In the next instalment in a series of pieces introducing those who make Taunton RFC tick, Richard Kitzinger meets Pat Sweeney.

Article published:
October 7, 2021

In sports clubs up and down the land there are people who are the very fabric of the organisation. They are easily identifiable. These are the folk who go the extra mile every time to ensure that the day goes ahead smoothly. Many clubs have more than one such person and that is especially true at Taunton RFC. Without doubt, fitting into that category is that smiling chap who works tirelessly around the building at Veritas Park making sure that no stone is left unturned in guaranteeing the best experience for everyone present.

Pat Sweeney.

Born in Ireland, Pat originally worked in hotels but first came to Taunton RFC in 2006 as a casual waiter. From those part-time beginnings he worked his way up to running the front of house operations. Whether it’s a conference, a wedding, a wake or a match-day, it’s Pat who will be overseeing the event so that nobody’s experience is tarnished. “We had a funeral here,” he recalls “and there was a little girl getting upset and her dolly got thrown on the floor. I went and got a highchair for dolly and treated her like another guest ensuring the girl was happy and allowed all other guests to enjoy the food and celebrate the life of that particular person on that day”

“I’ve watched this club grow and grow and grow into what it is today.”

“When I first came here, Joel Conlon was only this high,” Pat says, holding his hand barely higher than his shin. “It was great to see him develop as a player and a man and it’s always great seeing these guys come back to the club and enjoy matchdays with us, It was only at the weekend I was able to watch Frosty playing again on the telly and it will be good to see him when he’s back again” “I’ve watched all these youngsters grow up. They all remember me from their time here which is fairly touching. ”It’s clear that Pat cherishes the connections he has made through the club but it’s not so obvious that he has made the connection and realised quite how cherished he is by the Taunton RFC family.

He doesn’t always get to watch much of the games outside but he was looking on along with over a couple of hundred guests in the bar as Gary Kingdom lined up his penalty kick Vs Rams, the last kick of the game for one of the most significant victories in Titans’ history. “The whole room stopped. You could hear a pin drop. There were people on chairs trying to see the kick and when Gary kicked the ball, it was like slow motion. ”Pat mimes puffing the ball to help it over the crossbar, “and then when it went over, the cheer, the roar was amazing. To get that win was fantastic.”

That’s Pat. He lives and breathes the rugby club. He goes on to tell how Gary came up to the bar, gave Pat a hug and talked him through the kick. The players always come upstairs after the game as the club puts on a carvery for them which is the envy of many visiting teams. His pride is evident as he recounts how a Rosslyn Park player was incredulous at the post-match spread awaiting the teams, “He asked me, ‘Bloody hell, do you do this every time?”

“I absolutely love this club. It’s more than a club to me. It’s a way of life, a community.”

A self-professed ‘happy, go-lucky person’, it’s Pat’s ability to exude his enjoyment of his role that helps so many visitors feel instantly at home at Taunton RFC. There’s no denying he loves what he does for a living. His passion for putting on ‘a good do’ is obvious for all to see, though Pat concedes it does require adaptability. “For weddings you can be extremely energetic and for the wakes we host I need to show much more empathy. It’s the match days I love more than anything though. They’re a real adrenaline hit.”

If you’re planning a party or a wedding, it’s Pat who will meet you from the initial booking and go through the options, keen to help guarantee a memorable occasion and to suggest ways to keep within budget. “I always enjoy meeting people for the first time and going through the ideal party or wedding and help make this possible. People are often surprised by the all-round quality that we can provide, Our feedback always reflects that.”

“Right across the club. Players, staff, we all just get on as a team. Together. Rugby and hospitality. With one shared purpose.”

“For me,” considers Pat, “what we have is the attention to detail. The customer always comes first. If you can be nice, honest, compassionate and caring then people will buy into what you’re trying to sell them.” When the bloke heading up the hospitality team has this attitude, it’s small wonder that the experience of an event at Taunton RFC is exceptional. The food and the service provide the platform on which the atmosphere of the club is founded.

Thinking back to the comments from the Rosslyn Park players, it’s not beyond the realms of doubt that the Taunton RFC model could be adopted elsewhere. Acknowledging how well the match-day experience works, Pat likens it to McDonald’s in that the whole approach and delivery could be franchised in clubs everywhere and people would love it. “When the staff come in, I tell them what is expected – and it’s nice to see them blossom and grow and go off to university or become nurses at Musgrove, train to do Law. It fills me with pride.”

“What would surprise people to find out about me? Nothing. Only that I’m such a good-looking bloke and yet I’m single!”

It’s fair to say that Pat Sweeney’s outlook is in large part responsible for the great reputation of hospitality at Taunton RFC. He cares about his guests. He cares about his staff. He cares about his product. And it shows.

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Article published by:

Richard Kitzinger

Writer

Rugby fan and Taunton resident, Richard loves watching Titans and creates written content for the rugby club.