In the first edition of a new LTTV series, exploring the lives of Leicester Tigers players away from the game, Guy Thompson discusses his new business venture, studying at De Montfort University and the importance of balancing professional rugby with outside interests, as well as confirming reports the back-rower will depart at the conclusion of the 2019/20 campaign.
On lockdown like the majority of the country during the Coronavirus pandemic, Thompson spoke to LTTV from home about how his company – S&G Business Development – was born through the long friendship with his partner, as well as the ways in which Tigers helped them find their feet in the business world.
Speaking to LTTV, Thompson said: “I’ve got a very, very good friend of mine, Sam Bishop, who is a psychologist.”
“He and I knew we wanted to work together for a long time but didn’t quite understand what we wanted to do.
“When we mirrored our two unique skills together we came up with a product we thought what really unique.”
Thompson’s journey from junior rugby player to professional is equally as unique, with his Premiership Rugby debut coming in his mid-20s after a successful stint in National League and Championship competitions, while working full-time in London.
"I’ve always had one eye on the future and knew that rugby wasn’t going to last forever"
With a foundation built on enjoying the game for all that it offered, as an amateur, the 33-year-old has always had “one eye on the future” for when the time comes to hang up the ‘professional’ boots.
“I’ve always had one eye on the future and knew that rugby wasn’t going to last forever,” said Thompson.
“I want to make the most out of it because it’s something I love doing.”
The parallels between the game and working world were also clear to the back-rower, who has been helped along in his new chapter by learning the ins and outs of business while studying at De Montfort University.
“Being in rugby offers you a lot of real life examples … all these fundamental skills in sport that can be transferred over into business,” he told LTTV.
“For me, it was really important to find a qualification that not only helped me think about the way they think about things but develop me as well.”
However, he may feel comfortable running out in front of thousands of people each weekend, the introduction to sitting among like-minded individuals in a lecture theatre brought him back to earth.
“When I first when in, I was very nervous and out of my comfort zone,” he said, before adding, “But, everybody wants to learn and they put you at ease straight away. It made me realise how much crossover there was.”
Life as a businessman has also come with its own challenges, as Thompson learns to think more long-term and having to accept that it’s not as immediate as things may be on a training pitch or during an eighty minute match at the weekend.
“It can be frustrating at times,” admitted Thompson.
“You get that energy and buzz from the meeting when pitching and happiness that they want to work with us.
“I am lucky to have rugby as my here and now goals and then my longer-term goals with business.”
The more politically correct environment has also presented hurdles to overcome.
“If people could listen to the way we talk to each other on the rugby field, they would be appalled … that’s the way it’s done,” Thompson adds, with a wry smile.
“When you go into business, you have to think … think before you do.”
As a Tigers player, Thompson has also had the benefit of learning from and leaning on some of Leicester’s senior staff for advice in a world they know all too well.
The club’s Head of Brand, Chris Rose, and Chief Operating Officer, Andrea Pinchen, have been mentors to the senior squad member, as well as the opportunity to work with and learn from Partners of the club, like Eileen Richards.
“Leicester were very, very good at the start,” recalled Thompson.
“Chris Rose told us, if you need any help, give us a shout … Tigers helped us, opened up their contacts book and helped us get off the ground without any gain for themselves.
“Someone who has helped us is Eileen Richards and her recruitment company.
“She’s incredibly successful, a lovely lady and so business driven … she’s know what to do at exactly the right time. Her experience and knowledge has been invaluable.”
The driving force for the back-rower, other than the foundations put in place at an early age by his Mum, has been the reality of the opportunity he is afforded as a rugby player to be paid to do what he loves.
“For me, it was really important to find a qualification that not only helped me think about the way they think about things but develop me as well"
However, it’s the reality of knowing it doesn’t last “forever” that keeps him moving forward, learning and looking to improve each day.
“Nothing is guaranteed … it doesn’t matter how good you are,” Thompson told LTTV.
“Some of the best people I have played with, didn’t make it. If you have the opportunity to play, you’re very lucky.
“If my school work was slacking, I couldn’t go training.
“My mum was amazing … she kept me disciplined.”
“Leicester has given me so much as a club … and given me the opportunity to wear the shirt and make some great friends"
Thompson also opened up on his departure from the club, to come at the conclusion of the current season, after two years as a member of Leicester Tigers playing squad and put to bed any rumours that his career is over just yet when confirming he will remain in England and an announcement on his future was imminent.
“What I want to echo is that I don’t want anyone to think I am angry at Leicester,” he said when quizzed on the recent media report.
“Leicester has given me so much as a club … and given me the opportunity to wear the shirt and make some great friends.
“It’s not personal, Leicester decided to go with another player. You don’t expect to be kept on if you’re not playing well enough or if they think someone is going to fit better.
“There are a lot of factors people don’t see that go into it.”
The forward, who has made 33 appearances for Tigers, also looked back on his time at the club.
“Yes, we didn’t have the best results but I have bloody enjoyed it,” said Thompson.
“I have really, really enjoyed it.
“The fans at Leicester are great, they welcomed me with open arms.
“I will forever be in debt to them and thank them.”
In acknowledging the fans, he also had a message for them ahead of the next chapter in the Leicester Tigers journey.
“Moving forward, be patient with the boys, be patient with the squad,” he added.
“It takes time to build … it’s going to take time.
“But they [Tigers] won’t get back without the support of the fans.”
Watch the full, all-encompassing interview with Thompson above on LTTV, including his thoughts on Geordan Murphy, Steve Borthwick and the Tigers coach he believes is set for big things in the game, the neck injury that has plagued his final season with the club, what and who inspired his top-knot hairdo, as well as much, much more.