Ryan, 23, the DJ who owns Gloucester

Walkinshaw follows in his late father's footsteps and hopes to turn the tables on Saracens in today's semi-final

Gloucester has never fitted rugby union's stuffed-shirt stereotype, but not even the seething masses who populate the Kingsholm Shed know quite what to make of Ryan Walkinshaw. "You'll always have people who are negative and who say 'what the hell is this 23-year-old doing?'" admits the newest, brashest board member in the game, with his swept-back blond hair, eyebrow stud and blissed-out summers spent DJ-ing in Ibiza. "But the management system of the club has not changed apart from dad not being there to give his guidance."

Dad, as everyone in English rugby knows, was Tom Walkinshaw, the former Gloucester and Premiership chairman – and racing driver, engineer and Formula One team owner – who passed away from cancer aged 64 last December. In the course of three years fighting the pernicious disease which began in his bladder, went away and came back, he planned meticulously for Ryan to inherit his businesses when he was gone. The son gives every sign of rising to the challenge.

"We'll keep Gloucester prospering and growing and eventually it might make a couple of quid," says Ryan. "Until it does, we'll keep backing it. A lot of fans realise it's better to keep it in the family rather than let an investment bank take it over and strip it out. Or an oligarch come along and change the name to Red Bull Rugby or something like that. If that happened I'd be hanging from the beams of The Shed."

Tom had 14 years on the Gloucester board and two stints as the chairman of England's top clubs – during which he successfully argued for a salary cap – and was known on occasion to grab a microphone and address the supporters from the middle of the pitch. Anecdotally, it was said his ideal board meeting would have comprised one person. "Dad wanted to have his club that he loved coming to at weekends, even when that was his only free time," says Ryan. "The only day off he'd have was Christmas."

Ryan's diary is similarly packed. He left for India and Australia after the final regular-season match against Sale – a 68-17 win that confirmed Gloucester's surprise third-placed finish – and will track today's Premiership semi-final against Saracens at Watford on the internet.

He is busy with strategy and board meetings at Holden Special Vehicles – Australian-based engineers of souped-up road cars – and a championship-winning racing team Down Under. Trusted associates of his dad are advising him, including David McKnight, the new Gloucester chairman, Ken Nottage, the club's chief executive, and Jeff Browne, chairman of HSV, who was his father's lawyer and is managing director of Channel Nine in Australia.

Not that this is a rugby novice. Ryan has been on pre-season tours with the Gloucester squad, and did gap-year work experience selling tickets, mowing the pitch, doing a coaching certificate and so on. He was a First XV hooker at Radley College, close in Oxfordshire to where Tom Walkinshaw Racing was based.

Until his father's illness, Ryan was concentrating on music as a career. An old website shows him hunched over his decks and quotes a list of techno influences that are a mystery to this writer. "There's nothing more fun than going to a club and having 10,000 people paying to watch you," Ryan says. "I've worked the Zoo club in Ibiza for three summers – twice a week, every week, 6,000 people in the open air." His younger brother Sean has the motoring gene: he is doing his A-levels but has begun driving in Formula Renault. Ryan quit Newcastle University because "I wanted to get out and actually do it rather than listening to a lecturer who, if he was that good, would have his own business making money for himself".

The thrust after Tom Walkinshaw's passing was to reassure season-ticketholders of the line of succession, and investment, from the family as joint owners with Martin St Quinton. "The great part of Gloucester rugby is its tradition and its heritage," says Ryan, bright-eyed and tanned of face as we look across the Kingsholm turf where no self-respecting ear comes without a cauliflower. "Rugby is becoming more modern and cool and a sexy sport in some ways. We've got to keep up to date with that if we want to expand. There's 100,000 people in Gloucester and we're already getting 16,000 per match. We've got to push further in Swindon and Cheltenham and Cirencester and maybe even steal a few Bath fans on the way."

Gloucester have stuck to the salary cap, to the extent that three internationals – Dave Attwood, Nicky Robinson and Paul Doran-Jones – are leaving for Bath, Wasps and Northampton respectively. "We could talk about investing an extra million and get Dan Carter," says Ryan, "but we could get caught spending over the salary cap, and I'd rather not spend £5 million in fines. We don't have the money to go over it. I think Dario Chistolini [a prop from Italy] will make a big impact. Doran-Jones, before he came here, was a nobody. Now look at him."

Ryan was closely involved with extending James Simpson-Daniel's contract by three years, dissuading him from moving to France. The captain Mike Tindall has signed for another year, but he is injured. Names like Freddie Burns, Jonny May, Henry Trinder, Charlie Sharples and Dave Lewis have pushed themselves forward. Ryan, who played against Danny Cipriani at school, enjoys the "banter" with these contemporaries. "Still you need a few old heads to give them a slap when they step out of line," he says. "Tindall gives them a bit of a bollocking when he needs to. He's averaging a lot of money per game and has a talent for getting injured with England. At the same time he's really important and is someone the young guys look up to."

Jet lag appears to be this particular young guy's only worry, and even that gets a rapid brush-off. He is booked to arrive back in London at 7am on the morning of the Premiership final. "I'll go to the hotel, get showered and changed, go to the lunch and hopefully watch Gloucester in the final. I'm confident we'll be there."

The Walkinshaw sporting dynasty

Tom Walkinshaw, 64, passed away last December, survived by his first wife Elizabeth and their son Fergus, and his second wife Martine and their sons Ryan and Sean.

Tom began motor racing in 1968, driving an MG Midgetat a local track in Scotland before competing in many classes, notably touring cars. In the mid-1970s he set up Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) to design road and race cars.

Though involved as an engineer or owner in Formula One teams Ligier, Benetton – he helped to sign Michael Schumacher – and Arrows, perhaps his greatest achievement was helping restore Jaguar to the winner's podium in the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1988 after a 31-year gap. Latterly, his focus was in Australia with Holden Special Vehicles and Holden Racing.

Tom joined the Gloucester RFC board in 1997 and was twice chairman of Premier Rugby Ltd, experiencing the game's growing pains in the open era. Fergus was driving last season in the Ginetta G55 Championship, and teenager Sean is in his first year driving for Hillspeed in Formula Renault. Ryan succeeded his father as the joint owner of Gloucester Rugby with Martin St Quinton.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project