Mar 12, 2019
A message from Nigel Wray
If you think of the Saracens culture and how we look after our people as a jigsaw puzzle then co-investments with players and staff are just one piece of the puzzle. The Saracens journey has taught me far more about what really caring for people means and how powerful that can be.
There was much talk last week about Saracens and in particular my co-investment partnerships with players past and present. First and foremost, I am an advocate of entrepreneurialism and independent spirit. Small businesses and young entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the UK economy and it is why I have personally invested in hundreds of these opportunities over 40 years.
As a Club, we want and actively encourage all of our players to consider their futures beyond playing the sport we all love. A professional rugby career can be short-lived and we have a responsibility to educate, prepare and support all of our players in carving alternative career pathways for their lives after rugby. We are a Club that cares.
Our culture has evolved and will continue to do so but being a family matters to us. How do you look out for your family?
Players are supported in many ways. From arranging business secondments for work experience through to a creche facility at the training ground for their kids. Twelve players have been on work placements with our Club sponsors, Allianz and CME. Former player, Nils Mordt joined CME full time after finishing his rugby career as a direct result of a work placement during his time playing at Saracens. Hayden Smith is enjoying a very successful career at Enstar, where Saracens board director Dominic Silvester is CEO. Peter Harvey, former Corporate & Commercial Banking CEO at Barclays and a huge Saracens supporter, has worked for over 10 years with Saracens players as part of our Player Development Programme. Sadly, Joel Conlon had to retire through injury earlier this season and Peter has been helping Joel with his post rugby career choices by introducing him to board directors and exploring opportunities. We supported and nurtured Alex Sanderson, Kevin Sorrell, Paul Gustard and Andy Farrell as coaches when their playing careers came to an end and look where they are now…
Education is a crucial part of our culture. Those of you who know about the Saracens High School which opened last September will know that. We have had 17+ players who have gone on to further education including, to name but a few, George Kruis who got a first-class degree in Business Management, Jackson Wray who has a BA Hons psychology degree, Ben Earl who is studying Comparative Literature and Rotimi Segun who is studying Chemistry. Mark and the coaching team have always been fully supportive of this. Our strength and conditioning and medical staff will often rearrange sessions or come in on weekends to allow young players to go to university. It’s a Club wide ethos. Approximately, 75 per cent of the squad are involved in either university education, an industry qualification, meaningful work experience or an entrepreneurial venture.
We invest in developing our coaches from the Academy up. For example, Kelly Brown, a former player, who is now an Academy Coach and spent some time with Scotland Rugby to learn. Adam Powell, another former player, is now an Academy Coach and has a hugely bright future. Our staff are just as important to us as our players and we are currently running an internal training and development programme modelled around ‘The Saracens Way’ – an executive and management coaching programme run by Will Fraser, a former player who embodies the culture and ethos of Saracens.
We can’t list all these examples without recognising the incredible work that David Jones, our Personal Development Manager, does. David works tirelessly to develop tailored development programmes for each and every one of our players and is always there to listen. He is dedicated in this role.
It goes without saying that not everyone can be entrepreneurial and obviously investment comes in many forms. The more commercial investments often require significant capital and hence are largely co-investments with our senior squad. We actively support independent business. For example, when our captain Brad Barritt founded Tiki Tonga Coffee, we created an opportunity for them to sell their products at Allianz Park (for which they pay a commercial rights fee to Saracens). Tiki Tonga is 100 per cent funded by Brad and his business partner Justin and has recently opened their first coffee shop in South Africa. When Chris Wyles and Al Hargreaves started Wolfpack Lager, we were happy to help them on their way and I was delighted to have the opportunity to invest. Former player Jim Hamilton has also invested and I have recently increased my investment as the value of Wolfpack Lager grows. Ben Spencer and Henry Taylor have their table business 99 which has supplied various coffee shops. Henry also did work experience in Geneva three weeks ago organised by us, with Louis Dreyfus a commodities company. At Allianz Park we also have Fines Master Gin on site, a business launched by Michael Rhodes, Raw Spirit which is the brain child of Mike Ellery & Tim Streather, and Sanderson’s Puddings run by Alex Sanderson’s mum.
If any of our players have a sound commercial idea, I am interested and I may invest. The least I will do is offer advice. I recognise that in some quarters, these co-investments are perceived as part of the Premiership salary regulations. They are not. Investment is not salary. Investments go up and down. It’s an opportunity and a risk. It might be immodest to say this but between the Board and some hugely generous supporters our players have access to some of the best investment advice available anywhere in the country and we are all happy to share this for everyone’s benefit.
The Club is open and transparent with the salary cap manager and we proactively disclose co-investments when they occur, even though we are under no obligation to do so. We respect the rules and the salary regulations that are in place.
Our success is built on the strength of our Academy and the incredible efforts of the Academy staff are often overlooked. Of our current squad, 57 per cent is home-grown talent, the highest in the league, contributing towards the £1.2 million in credits we receive from PRL which, incidentally, makes our salary cap higher than most.Through significant investment in our academy system we have developed 58 players for the Saracens senior team, 11 internationals and four British & Irish Lions since 2008.
But there is, as always, so much more to do. With that connection, I am pleased to say we have now received full permission for the new West Stand, fully financed and with a strong partnership with Middlesex University. Work begins in the off season.
All the best,