When the U.S. didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup in October last year, it dispirited millions of soccer fans who groaned at the sorry state of the sport in their country. Fortunately, these same fans got a significant pick-me-up in mid-June when the U.S., Canada, and Mexico were selected to host the World Cup in 2026.
Fans from these three countries owe partial thanks to the strategic communications and government affairs firm Glover Park Group (GPG) for the successful World Cup bid. But the firm itself owes partial thanks to a young U.K. trainee—Rory Rudd—who helped ensure that the firm could be involved in the first place.
When GPG first set out to represent the United Bid Committee (UBC), a Principal on the Committee told GPG that they would need to expand the diversity of their staff.
“We needed more people on the team who were avid fans of the game and could understand the language, the folkways, the media environment, etc.,” says Paul Hicks, Managing Director at GPG.
Fortunately for the firm, the young but experienced Rory Rudd was seeking an opportunity to apply his international experiences towards completing a trainee program in the United States at the same time. Thanks to Cultural Vistas J-1 Visa Sponsorship, Rory joined GPG from November until the end of June to assist the firm in the key time period leading up to the bid decision.
“It was kind of one of those things that just came together. We needed someone day-to-day on the account who was a strong international football [i.e. soccer] person as well as a good writer and researcher,” Paul says. “We would have had to freelance that expertise which is always uncomfortable because you don’t have regular access to people. We wanted someone who was on the team full-time and it led to a very successful engagement with the client.”
Rory’s role as a trainee was extensive and grew more significant over time. During the initial phases, he mainly focused on gaining an understanding of the ins and outs of inter-bid politics as well as ways of dealing with the media. Towards the end of his program, he was going around proposed stadiums with FIFA representatives as well as sending daily clips and press releases to the client—a role for which he was uniquely qualified.
“He had an idea of who would move opinion in the FIFA world and what kind of stories they’d written in the past so his institutional knowledge contributed to our knowledge which helped guide the client,” says Paul.
Given his significant contributions and the bid’s ultimate success, Rory’s traineeship was later extended through December 2018 with a sister company.
The extension is great news for Rory. Rory describes work in the U.S. as a “dream job” but actually seems less interested in talking about himself than the potentially historic nature of the 2026 World Cup—when the tournament will expand to 48 teams.
Despite impressive past professional experiences working with the renowned Chelsea Football Club in his native UK and Fox Sports in Australia, he says that his traineeship in the U.S. taught him more than his previous positions and has made him feel the most like he was a “part of the team.”
— United 2026 (@united2026) June 13, 2018
For U.S. soccer fans in particular, who are eager to see their favorite sport gain in popularity, it should be reassuring to hear that a young, avid soccer fan from the U.K. feels right at home working in sports marketing in the U.S.
And just as French soccer fans were happy to see their national squad enlist a few foreign-born players to bring home the 2018 World Cup title, soccer fans throughout the three host countries should be grateful to educational and cultural exchange programs for allowing Rory to be a part of the team which helped bring home the 2026 World Cup bid.