Behind The Scenes | Alex Macintyre
There is a cold beer and curry waiting for Alex MacIntyre at the end of each match day and he will have deserved every sip and mouthful.
The StoneX is an evolving, multi-sport venue that changes by the day to accommodate athletics and rugby. MacIntyre, who started as an intern fresh out of Liverpool University when Saracens were still playing at Vicarage Road, is right at the heart of almost everything that goes on at the ground.
“People see a wonderful rugby venue on TV every weekend, but sometimes they forget we are a multi-purpose venue. We have an eight lane track around the pitch and a range of indoor facilities in the Olympic Bar,” said MacIntyre.
“We have pole vault, high jump, long jump and shot putt areas indoors during the week and there is also a running track. We turn them around into a matchday bar area at the end of the week for the rugby.
“Richard Gregg is our overall Operations Director, who pulls everything together, but my team looks after the nuts and bolts of the venue and ensures everything that should be working is working.”
It means there is a long ‘to do’ list every week that involves thorough checking and re-checking. Everything may look as though it runs like clockwork, but below the surface there is a huge amount of planning and hard work that goes in to ensure that is the case.
There is a pre-match planning meeting with all departments on Tuesday, a live matrix document that itemises all requirements for every sector and checks and double checks throughout the week on facilities. At present, with so many temporary structures at the venue, thorough in-person checks are needed to ensure there are no problems.
When the new West Stand is completed, many of those concerns will be taken care of by modern day technology. MacIntyre can’t wait for everything to be completed in the summer!
Now 31, the former Politics & History graduate has grown with the new home of Saracens since the switch from Watford. His three month internship quickly turned into a full-time job and a decade on he is now in charge of all he can survey.
“I’m often asked how a Politics & History graduate turns into a facilities and operations manager, but once I started at Saracens I never wanted to leave. I grew into the role and the club has been great in helping me develop my career,” he added.
“I’ve been on courses, taken on apprenticeships and I’m currently completing a Level 4 Institute of Work Place & Facilities Managers qualification. You have to be prepared for anything and everything in this job.”
Thankfully the days of strict COVID restrictions are currently a thing of the past. When fans weren’t allowed into the ground MacIntyre had to take regular PCR tests to enable him to operate in the red zone around the players.
All the match balls had to be disinfected, the changing rooms prepared in a specific way and he even had to hand deliver the food to the players and officials. This weekend he will merely have to worry about delivering a silky-smooth service to the two teams and worry about the welfare of 8,000 fans.
“We’re on site most days of the week from 7.30am and an hour earlier on a Friday before a game. We have to ensure the pitch is ready for the Captain’s Run and then check everything around the ground,” he said.
“By match day the stage should have been set and we come in at 8.30am for a 3.00pm kick-off. This weekend we will have to stay a little bit later in order to prepare the ground for the women’s match, but I hope to be home by around 7-8.00pm.
“Then it is feet up, bottle of beer and a takeaway curry. I’m a sports nut, so I’ll watch any sport that is on the TV to try to relax.”
He might also afford himself a chuckle about what challenges the day has brought him and his team. With around 500 staff across all sectors on duty on a match day there are always plenty of interesting stories and tit-bits that go into the de-brief document.
“Where we have temporary structures at the moment we are always being asked to retrieve items that have fallen through the gaps – phones, wallets and even false teeth,” he said.
“Part of the ground is a building site at the moment so we also have to have some in a hard-hat and High-Vis jacket ready to go into that area to retrieve the ball when it gets kicked in there. Wi-fi is another big part of match day.
“If it goes down it affects the selling operation, the media and the broadcasters. That has only happened once so far, but is definitely something to keep on top of.
“We had a water main issue on the morning of one game and that meant we didn’t have any water supply to the ground. That was a testing time and we had to ensure all temporary toilet facilities were in proper use.
“You learn from every small disaster and bank the experience for the next time. Attention to detail is everything – get all the little things right and the big issues take care of themselves.”