What a week for rugby events…

Written by Victoria Chipp

 

Well what a week for rugby it has been. The events off the pitch have been in full flow so we thought it would be great to bring you some news about what has been happening. Sorry to the guys not in London as this is where all the events have been.

We kicked off the week by attending The Rugby Business Networks event at The London Welsh centre on Monday. The primary focus on these events is to get business people who all have a passion for rugby to get together and gain useful contacts from other industries. Their events are put on for free and not just based in London but all over the UK and across the Globe. The guest of honour was Stephen Jones who was interviewed about all things rugby. He chatted through his very successful career from club rugby to playing for Wales and even his honours in a Lions jersey. He then gave the already hooked audience an insight to his plans for after rugby (plans which have already been set in motion). He has started up a restaurant in Wales that is already flooded with accolades and awards. Then came the networking part of the evening which for this event was informal and allowed for lots of people to mingle and potentially generate new business. For any queries about hosting your own event or attending the next one get in touch with Colm Hannon or Ian Kench via http://www.therugbybusinessnetwork.com/ .

Tuesday night was the VIP opening of The Pink Lion in Mayfair. Thomas Pink are one of the sponsors to the Lions Tour 2013 and to launch their Lions range they themed a pub and four themed evenings to celebrate. The newly named pub has not only has a rosy coloured makeover but is displaying the vast amount of official tour stash. Special guest Landlord Warren Gatland was in attendance as well as Lewis Moody, Josh Lewsey, Martin Bayfield and providing the food is Phil Vickery. Bayfield Is a huge fan of the attire but was only seen sporting the cufflinks, socks and tie. Little surprise he couldn’t find a shirt or suit to fit when the man is the size of a small mountain!

On Wednesday came the night of Halloween fun in the shape of Ugo Monye’s testimonial Ball. Also on at the Pink Lion was a Lions themed “Question of Sport” hosted by birthday boy Matt Dawson. The place was once again packed to the rafters with pros past and present with a real sense of eager anticipation building up to what should be a great Lions tour 2013. Ugo’s ball was hosted at The Grosvenor House Hotel and it was there you could find the other half of rugby’s big names enjoying a social. It was hosted by the lovely Mark Durden-Smith and from all accounts a great night was had by all.

Thursday was again another night to be back at the Pink Lion. Thomas Pink this time were putting on a pub lock-in, hosted by Ben Kay and Roger Uttley. First Roger came to the stage and reminisced about the good days on amateur rugby. He recalled having to take a 3 month absence of leave from teaching to head over to the other side of the world and play 22 games in three months losing none and only drawing the once. It seemed like a different world imagining having to communicate via air mail and at about a 10 day delay, for the guys with families that must have been particularly tough. Roger was engaging and to the point which left most of the room dreaming about leaving the screaming babies and wives at home for a couple of months to go on a lads trip for the Lions! Next came Ben Kay, who immediately had the room belly laughing! He was light-hearted and endearing and gave account of some truly amazing stories from his rugby career. He made sure we all had a good laugh at Lewis Moody and Austin Healey’s expense.

 Then there is tonight. The Pink Lion are running screening of past Lions games to finish off their Launch week. However the best event to be part of tonight is Lawrence Dallaglio’s 8Rocks ball at Battersea Evolution. The event is renowned for being star-studded and raises a lot of money for the Lawrence Dallaglio foundation which supports cancer research and youth development. If you can’t be involved in this spectacular event this evening you should head over to their website and see what you can do to support such a fabulous cause. http://www.dallagliofoundation.com/

 

Crikey with all this going on and not to mention the boys starting Movemeber, I’m not sure I’m going to have enough energy left in the tank to go wild for the actual rugby games this weekend.

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The Harsh Reality of Retirement

Now I am going to be brutally honest when I first started getting into rugby it was all about the youngsters, the showmen and of course the delectable bodies of said athletes. Then came the passion for the community, the driving force behind the game and what it really meant to all involved whether it be a fan, player, coach or the neutral that tags along to any game because they love the sport. But recently my head has been turned to what happens to the professionals once their playing careers are over.

For some it is something they can work up to, re skill and make a smooth transition into city life. For others the news is much less expected and therefore much harder to prepare for. Imagine if you will the stark reality that sometimes you are just no longer of any actual value to the organisation that pays you, and so like in many other businesses cuts are made. However in this instance it’s much harder to find a similar role where you might thrive. If rugby is all you have been doing since you left school and whether due to age or injury it is something that you can no longer do well, you may find your self in a position where there are very few options.

The more charismatic among the players may find an easy transition into the world of commentating, writing, internal club affairs or taking a step over the other side of the touch-line and becoming an agent. The more technically astute will usually become coaches and pass on their expertise. However what if you haven’t got these opportunities because lets face facts there are a lot more rugby players out there than there are Ben Kays and Austin Healeys. The other working life in business can be a very daunting place post playing career for those who have never done anything of its nature. The point in question was really first highlighted to me by Duncan Bell. He was so candid about his sudden retirement and the harsh realities of starting up his own business. The terrifying prospect that it may not all be ok in the end.

The harsh nature of this business often means there isn’t much support out there for these guys either. Of course there are the obvious places to go for advice your club, The RPA etc. But really where is the “hands on” advice and actual time that these players need hiding?

 I recently attended an event which was put on by an organisation called RUINN which is headed up by ex Saracen Hugh Vyvyan. It was a networking event that allowed city individuals in London to mix with some recently retired rugby players and see if there was anything they could do that would be mutually beneficial for each other. In attendance was Ben Woods who recently found himself out in the cold after a long-term wrist injury had ruled him out of professional sport. Having known Ben through my work at Tigers it was great to see him in a completely different environment. The networking event put him in touch with several lawyers (Ben is currently studying for his Law conversion GDL) and will fingers crossed allow him to foster relationships and work experience to make the next few years a lot easier.

My issue comes is for the boys who aren’t Cambridge graduates and haven’t got the foggiest idea what they want to do post playing career. I know there is a lot of support in clubs to help players realise what they want to do when they have finished playing but in my mind it is still nowhere near enough. Rugby clubs typically harbour great working relationships with a variety of sizes of businesses. I feel it is imperative that a player is rounded into more than a machine on the pitch but a person that can swiftly move into other areas of work when their time with the club is finished. That support network needs to be there at a very minimum so the skills needed can be developed over years as opposed to over a few weeks/months when a player gets thrown in at the deep end.

Furthermore more players need to be encouraged by their agents and clubs alike to get involved in this sort of networking events whether it is RUINN or The Rugby Business Network or The RPA. It needs to be considered valuable to the club which at a business only level it isn’t. It means players taking a few hours here and there to aid their own personal development and unless this translates into points during the game it isn’t going to draw in more fans and therefore more money. However niceties aside unless the clubs are going to pay the big bucks to set up a player for life, the players need to be set up for post playing life. I would go as far to argue that an agent should be an agent for the player’s life not just their most valuable time when they are on the field. Often by the time a player actually sees the value in these events it’s too late and they are searching for work with a barely there CV.

Arguably however it is also down to us as fans and friends. Keep a look out for those who are retiring or coming up to retirement and think if it could in any way add value to your organisation if they were to even just gain some experience with you. Rugby life is typically a well-connected industry and I think if we all looked at our companies or friends’ companies there would be a slot there that could offer those players the start to their non playing lives they need. You may think this sounds like a barbaric idea as players must have these sorts of offer thrown at them routinely but believe me they really don’t. Or even if this isn’t possible lets look at where we are spending our money. At The Stoop instead of heading for one of the chain stands head for Ollie Kohn’s Jolly Hog and Sausage. When looking at mortgage brokers go to Duncan Bell. Refer your friends to them lets help build their empire from the inside. Support the charities that supports them and eventually I hope we will see fewer players facing the harsh truth that often awaits them come retirement.

Stay tuned for news of upcoming events that you can attend!

The Rugby Community Always Pulls Together

Christmas is always a good time to reflect and today we would like to bring you a very touching story from the rugby community.

Send Lee your messages through twitter!

All too often do we read about players that are injured badly either during a game or off the field. Yet the one thing that never ceases to amaze me is the reaction of the rugby community as a whole. The inspirational story of Matt Hampson is probably the most famous of all the incidents, a young man who is paralysed from the neck down after a scrum collapsed on his neck. Matt is one of my heroes and the work his foundation does for people in similar predicaments is to be applauded. Recently Nathan Cubitt was injured in a game and his story touched thousands and now his twitter account has 4000 followers and the rugby community has joined as one to ensure if nothing else we can keep him smiling.

I would now like to bring you the story of Lee Audis, 23. He has been playing for the Doncaster Knights rugby club since the summer, and suffered life-threatening injuries after his car came off the road on Sunday night. Gloucester fly-half Burns and 23-year-old Audis are both products of the Bath Academy, and forged close bonds during their time as team-mates at The Rec. Burns and Audis’ families are also close, and the 21-year-old Gloucester playmaker travelled to Leeds to be at his friend’s hospital beside recently.

Freddie has also set up a new twitter profile for his friend yesterday, and called on the rugby world – both players and supporters – to send goodwill messages, to boost both Audis and his family. The new profile @leeaudis is up and running, and Burns has asked for well-wishers to tweet the Doncaster half-back.

Burns explained: “He has his own profile but it’s a different address and this was just a good way I thought of making it easier for people to lend their support. I really think that could make a difference, and it would certainly give his family a lift to know that Lee is still in people’s thoughts. Rugby can be a very tight game when everyone comes together, and this is a time when I would ask the game’s fraternity to do exactly that. You don’t feel like there’s a lot you can do, but support is the key thing. So that’s why I set up the separate profile for him, so that people can get their messages of support to his family. We’ve already had some really kind words from people, and hopefully this is a good way for people who know him to send their messages.”

Burns said Audis’ injuries put rugby into stark perspective, admitting he had fought hard not to let it affect his task at Gloucester last week.

He continued: “Ever since day one at Bath Academy, we became great friends. We went on holiday together and our families are very close. Only in the summer he spent a week helping me and my parents pack up my parents’ house because they were moving, we were working on fixing the roof and things like that. It certainly puts everything into perspective. One minute everything is going really well for him, he’s secured a regular place in the side and doing well in the Championship, and then he is in hospital. When I found out last week I almost didn’t train that afternoon, but I got myself together. It’s been a shock but obviously it’s far tougher for him and his family, and I’m just hopeful he can pull through.”

So folks please follow and send your messages of support to Lee and his family, by tweeting @leeaudis.

UPDATE: Lee is now showing great signs and has had his best day yet!