There is Life After The Premiership

First XV // Thursday 21st November 2019

by Paul Smith

Getting paid to play a sport you love then going on to win trophies, represent your country and make your fortune is the dream of many rugby-loving youngsters.

But while the likes of Owen Farrell or Billy Vunipola will one day retire with all these boxes ticked, for 99 per cent of professional rugby players it is a precarious and short career with no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Birmingham Moseley’s former Worcester scrum half Jonny Arr did better than most. His time at Warriors was mainly spent in the Premiership, and at 12 years his career had plenty of longevity – not to mention more than a sprinkling of stardust.

But all good things come to an end, and as Arr explains, for a player in the final year of his contract, that full stop can arrive very abruptly.

“Professional rugby is a precarious world, you can be flying high one minute then looking for a job the next,” he said.

“It is a very tough world at the moment. There’s a lot of talent out there and the growing number of foreign players in England has increased the size of the pool just as some clubs are looking to save money with smaller squads.

“At the end of last season, the right offer didn’t materialise for me – a World Cup year often creates a strange player market – so I then started to think about combining rugby at a lower level with a new career.”

The captaincy of Moseley has fulfilled half of Arr’s mission, and he intends a fledgling career as a financial advisor will do the rest. But while the 30-year-old RGS Worcester product has made this transition with relative comfort, it has opened his eyes to the plight of those for whom settling into a post-rugby life has been a difficult experience.

“I’m lucky to still have one foot in the world of rugby at Moseley, but despite that making the step was tough to begin with, as initially I felt a sense of being in limbo,” he said.

“I’d got so used to having a set schedule given to me every week which broke my day up for me and told me when to train and when to eat.

“Everything was structured for me so going away from that was a bit of a shock. Eventually I realised I needed to create those structures around my own life and now I’m looking forward to continuing playing with Moseley and to seeing how things develop off the field.

“I had practical help with my transition out of the game from Josh Frape at the Rugby Players’ Association and Annette Cutting at the Warriors who does a great job in getting opportunities for players to experience different jobs.

“I imagine it’s much worse for someone who has things taken away through injury. For them, making the switch from rugby player to ‘real life’ can be very hard.

“There is a lot more help available now. The RPA offers counselling services and has worked hard to create awareness of the mental health struggles some face in what is a very cut-throat, ruthless world with lots of pressure.”

Arr is applying all the concentration he once put into breaking down Premiership defences into a second career he hopes will be as successful as his first.

“I’m entering the world of financial services and am currently training as a financial planner,” he said. “I’m self-employed but work alongside Financial Advice Centre in Worcester.

“Currently I’m qualified as a mortgage advisor and in time will help people achieve the lifestyle they want through pension planning, investments and tax as well as dealing with mortgages.

“In some ways this was a hard decision to make, but in others it wasn’t as I count myself lucky to have played professionally for 12 years at Worcester.

“In that time, I saw a lot of people who didn’t got the rub of the green and had to look for careers away from rugby plus a few who were forced to stop early through injury.

“I see this as a chance to progress and build a second career that eventually allows me to stop playing on my own terms rather than someone else’s.”

Details of Jonny Arr’s new professional life are at www.face-uk.com where he also intends to write a blog detailing his progress away from rugby.