Brazilian Rugby is starting a new era with the hiring of Mariana Miné as CEO.
One of the most recognised federations in a passionate, sporting-mad country, Brazil Rugby has brought in Miné to replace the retiring Jean-Luc Jadoul, and she plans to lead growth that accompanies the momentum at high-performance level over the past decade.
In another change for the union, Eduardo Mufarej will step down from his role as Chairman of the Board on 1 January, 2021, having led his country to its highest ever level of success in the game of rugby.
“The challenges for an emerging union are huge and I truly hope that the game in the near future shall become more accessible and dynamic,” Mufarej said recently.
“It is a good message to have a female CEO,” Miné tells World Rugby from Sao Paulo. “We have a huge, huge opportunity with our women’s team, who’ve had big results and will be playing in the Olympics. We are big and can get bigger.”
Miné is only now getting reacquainted with a game she first came into contact with back in 2003 while in Australia.
“I attended the Argentina v Ireland game at the Adelaide Oval during Rugby World Cup 2003 and that was an incredible experience,” she recalls.
In Australia for almost a year through an AIESEC programme for university students that builds young leaders through diversity and cultural understanding, she worked for the Justice Court as a liaison for the large Adelaide Vietnamese community. “The goal was to explain to them how the Australian system worked, how equal they were to everybody,” she explained about her year in South Australia.
“Being there, I was first introduced to rugby, and some things are meant to be; going to the pubs and seeing people crazy about the game was great.”
Upon returning and getting a degree from one of the best business universities in Brazil, the Getulio Vargas University, and putting rugby aside, she worked for business giants AmBev and Unilever in managerial roles.
Having then worked for a media company, Miné founded Simple Pet six years ago, a successful company that brought dehydrated pet food to Brazil. It was from her role as CEO there that Miné was headhunted for the role she began a few days ago.
“It was crazy. After my first meeting, I began to look for more information on rugby – talking to people, surfing the internet. In Brazil, rugby is not so big.
“I also read James Kerr’s ‘Legacy’, an eye-opener, very inspiring as it showed me there was more to the game than the game itself. Rugby is a way of life, full of values.
“What attracted me to the game is that it does something meaningful to society,” she says.
“In the meetings before being offered the job, I asked members of the Board of Advisors what rugby meant and what it gave them; hearing their love for the game made me really want the job.”
Miné, 38, mother of Tom, three, and Olivia, one, comes into a game facing various challenges that will put her management and marketing skills to the test.
While acknowledging that there is still a lot for her to understand and as she plans to meet as many people at the various levels of the game as possible, Miné recognises that “we have to focus on building a stronger narrative on what rugby is, so that when we sit with potential sponsors we can showcase the game in the right way”.
The game in Brazil has had a big high-performance push in recent years, yet there is a lot that can be done at club level.
With Brazilian teams facing sporting opportunities in 2021 – As Yaras will go to the Olympics while the men will play in Monaco for a place in Tokyo, start the road to Rugby World Cup 2023, and play in the second season of the Superliga Americana de Rugby – Miné believes that “we have to have one plan for the game and not have our high-performance programme and the clubs separated”.
“We need a stronger community, clubs, fans, people interested – this will give us our long-term ability to grow.
“In doing so, I plan to focus my time on meeting and listening to clubs and the community.”
The third female CEO in the region – following the steps of Sol Iglesias (Argentina) and Sisy Quiroz (Peru) – Miné is looking forward to where things are heading.
“I am very happy, very enthusiastic with this opportunity. I feel these last few days have been very intense. I want to leave a personal mark to grow something meaningful to society.
“From what I heard from many board members, if Brazil was a rugby country and not a football one, we would be much better as a country.”