‘Player welfare must be improved’

A year-long research project among SA’s professional players has revealed several key findings, including the fact that an ‘overwhelming majority intend to sign overseas deals soon’.

Here is the release from rugby players’ organisation, MyPlayers:

In-person interviews and online questionnaires were used to gather information. All data were recorded or captured anonymously to protect player privacy and to encourage truthful responses. Only senior franchise players, Springboks and Blitzboks were interviewed, while an online survey was sent to all professional rugby players in South Africa. A customised survey was created for the Springbok Women’s sevens and fifteens players.

Responses were consolidated under 11 core topics: Tournaments, Travel and Accommodation, The Laws of Rugby, Coaching, Concussion and Physical Health, Mental Health, Career Planning and Personal Development, Playing Overseas, Doping and Substance Dependence, Player Agents, and Employers and their Strategy.

What’s next?
Eugene Henning, CEO of MyPlayers, said: ‘Certain outcomes were easy to predict, but our research also highlighted areas of the game that would require us to dig deeper and ultimately act on to improve player welfare and rugby as a whole. So, in many regards, this project gave us an indication of how the wind blows. The next step will be for MyPlayers, and other industry stakeholders, to determine how strong those winds are, what causes them, and what steps may be necessary.’

Key findings:
– The management of players’ mental well-being – encapsulating many aspects of their professional and personal lives – deserves closer scrutiny and action.
– Players indicated a need for a more considered approach to managing their sleep patterns when travelling across time zones.
– An overwhelming majority of players intend to sign overseas deals soon. The primary reasons are published in the report.
– Players voiced a strong need for guidance and mentorship to prepare them for a life after rugby, while similar sentiments exist for the responsible management of their playing careers and finances.
– The players jointly made a compelling case for a new four-year cycle for international rugby matches and tournaments, which includes the Rugby World Cup, a Nations Championship, British & Irish Lions tours, and the existing hemisphere competitions, The Rugby Championship and Six Nations.
– Players were almost unanimously positive about existing competition structures and travelling schedules. Where there is room for improvement or caution, they made recommendations.

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‘In the future, MyPlayers aims to update and publish new research topics reflecting the realities shaping the game at a given time,’ said Henning. ‘By doing so, the players hope to make a constructive contribution to the industry at large. For example, MyPlayers appointed six player development managers [PDMs] at the South African franchises in 2019 to assist players with their general development for life after rugby. But, it’s evident from the report that more work needs to be done, which will probably require a collective industry effort.’

Download the report here

Photo: Steve Haag Sports/Hollywoodbets