In conversation with Jeremy Guscott

When we embarked on a series of nationwide seminars in 2019 considering financial vulnerability, a professional in the world of sport would probably not have immediately come to mind. However, many have short careers and the window of opportunity, whilst potentially lucrative, can be curtailed prematurely via injury with an even longer period outside the sporting arena to be faced.
It was against this backdrop that after a brief introduction in March 2020, shortly before the world was turned upside down, we finally managed to have a virtual catch-up in January this year with Jeremy Guscott, former England and British and Irish Lions Rugby Union international. In what we hope will be a series of articles exploring professional sport and the enduring need for financial guidance, the conversation took us down many avenues and provided a fascinating insight to someone who remains at the very top of their game.
To most, Jeremy is the renowned former professional rugby union player for Bath, England and the British and Irish Lions, and now a successful figure in television and media. However, it’s very apparent that times have changed immensely since Jeremy started his career, and whilst rugby has become more professional in scouting talent at a younger age, it could be leaving our future players vulnerable later in life when playing is no longer an option. Especially if they don’t listen to advice from the Rugby Players Association (the ‘RPA’) about the long life they will have after rugby.
What was telling from the very start of our discussion was that Jeremy had ‘real world’ experience at the beginning of his rugby career and was not cocooned in the professional training ‘bubble’ which exists today. Whilst managing the demands of training and matches, he was initially a brick layer and later a bus driver. When his rugby career finally took off and Jeremy became a very recognisable figure, he was taken on by British Gas in sales/PR which by his own admission was more like a meet and greet than a ‘real’ job.
As the game of rugby became more professional in the mid-1990s, the need to have a separate career lessened. Wages improved with players at the top of their game now earning six-figure salaries. However, rugby started to take a toll on Jeremy’s body with various injuries leading to his retirement from international rugby in 1999. In his own words, retirement was something he’d anticipated at 65, not 35 when his earnings from playing rugby disappeared overnight. However, Jeremy frequently refers to an element of luck when he looks back over his professional life and even applies this to the timing of his injury, freely admitting that the role of BBC pundit could quite as easily have gone to another recently retired player.

On the theme of fortune, and perhaps employing a large slice of foresight, Jeremy had assets that produced income to help his finances when the rugby stopped. He had invested in buy-to-let properties prior to his retirement, with the benefit of his first job giving him insight into the housing market and his subsequent experience with British Gas providing commercial awareness.

“I invested in property based on what people I knew had done and that the rate of return was
decent. I didn’t sit down with a financial planner to listen to them explain the benefits of a saving plan, to understand what I needed then and in the future. I didn’t spend enough time speaking with a planner to understand more about future financial requirements or get a comparison between pension pot savings versus property.”

However, it was not all plain sailing and some decisions were far from financially sound, like investing in a Bath nightclub. But the message that comes through time and again from our discussion with Jeremy is that ambition, and a need to provide for his family, has got him through after leaving the rugby field as a relatively young man.
What Jeremy makes abundantly clear is that he and so many other professional athletes lacked the help and guidance during their early careers to plan for future events such as injury and retirement, and not having the luxury to consider what’s next.

“There was some advice but like most youngsters we didn’t think we needed it. Not that we knew any better, we just didn’t want to be thinking of retirement so early. You’re young and living the dream and as a professional sportsman, does it get any better?”

He’s quick to point out that those going into professional rugby today would probably not be thinking about their financial future and independence if they suffered a career ending injury, and that starting a fiscal education young is crucial in such a transient profession. Also, a big difference with today’s future rugby stars is not having the life and work experience of rugby players generations before them. This experience allowed them to forge new career paths when rugby was no longer an option. The current rising stars that lack the opportunity to acquire this experience could result in them being financially ‘vulnerable’.
Whilst Jeremy continues to be a pundit for the BBC and a regular media commentator, he has embarked on a venture which he freely admits provides the day-to-day purpose, drive and inspiration that he once felt when running out in front of 80,000 people at Twickenham. Since May 2016, Jeremy is a founder and director of Vizion (www. vizionbrokers.com), a boutique insurance broker for high net worth and commercial clients with an office in Farnham, Surrey. In November 2016, he was granted approved person status with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the company were recently recognised with a prestigious industry award, continuing to go from strength to strength.
After an hour we wrap-up our chat with Jeremy and the ‘L’ word is used for a final time. Whilst a natural ability plus hard work thrust him into the spotlight, survival after rugby for Jeremy has been a combination of ambition, determination and yes… luck!
Rugby is naturally a game of strategy and a team sport. Through having a comprehensive strategy off the pitch with a financial adviser and investment manager (where appropriate), the possibility of financial vulnerability in the future is significantly reduced. A recent survey of retired players by the Rugby Players Association illustrated how hard the transition can be, with 52% not feeling in control of their lives two years after they retire, 62% experiencing some sort of mental health issue and nearly 50% having financial difficulty in the first five years. Working collaboratively with a UK regulated financial adviser who understands the ongoing needs of a professional sportsperson will provide education and financial planning for now and the future. Having a clear and concise game plan is key to financial security.

Written by

Richard Wayne-Wynne
Investment Director
Helen Morrissey
London Sales Director

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