship of the Vikings’ Head of Youth Performance, Phil Finney, more than half of the club’s current first team squad has graduated from Academy ranks. With 16 youth international representatives, and three 2018 England Knights members, the future looks bright for Widnes’ young stars.

James has played a vital role in the club securing and sustaining new corporate partnerships. Through developing innovative new advertising opportunities, including creative stadium branding opportunities and utilising the club’s ever-growing social media presence, Widnes Vikings have diversified and grown their commercial networks. 

James has been integral to the commissioning and success of the Beat The Scrum campaign, which features as the club’s 2018 primary partnership. This campaign, which is delivered on behalf of the Mid-Mersey A&E Delivery Board, sees Vikings players and legends of rugby league help educate the public on how to make the right NHS choices. Through featuring on the Vikings playing kit, achieving significant national and regional press coverage, and delivering more than 500,000 online video views in just one year, the campaign gives the NHS an incredible platform to engage with the public.

The Beat The Scrum campaign received the Rosa Parks Award at the Academy of FAB NHS Stuff Awards, two major honours from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and is featured at the 2018 Leader In Sport Awards.

A major focus of James’s commercial and public engagement plans has been the development of thriving a community strategy. Under his stewardship, Widnes Vikings has formed flourishing partnerships with the likes of NHS Halton CCG, Community Integrated Care, Halton Borough Council, State of Mind, Rugby League Cares, Rugby Football League, Mind, Riverside College, Children in Need, The Rank Foundation, Youth Fed and WEA,

These programmes have earned national acclaim for the social impact that they have delivered. Widnes Vikings have received three prestigious honours from the 3rd Sector Care Awards and been commended by the National Care Awards, becoming the only professional sports organisation to ever receive accolades by these charity and care sector leaders. In 2017, James was personally recognised for his contribution to developing new models of community engagement through sport when he was shortlisted for the Making A Difference Award at the 2017 3rd Sector Care Awards. In 2016, the charitable arm of Widnes Vikings, The Vikings Sports Foundation, was also named as the Foundation of the Year at the Man of Steel Awards.

In 2018, James worked in partnership with Halton Borough Council to secure a new, enhanced, five-year tenancy arrangement. This partnership has developed new commercial opportunities, improved the Vikings’ tenancy at the Halton Stadium. and provided stability for the seasons ahead.

The foundations that James helped to set in the seasons following the Vikings’ return to Super League have continued to support ongoing progress.  In 2014, the Vikings were named the Super League Club of the Year at the Man of Steel Awards. Widnes Vikings secured their highest Super League finish in 2016, with a seventh-place finish in the league – an impressive feat for one of the competition’s smallest clubs. 

Several of the Vikings home-grown stars have gone on to firmly establish themselves as being amongst the brightest and best young talent in the league. In 2016, Matt Whitley was shortlisted for both the Super League Young Player of the Year Award and the Albert Goldthorpe Rookie Of The Year Medal. In 2017, this progress continued with Danny Walker featuring the Albert Goldthorpe shortlist in his first full season in the Super League. In 2018, three of the club’s Academy graduates were called up to the England Knights Performance Squad. 

Prior to joining Widnes Vikings, James was Chief Executive of Hull FC from 2007 and 2011. In taking on this position aged just 29, he was the youngest ever CEO in Super League history.

In a period when the sport was governed by licensing James Secured two three year grade A licenses for the Club. He was also involved in developing a performance department that secured three Final appearances: The Challenge Cup in 2005,2009 and the Grand Final in 2006. The victory in 2005 was the Clubs first in a generation. 

He remains the only CEO to have overseen two top-flight Super League clubs.

Outside of Rugby League, James is a proud husband and also parent to two daughters and is dedicated to his family.

James Rule: CEO of Widnes Vikings