Slater sets his sights on a new off-field challenge
Published 12 October 2017
Life can come at you very quickly … even when you’re the captain of a highly successful elite sports team, as rugby union’s Ed Slater discovered this summer.
Having racked up 130-plus appearances for Leicester Tigers, including their latest Premiership victory in 2013, it seemed his future was in the East Midlands … the foreseeable future at least, with a year still left on his contract.
Appointed captain after the club secured its 11<sup>th</sup> title, Ed had since demonstrated his recovery from serious injury by appearing 39 times over two seasons.
Then – just about to celebrate his 29<sup>th</sup> birthday with his partner and their two young daughters in August – he was suddenly transferred to Gloucester, with one of its wingers heading in the opposite direction.
Nothing unusual in many sports, of course, but still a rarity in rugby union. However, although the club’s decision must have been shattering, Ed remains impressively phlegmatic.
“Rugby is still relatively new to professionalism and I’ve been told this was the first summer transfer the sport has seen. At the moment, I’m still getting to know everyone. What happens next, I don’t know,” he admits. “There may be a leadership role ahead, but that will be down to the director of rugby (David Humphreys) and the head coach (Johan Ackermann). We’re hearing that the new team culture is to play ‘without fear’ and that certainly appeals to me.”
At a towering 6ft 6inches, and just shy of 19 stone, Ed isn’t overly concerned about rugby’s physical challenges, but is well aware that sporting success now requires a very different brain-to-brawn ratio than in years past. “When you’re a player, all you focus on is being as fit as possible and in the best possible mental condition to be selected,” he says. “From the day I became the Tigers’ captain though, my eyes really opened about stuff I’d never considered. It’s not just the shift in responsibilities, because you obviously need leadership skills, but so much more. “I had to become aware of other people, not just team-mates, but throughout the club structure. There were challenges about recruitment – who came in on the coaching side, for example – and the constant discussions about tactics and opponents. Very quickly, I became obsessed by the fine detail and still am.”
Ed is now enhancing his wider understanding of sport by signing with Visionary Sport Investment’s MSc in Sporting Directorship, delivered with the Centre for Sports Business,“I love sport, everything about sport, and I’d like to stay within the world of sport when I eventually retire, but that will require a lot of different skills and knowledge. One day, I was on the internet and stumbled across this course by chance and it just ticked every box for me,” he recalls. “The CEO at Leicester was very supportive on this issue, and it’s the same at Gloucester. I’ll be broadening my skill-set and awareness about the business of sport, which can only help the club, as well as myself. “I’ve already met people from other professions on the course, which is one of the attractions. You don’t have to be an expert on the sport you’re in, if you have an operational role, because you’re a facilitator and it’s always about seeing the bigger picture, not merely focusing on the playing side.“All the modules look ideal, but I am particularly interested in the one on ‘masterminding change and innovation’, because I really want to understand how you drive improvements into a club or organisation, especially when they’re under-performing. ”I’ve had the book about how the All Blacks transformed themselves (Legacy, by James Kerr) for years and often pick it up for insight and ideas.
To put it simply, I’m expecting this course to be like the two-year equivalent of studying that book.”
To learn more about the VSI MSc in Sports Directorship contact:
Tel: 0845 45 99 765