Management company makes own big signing

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 26/01/2014

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Rugby

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Strategies around wealth creation, asset protection and annual financial plans didn't trouble All Blacks greats during the amateur era.

These days, though, rugby's ever-increasing profile and appeal means there's so much more the modern-day player must consider than just 80 minutes of footy each week.

Rugby is now a global sport. Its continued pulling power was highlighted this week with former Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon joining management company Esportif International - which is run in New Zealand by Bruce Sharrock and former All Black Craig Innes - as non-executive chairman.

"Peter Kenyon's appointment to our business marks a significant step towards Esportif International's development as the leading rugby union and league management agency globally," Sharrock said. "His wealth of knowledge from outside the rugby world will add another dimension to our extensive rugby union and league experience."

Kenyon is a well-respected, highly connected figure. During his time at Old Trafford he talked Sir Alex Ferguson out of retirement and was lured to rugby by its potential and relative youth in the professional arena (18 years).

"There's a lot of growth in the sport over the next 10 years," Kenyon told the Sunday Star-Times. "With the World Cup in England next year and rugby sevens being part of the Olympics, that's going to give it a lot of exposure to new potential supporters in new countries. That can only be good for the game.

"We're starting to see bigger and more competitive television deals come into the game. That's an indicator rugby is going to get bigger.

"That's also going to bring about much more movement in the game, whether that's management or players.

"My role is to orchestrate the Esportif group and pull it together so we've got a real global footprint."

Now, more than ever, players are conscious of maximising their earning potential. But there's more to this than negotiating the best deal.

New Zealand rugby salaries can rise from a $30,000 NPC contract to $90,000 at Super Rugby within months. Instant riches for young men, however, can create dangers.

Off-field dramas and social media flare-ups need to be managed with care. Learning how to use money and plan for the future is part of the off-field agreement. Access to sound advice and industry knowledge can ensure that lucrative, but short, careers are not squandered. Planning for life after rugby is important.

Other factors that players cannot manage alone include injuries, personal sponsorship agreements, ambassador roles, speaking engagements, retirement plans and picking the right time to move clubs.

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"If the off-field scenario is handled badly it can quite easily kill careers," Kenyon said. "I understand both sides of the equation, whether you're clubs looking for talent or players moving into another territory. We want to look after people throughout their career and maximise their opportunities. And if those guys go into coaching, we can help them into that, too.

"My experience of dealing with a very global talent base, which football is today, can help with rugby."

Kenyon's acquisition confirms Esportif are no longer the new kids on the block. After 14 years locally they act for All Blacks Charles Piutau, Steven Luatua, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Jerome Kaino and Kiwis rugby league star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, just to name a few.

The merger with leading Irish rugby agency Corner Flag strengthens their influence throughout Europe and adds to offices in Australia, Japan and Britain. Other internationals on their books include British & Irish Lions Mike Phillips, Jon Davies and former Wallaby Matt Giteau.

Kenyon's presence is sure to see that list grow.

"There are further acquisitions we can make which reinforce our position so we can become a leader in the market."

- Sunday Star Times

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