Legislate meets George Robson, former England rugby player now doing sales

Why are rugby contracts standardised and how the psychology of sport can be applied to business

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In this episode, Legislate meets George Robson, former England rugby player now doing sales. George shares how he got into rugby and how the psychology of sport can be applied to business. George also explains how professional rugby contracts are standardised in order to offer a fair contracting experience to rugby players.

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Charles Brecque: Welcome to the Legislate podcast, a place to learn about the latest insights and trends in property, technology, business building, and contract drafting. Today, I'm excited to have George Robson on the show. Former England rugby player now working in sales welcome to the show.

Would you like to share a bit of background about yourself and how you got into Rugby?

How George became involved in Rugby

George Robson: It's a great question about how I got into rugby. I think being the biggest kid at school really helps. So I was enormous as a child and I did all that and I, have been very lucky too

to have a professional career down at the Harlequins, where I spent the majority of my career and, we won some trophies, it was great experience and then I did a year in France as well, which we talk about quite a lot Charles, obviously we have some funny shared references there we can always explore and kick around. But that was amazing then I came back and retired I did a few different things in sports nutrition did some other bits as well in consultancy with recruitment. And then I worked out, there was a lot about the world I really didn't know so I did an MBA and then when I did my MBA, I worked out, okay I want to be in this sort of technology ecosystem because it's so exciting. So many fast moving things. And it's an area I'm passionate about.

At my current role at Gartner I speak with with startups I'm selling effectively access to research and advisory services and analyst, access and insights all around technology. Which is amazing because I get to speak to people who are like you, Charles, who are absolutely crazy going on, taking on the world, disrupting being innovative with what you're doing.

And I get to chat to all these different people, which I absolutely love. And there's lots of similarities, right? Between being in a sort of group of 30 people and you going out and you feel like you're going out, you want to be the best you're taking on the world. There are there teams that are higher up the lead table you're going after. So there's lots of, kind of similarities I've found maybe not on the physical side, but definitely in the psychological side. Being patched up. I'd imagine. Yeah. Great. It's great to be on the show.

What's been your favourite moment so far in Rugby and in business?

Charles Brecque: Thank you, George for being on the show and you always have lots of great stories to share and also lots of tips, especially as you said, around the psychology of sport applied to business. So you've had two careers or you've been in two different worlds. We usually ask, what's your favourite moment?

George Robson: I think that my favourite moments from rugby, that they fit in the same bucket, where you've played a game and you've won against the odds. And you're celebrating with a crowd on the pitch. I think that's your moment as a rockstar, right? As a rugby player is when you know, you look at live aid, Freddie Mercury, eighties, cheering the cloud, and they are happy because in the game you have to be completely honest with you. You're getting your head kicked in, it's very physical. You haven't got time to enjoy it and think about it. There's a couple of games where. Afterwards, like we beat Toulouse away. That's a real highlight. We were never meant to. We probably shouldn't have done. But we did.

And then the away crowd were there. That was amazing. And obviously then when you win trophies and stuff like that as well, like it's Twickenham in 82,000 people, win a premiership and you take the trophy round it's those kinds of moments that you go there, the best , the most enjoyable.

And again, those are the bits you look back on, you see a photo and you go, wow, this is incredible. And within my second career, I suppose so far within Gartner the best moment would be when I got my first client to come on board an amazing company and a small boutique consultancy I'm just having that moment where the guy was like, yeah we want to move forward with this and going from again, it's a bit like a bit of a sort of shock. Wow. Amazing. Yeah, you should be working so hard and working so hard. It'd be building up to it. It felt like it was impossible. And, he got the value proposition. He really loved it. He's a former CTO of large global company.

So he really understood Gartner, which really helped me. And then when he said, yes, I just remember being like, this is probably, one of the greatest things ever, it really is comparable in terms of come off there. The only difference was I was fist bumping in, the flat I was living in at the time in front of a mirror in front of myself.

So it wasn't quite the same, but it definitely felt the same in terms of the adrenaline rush and that amazing feeling away, yes. I've managed to achieve a goal. So that was great. I think.

Charles Brecque: The first win in sales is always important and no matter how small the contract or how big the contract is always special. So how did you find the transition from sports to business?

George Robson: There are so many bits.

I think I learned as I went by doing and having a crack is such a difficult one. It's just such a difficult one to answer because I think there were some really transferrable bits of rugby and sport. And, especially at elite level that are brilliant, that you can take on into business, especially in an environment like sales, but there are also bits that, just that don't transfer at all. You can't have a disagreement with someone and have a dustup on the training pitch in an office. That's a very simple though, a ridiculous sort of example. But there are lots of others where, when you step into the business world, there's a lot more complexity that you really need to understand, and you need to appreciate, you need to kick around.

The, that might not be obvious. I think in professional sports, certainly, in the sport I was involved in, you can have that narrow focus and understanding the context of everything else around you is probably can sometimes be less important. You don't need that understanding of everything else around you in that context.

Whereas you don't necessarily have to take responsibility. It depends on the sport. Depends on your role within the team. And it varies like in rugby, it varies by position. So I had responsibilities with data and stuff like that with the lineup. So I took that seriously, but it's just. There are levels to that.

And I think when you go into business, you sorta look at data, you look at analytics, you look at predicting things, you look at the area I'm in now, the technology, those sorts of things, that doesn't just naturally transfer. You have to work on basics like accounting or net present value of money.

You don't learn that on a training pitch. Sadly. Otherwise my life would have been a lot easier. So there's been these gaps that you got to fill, but the good things I think are that you can understand that if you are able to access brilliant people and understand and learn from brilliant people in a brilliant environment, then you're able to apply the habits and the discipline to the science behind what works and understand. You've got that kind of dedication. That's ingrained in you cause you just have to slug it out on the training pitch every Tuesday for 13 years in the freezing cold. So when someone says, oh, maybe you do this in your process, it's a sales process for them like that, you've very coachable.

You go great. This is brilliant. And I'll get my head kicked in. Fantastic. It's all relative.

Charles Brecque: Yeah. I think one reason why I like Oxford so much, and it's where we met George, is that it's just a place where there are lots of people who have a lot of experience and who can transfer that. Knowledge and expertise over

I also think that although startups aren't physical, there is a degree of physicality in them.

George Robson: Chatting with a guy on a call in the last few weeks, and the conversation was along the lines of as long as you can take pleasure in the dying part, it's a great thing to be in.

Those guys are early stage, but yeah, I absolutely think that and I've never been a founder, you're a founder of a startup, but I don't think there's a world where, you've got that agency over your future.

But you pay for that agency, right? Because it's your neck on the line and you really own that. So I really like that dynamic. I don't know how you feel about it. We've not spoken in great depth about it, but I love that dynamic where you have the right to make your decisions.

You've earned the agency in that control, but it is about earning it, because you ultimately, it's your. Ship isn't it that you're sailing. So how do you look at it? Do you look at it in the same sort of way you must love it?

Charles Brecque: Yeah, I definitely love the agency and the freedom, but I do think that you're on a ship and it's very foggy and you need to go quickly. But at the same time, you're also blindfolded. So yeah that's the startup life.

 But I do think that it is very rewarding. It's also very rewarding to see the company grow, the team grow and I think.

As long as you have the right team, the right attitude, and a good control of how slowly you are dying then it definitely increases your chances of finding that path, which will help you get out there and ultimately get some traction.

 Legislate helps businesses and people create contracts on no legal budget so I was interested in knowing what type of contracts have you interacted with throughout your career?

What are the key agreements you interact with as a Rugby player?

George Robson: It's quite an interesting one.

 What I've found to be interesting is rugby as a sport is coming into a bit more maturity now, the game turned professional in 95 97. And then what it says, the game turned professional again, that's a bit like, in the inverted commas, turned professional because basically guys went from being a normal bloke.

Who's got a job to then, we're going to pay you to play rugby. Which is great. And also hilarious, Charles, because you then went from coaches go, right? So what you do on a weekend. Okay. So you nock seven bells out of each other, right? So now we're paying you, you're going to do that in the week as well.

And that genuinely that's what literally happened is my understanding, guys went from go to normal jobs, pay to go to the weekend, to then apparently being in contact all week and everything else. Under the assumption that, okay if we're paying you to do this, you've got to do rugby.

You got to play rugby in the week as well, and train so that this all makes sense. And so with that maturity and that side of things, That's going to be reflected in the contracts and the interest in the game, the money that's flooded into the game, you can see more recently, you've got CBC being involved from the private equity side in terms of the investment in rugby AWS now or prime now having the the international rugby rights, there's more interest, more sponsorship, more money. And with that, I suppose you're gonna get complexity, or an increased level of complexity. So I just, in preparation for this, I just did a bit of reflection on the discussion that would be had from the

agent to speak with your agent about a cab, going to get more, your contract and try to get to your number that you want, agree the terms. And that side of things is not incredibly complex at all. And then what the the premier rugby.

What they did is they did an agreement with the clubs to basically standardise a lot of the contract. Pretty much all of these contracts to standardise them so that the players were okay, This'll be okay. Cause you're a rugby player. You don't know much about legal. You've got no idea.

You just be like, yeah, sure, fine my agent said it's fine. Ooh. But then, the discussion with the agent would be, this has been standardised and it was, and so they obviously had to standardise these contracts after a while and then they standardised them. And then obviously as things have gone on, people are putting in clauses.

There are different things. Things such as image rights and all these other pits that come into it. And then at an international level as well, they've got a separate player agreement there as well, I think it'd be quite interesting is when you look at things like image rights or a players branded sport, and you can see Jay-Z's agency just got involved recently with a few of the players who are playing at the top level of England right now that would, I imagine that in the contracts that they have, I imagine there'll be a lot of complex. I wish I could tell you Charles from all my enormous, Pages and pages of contracts that I had with, all of my sponsors that I was a real big dog, but sadly I wasn't, I had the agreement with with Puma for a while, again, to get their stuff, it was very basic stuff.

It was more about getting the kit. And then later on with Adidas through, Harlequins, when they signed that deal, we used to get stuff with those guys. But I imagine the likes of Maro Itoje who's, who's obviously an incredible athlete and, he's really got some real brand equity there as well, which obviously is being carefully managed and curated, there must be a demand for, okay.

Where are the conflicts? Between my England contracts and my other bits and my Saracens contracts, or whoever it is. And then on top of that, how do you ensure if you're a player with a brand , Marcus Smith the chat with Eddie Jones more recently in radicality that whole scandal, right?

If a player has got a big part of their value tied up in their performance on the pitch, but there is a wider, broader brand value. Now with these players in these athletes and rugby, which we've not seen before. How do you put that into the legal, how do you negotiate that? So there's a whole load of bits there that be quite interesting, in terms of, my, value as a brand to England rugby, when they put me on an advert would be less to someone else's or more, how do you put that into a contract? Anyway, there's a whole load of really interesting as you kick around there.

Why are contracts standardised?

Charles Brecque: Yeah, I think what you said about standardisation is really fascinating and great because, at Legislate, we're strong believers in standardisation I think the word standardisation doesn't do it justice, because what it's ultimately doing is it's making it much easier for someone to accept.

Terms if they're standard, if it's the average why would I want to deviate to the left, to the right. And at Legislate, what we definitely try to do is we try to standardise the wording so that it's easy to understand. We standardised the templates so that there's nothing unusual.

We obviously offer the flexibility if ever someone does require a situation, which is less common, but it will still be within the standard framework. So that makes negotiation much easier, much faster, easier to process and more enjoyable. But I think that the other thing that you mentioned around, when players have multiple contracts, which might be contradicting each other, how do you manage that?

That's a very interesting use case for our approach, which is, how do you manage both the complexities within a contract in between contracts? And how do you do it in a consistent way, especially when you're not a lawyer. So very interesting points. From your understanding, do you think that other sports leagues or federations are pushing a standardised template

George Robson: So I played in France. I'm not sure. I imagine it would be. Honest truth. I don't know the answer to your question, but I do seem to remember thinking that the top 14, there was some parts of it are going to be standardised, right? Just like you said, I suppose that you want it to be composable to a degree and then, adding a new piece. The other bit that's quite interesting about the whole contract piece and what's legal, what isn't legal or what's interesting about the UK is there's a salary cap thing as well. And there are other bits of legality that come in there, but that's a different conversation. But yeah, my understanding is that in rugby, certainly just in the UK I just remember that sort of thing. And then with the England, it's the same for the players. But yeah, I think it'd be interesting to find that out. I think we need to get some other sports people on your podcast my friend, we need to come in as build the pitcher, build it out.

If you were being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you?

Charles Brecque: Absolutely. We've had F1 and now we're having rugby and who knows what we'll have on next. I'm conscious that we've taken a lot of your time already. I'm going to ask you the closing question when we ask all our guests. So if you're being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you

George Robson: what I think is really important is, and again, particularly in the context of legislate, and what you guys are doing. I think you want things to be pretty, pretty clear. You want to be able to understand exactly where the risks are. I've got a friend who you should have on a hundred percent called called Mark who works in automotive design. So they've got really interesting side of this, and then they do recruitment as well.

And you want that friend, right? When you look at contract, cause they know what's going on with these contracts, they know what to look out for. And I suppose what you guys are doing is you're able to play that role where when I look through a contract or look through something, I know there aren't any black holes I can fall down, inadvertently, without understanding it's having conflicts. In what you're looking at, you need to have confidence to be able to sign anything ever that what you're doing is the right thing. The way you get confidence is by really understanding what's in front of you. Now at the moment, a lot of people, myself included, you have to go speak to a lawyer or speak to someone who's got expertise in a certain field or whatever. That's what you want. You need to have confidence and there's different ways of getting there. But understanding what's actually written is probably the most critical thing, right? In a way that's simple and easily digestible.

Charles Brecque: Yeah, I think managing risk is the purpose of contract. And if you can highlight where there is a risk and in a simple way, then you know, what you're getting into before you sign. And there are less surprises down the road and that's something definitely at Legislate that we try to do both for the language, but also using, modern software techniques, both in how we represent the contract. Offering different views of the contract not just the text one, but also questions and answers. And soon we'll be introducing more of a visual representation of the contract

George Robson: I'd also want to know who said to me the contract, but for the most important bit as well. So trust on which all is built. If Charles, if you were sending me the contract, I would know you have my best interests at heart. So I'd just sign it instantly anywhere. My, my man.

Charles Brecque: I think that's a good answer actually. And I think you're the first one on the show to actually say it depends on who's sending the correct. Great additions. Thank you very much George for being on the show. It's been a pleasure having you best of luck with your journey in business and technology.

George Robson: Absolutely. Brilliant, happy days.


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