Link-up offers rugby players expert advice

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PROFESSIONAL rugby players are being given expert financial advice thanks to a new partnership designed to help them make the most of their money.

Yorkshire Bank’s private banking team has been visiting Super League clubs across England after forming a link with the Rugby Football League.

The partnership, led by Phil Weston, sports partner at Yorkshire Bank, aims to increase players’ awareness of the financial issues they may face and encourage them to make provisions for the future. Sporting careers can end suddenly, which means top class rugby players need to take prudent, long-term advice.

Mr Weston said: “Many professional sports people aren’t really clear about what they may qualify for if injury ended their careers.

“All too often, they don’t know what cover they need to top up what’s available in their contracts. Consequently, players are often stepping on to the pitch without the right levels of protections.”

Mr Weston believes it is never too soon to begin looking to the future and working out how money can be invested, and which insurance policies are needed in case things do go wrong.

Because professional sports players have relatively short careers and a high risk of injury, it is important for them to plan for the worst. If they fail to make provision for every eventuality, they could suddenly find themselves unable to play again – and unable to earn.

“My role is to bring in and look after sports people whether they are up and coming or what we call transitional – coming out of the game,” Mr Weston said.

It is a situation which he has experienced himself as a professional sportsman.

He played cricket professionally for 18 years for Worcestershire and Gloucestershire and, since his retirement, has been looking after fellow athletes for Yorkshire Bank.

“When you finish playing, there aren’t many people in a position where they won’t have to work again, especially in rugby league – only in premiership football,” he said.

“The rugby players have a lot of people around them giving them different advice. We’re hopefully trusted and they can come to us. We like to get to know the player, what makes him tick.”

Yorkshire Bank is already a financial partner of other sports bodies, including the Professional Cricketers’ Association and the Scottish Football Association, and also works with individual sports people such as golfers.

Mr Weston was keen to form a partnership in rugby league, where he said the risks of career-ending injuries are relatively high.

“Impact sports need particular help in terms of protection,” he said.

“It’s a short career and they reach their earning peak a lot earlier than most of their peers.”

The Rugby Football League (RFL) was happy to work with Yorkshire Bank, taking representatives to meet Super League players, from academy to first team.

Although they can earn large amounts of money, because the nature of their income is so unpredictable, athletes can often fund themselves unable to access finance when they need it, particularly in the current climate when lenders are reluctant to give money to people who may not always have a steady income.

“Before the banking crisis, it was very much, ‘what rate can you do?’ and now it’s ‘can you do something for me?’

“It’s harder for them to access credit than it was,” said Mr Weston.

As well as offering its own services, part of the agreement with sports unions is that Yorkshire Bank puts the players in touch with independent financial advisers, who recommend the best products available to meet their needs.

It is a partnership which both parties seem to be happy with, as well as the players themselves.

Mr Weston said: “The RFL have been excellent. They recognise that their players do need help in all areas.

“They probably do more for their players than any other governing body.”

RFL operations director Emma Rosewarne said yesterday: “The RFL is delighted with Yorkshire Bank’s professional approach and has received excellent feedback from clubs and players.

“The welfare of professional 
rugby league players is of huge importance to us and this partnership is a key part of our comprehensive player welfare programme.”