Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

News > Alumni Career Profiles > Simon Johnson (Class of 1985)

Simon Johnson (Class of 1985)

It has been fantastic to reconnect with Old Boy Simon who is Chair of the Rugby Football League, and of SIS, a Charity Trustee, and consultant for the Charity and Leisure Sectors...


80s Alumni

Please describe your journey since leaving BGS and how did you progress to your current role?

This is actually my fifth career iteration. After leaving school and studying Law at Kings College London, I was first a lawyer, then worked in TV, then in sport, then ran a charity and now am a professional Non-Executive Director. It shows that being able to be flexible and develop your career in a number of ways, is a useful skill to develop.

What does your job involve and how did you progress to your current position?

I am Chair of two businesses. One is the Rugby Football League and the other is a private company known as SIS (Sports Information Services), which is a supplier of 24/7 live betting content for global business operators.

The role of Chair is similar in both – you Chair Board Meetings, manage the CEO and senior staff and represent the interests of the shareholders, acting as a bridge with the management.

But there is a crucial difference. Being the Chair of a sport requires you to be visible, answerable to fans, ambassadorial and occasionally to represent the sport to the media and government.

With a private company like SIS, however, the Chair is much more behind the scenes. The CEO fronts the company externally and to the media on all but the most exceptional corporate activities.

So, the Chair of a Sports NGB is sometimes front and centre, whilst that of a private company is mainly in the background.

Who or what influenced your career choice, how did Bury Grammar School help to shape your choice?

At school, all I wanted to be was a lawyer, and I ended up doing that for the first 15 years of my career. What motivated that choice was enjoying watching a TV programme in the 1970’s and 80’s called Crown Court. All of the teachers at BGS knew this and encouraged me to develop the qualifications I might need to be a success. They were all very supportive and saw the potential in me and encouraged me to achieve what I thought I could.

Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?

A good Chair needs diplomacy, honesty, integrity, and a willingness to find solutions. It requires attention to detail, patience, and creativity. You need to be able to speak confidently in public and be able to find a way to open conversations and find common ground with a wide range of people from a wide range of backgrounds.

And you need broad shoulders and a thick skin to cope with the inevitable and sometimes hurtful criticism which comes with being the Chair of a sport with such passionate and opinionated fans.

What do you like most about your job?

I love the variety and the flexibility. I love the range of challenges that come and the ability to test myself and learn from all the people I deal with. I challenge myself always to find enjoyment in what I do. The biggest honour I have is when I present trophies to the winning captains at Rugby League finals. Walking out to meet the players at Wembley before the Challenge Cup Final is a privilege that I will never take for granted.

What is the biggest challenge that you have encountered in your career so far?

Finding out that England had lost its bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup was immensely challenging and a setback which took some time to overcome. This was because my fixed term contract as COO of the Bid came to an end, and I was immediately out of a job. I had to seek my next role carrying what, at that time, was the stigma of being part of a bid which had failed in a visible and high-profile way.

I worked hard and was able to establish myself successfully as a sports and media consultant. Over time, as the world got to know of the level of corruption that had surrounded the bid process, the perception changed, and the market was more understanding.

But the disappointment of losing that bid took a while to leave me.

What do you consider to be your greatest professional achievement?

I would pinpoint as my proudest moment, our recent achievement in gaining unanimous approval to the restructuring of Rugby League, to realign the Governing Body with the Super League, to create a new commercial joint venture company and to reach a long-term strategic partnership with a major leisure and entertainment company. This gives our great sport Rugby League a strong platform for growth in the future.

Where do you hope to be in ten years’ time?

I think I will still be working when I am 66 in 10 years’ time, so I hope that I will continue to enjoy my work and to be proud of my achievements.

How did Bury Grammar School help you to be successful in your chosen career?

It enabled me to be confident in the way I spoke publicly, in the way I presented myself and, in my ability to meet and connect with people from any walk of life. It built resilience, and made it possible to achieve excellence, but whilst retaining a healthy cynicism and sense of humour.

What career advice would you give to our current pupils?

Be open in what you might want to do and be flexible in how your career might develop. Always be prepared to learn, to work hard, to broaden your experience and to try and enjoy your working life.

When you look back at your time at BGS, what are some of your fondest memories?

I seem to remember most fondly just laughing and having fun at school. I remember the pride that the town of Bury had in the school and the confidence that it instilled. But my fondest memories were acting in the School plays. Twelfth Night in the Sixth form was a memorable production. I was Malvolio. There are still traumatised girls (as we did it jointly with the Girls school) who remember me walking around with yellow socks as part of a Shakespearean stage description. One lady, now in her fifties, still calls me yellow legs.


Former MP and Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State, DFID at HM Government... More...




Bury Grammar School
Tenterden Street, Bury
Lancashire, BL9 0HN



This website is powered by