The Rugby Business Network Podcast

This global network was set up in 2010 with a vision of building a community that connects rugby, business and charity. Today our network has more than 38,000 members attending our events in more than 60 cities around the world, helping and inspiring each other.

Over the last seven years we have built what has now become the world’s biggest and most influential network for senior business people with a passion for rugby. It is now time that we extend this opportunity beyond our organisers and members so that the whole world can benefit from these motivational stories, experiences and advice.

We bring you The Rugby Business Network Podcast.


The Rugby player who did not stop believing

At the age of 62, a life-changing injury on the Rugby field led Trevor Stott-Briggs to write his book “TSB – Confessions of an Ex-Hooker (Aged 66 & a Half) A.K.A. Don’t Stop Believin”, which was published in 2017. Trevor speaks about how he only started playing Rugby after his schools days and later on in his life he went on to become a co-founder of the Philippine Rugby Football Union and then one of the founders of the Dubai Sharks Rugby Club, while also refereeing, coaching and playing vets Rugby in the UAE.

In the opening chapter of his book, Trevor details how in the final moments of a 10-a-side vets Rugby game he broke his neck when a scrum collapsed, which left him a paralyzed quadriplegic. He goes onto speak about (in his book too) his recovery process and stand out moments during his rehabilitation, while in each chapter there is a new story of “memory jerkers” to aspects other than Rugby, which had an influence on his life leading up to the accident.

Trevor is by no means a professional Rugby player who sustained a catastrophic injury, and yet the Rugby community reached out to him and showed such incredible financial support during his recovery, which took a few years to complete. Depression is often associated with people who have suffered serious injuries to their neck and spine, which leaves them paralyzed. Trevor talks about how using humour (which he uses so well in his book) and remaining motivated and positive made his road to recovery more of a pleasant journey and that writing a book which was filled with “doom and gloom” was pointless. Trevor, who has since recovered and can walk once again, says while it was a positive life-changing accident on the Rugby field, he has no regrets of playing the sport in his 60’s or what happened on that day which left him severely injured.

Trevor gives his opinion on the current laws around scrummaging and if enough is being done, whether it be in professional, semi-professional or amateur Rugby, to raise awareness and put measures in place to prevent spinal injuries. Trevor also mentions the importance of networking in Rugby, which he touches on in one of the chapters of his book, and that the message he wishes to leave with those who read his story, is to don’t stop believing in yourself in all facets of life.

Going ‘behind the scenes’ at Harlequins

Head of Rugby Operations at Harlequins Rugby Union, Graeme Bowerbank explains the various areas away from the field he oversees and the reason he took up the role at the club in 2010. All jobs have their exciting and difficult moments to get through and Graeme’s is no different, as he says when players make “mistakes” on the field and having to deal with their disciplinary issues is the challenging part of his role, while winning trophies is an achievement which is equally as rewarding for the backroom staff as it is for the coaches and players.

Having a desire to become a professional sportsman is what Graeme says assisted him in better understanding the mind-set of the players at Harlequins and what it takes to go from being a skilful athlete to actually winning championships. Having the right environment, culture and common drive at Harlequins is what it takes to reach targets on and off the field according to Graeme, who insists that all the people that work behind the scenes at the club can potentially have an impact as to what happens on match-days for the team. Graeme discusses what is required for a Rugby club to go from being good to being exceptional, with the backroom staff having a big influence on that. Momentum also has a significant influence on how well a club does each season and Graeme says personal issues experienced by both players and backroom staff can affect that momentum he speaks of.

Prior to joining Harlequins, Graeme worked at the Football Association as the England team’s Operations Manager for a little over four years. He speaks about the difference between a national and club environment, with money having a massive impact in each sport with regards to available resources. Graeme talks about the people that operate behind the scenes at Harlequins, from catering to medical staff, and while they might not get as much recognition as the players and coaches do in the media and from the supporters, the support staff forms the backbone of any club. Apart from winning games and trophies, Graeme mentions the goals Harlequins have from an operational point of view in 2018, which is to have each department at the club function as smoothly as possible.

A brand as old as Rugby itself

Brand Manager Worldwide at Gilbert Rugby, Andrew Challis speaks about his time as team manager at Harlequins during the armature era and then as a Business Director at Fast Track Sales Limited and how those experiences influenced his desire to be involved in Rugby and the marketing side of the sport. Andy mentions the moment he knew he needed a change in career direction in the sports field and how that led him to Gilbert in 2008 and what his responsibilities are now as the company’s worldwide Brand Manager.

During his nearly 10 years at Gilbert, Andy discusses how the deals that have been done with World Rugby and seeing the Gilbert Rugby ball used at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games are some of his proudest moments whilst he has been at the company. Andy talks about what makes a Gilbert Rugby ball so unique in comparison to its rival manufacturers and how the company forms relationships with Rugby clubs and other Rugby businesses.  Andy does not shy away when asked how Gilbert responds to criticism from coaches and players, who voice their concerns with a particular ball – which occurred in the lead up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup – and the process that is followed when a ball is developed and then tested. Not becoming complacent is the challenge Andy reveals he strives to maintain and that preserving relationships is also important in his role.

Gilbert was bought by sporting goods manufacturing company, Grays in 2002 and Andy highlights how the two companies work together and the brands that have been established and kept separate, with Grays focusing on sports such as Cricket, Hockey and Netball. Andy discusses how Gilbert maintains the values and the ethos of the brand created over a century ago, while touching on some of the innovations the company is currently working on in the build up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

A Players Fund worth supporting

The Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players Fund supports all Rugby players within South Africa, who sustain catastrophic, disabling and life-changing injuries while playing the sport.  Tori Gardner is the Marketing & Events Coordinator at the charity and provides a brief history as to how this non-profit organisation was formed and what the vision, mission and values are of the Fund. Tori explains that those who have sustained life-changing injuries are mostly club Rugby players and through the ‘Bok Smart’ program, which is a joint initiative with SA Rugby, they raise awareness in Rugby communities and promote safety.

Tori speaks about why she joined the Players Fund in 2014 after previously working at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa and mentions what her job entails now as Marketing & Events Coordinator.  The Springbok players and management have offered their support for this incredible charity for many years and Tori says this helps give the Players Fund that extra bit of credibility in Rugby circles.  Tori lists the associate organisations that support the charity and the mutually beneficial relationship that exists between them.

In June of 2017, 23 year-old Lifa Hlongwa sustained a neck injury during a club Rugby game in Durban and through the assistance of the Players Fund, a Crowd Funding Campaign was set up and Tori discusses Lifa’s story and the ways in which businesses and individuals can offer their financial support to this worthy cause. Tori talks about the psychological and emotional support they also provide the injured players that approach the Players Fund and what some of the initiatives are coming up in 2018 that companies can get involved with so that this amazing organisation can keep making a massive difference.



Go up