Ugo-Moyne

The Influence Room Podcast - Changing the dialogue: Ugo Monye

On this episode of our podcast, we were delighted to have sports pundit and former rugby union player, Ugo Monye. We chat to him about his past success on the pitch and life after retiring. 


Overview

Growing up in North London, Ugo always wanted to play football from a young age.  As rugby was never played in his area,  it wasn’t until he went off to boarding school did he start playing. Having fallen in love with the game, Ugo discusses how he then channeled everything into becoming a professional rugby player. His outstanding career saw him playing for his club, Harlequins, and for both England and the Lions. 

Since retiring, Ugo has become a sports pundit for BT sports, and works with a range of different brands. He highlights that he is very particular with who he partners himself with, as they have to fit his personal brand. Ugo emphasises that it needs to be natural and is important to be sustainable, so you need to believe in what they are about. Additionally, he notes that he not only works with brands but he builds a strong relationship with the people working there.

When discussing the support given to players after retiring, Ugo openly shares with us how you are given very little, or even no support or direction on how to cope with and what to do with your career after rugby. He highlights that as a young professional player you feel invincible and that you’ll play forever, and are not prepared for life after. Whilst he was fortunate to find a career so close to home, he notes that it can be extremely difficult for others.

Ugo looks back on his glorious career and explains how the most important memories to him were the stupid ones. Having drinks on the bus after a game, or walking into the changing rooms and shutting the door to have a beer with his fellow teammates. Having grown up with his teammates, he shared how they were genuinely his best mates, and still play an important role in his life today. 

Looking to the future, Ugo shares his plans of setting up a foundation to get more people involved in rugby. Not just to see an uptake in the game but to help others by using the core values of rugby to be able to help people be better people.

Five quick takeaways

  1. As you grow up, you realise that your relationships with your teammates, your clubs, supporters and sponsors and brands have to be symbiotic. 
  2. Once you sign a contract and you’ve put yourself out there, you have a footprint. 
  3. If you're just saying yes to everything and everyone, it actually reduces your value because there is no clear message. 
  4. When offered a commercial job, if you just look at the figures you will end up doing a lot of stupid things.
  5. It is important to carefully consider your brand partnerships because they need to be natural and sustainable. 

If you enjoyed this episode and don’t want to miss the rest of the series, you can follow The Influence Room Podcast on Spotify and Apple iTunes podcasts.


 

Full audio transcription

- Bronagh:

Hello and welcome to The Influence Room and podcast, the show that brings talent and bronze together to discuss what influence means from different viewpoints. Our guest this week is Ugo Monye. A former professional rugby union star and Harlequins legend, who's now a pundit for BT sport. Alex sat down with Ugo in the midst of the Six Nations to reminisce on his career and the important life lessons he's learned through his illustrious rugby journey.

Enjoy the episode.

- Alex:

Hello. Welcome to the latest edition of The Influence Room podcast.

It's a great pleasure to have with us one of the busiest men in sports media.

- Ugo Monye:

It's good to be here.

- Alex:

It's very nice to have you on you. The Six Nations is upon us. But before that, six days to go until you double your workload. How you feeling?

- Ugo Monye:

I know, I'm nervous yeah. Expecting number two, another girl. So you're totally surrounded by women at my household, um, which has probably been a benefit to me.

- Alex:

Yeah.

- Ugo Monye: 

I'm not a very emotional person. But haven't lots of girls and around me, and not saying all girls who are emotional and certainly no broad brushing and stereotype, but it's brought out softer side of me.

- Alex:

Sold start to the pod, well done. 

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah, who have I offended. I've offended everyone. 

- Alex:

We've got fans alongside us. We've got Imy, Susie and Izzy who have come to have a listen, I'm sure will chime in. Say hello to the team. 

- Imy:

Hello

- Susie:

Hello

- Izzi:

Hello

- Alex:

So if you're happy, we will have a little sort of half an hour chat about you, about what you're up to, particularly about the brands that you work with as well and how you see that. Cause I think you are, if I can say you're one of the more astute former elite sports people, who are about how you build relationships and that kind of thing.

Some go out there, and actually I worked with one in particular who's fairly scattered in his approach, James Haskell, but you tend to build some really good relationships with the people you work with. Well, we'll come onto that, but just first things, first, Six Nations is back. Are you as much of a fan now as you were when you were younger having played in it, enjoyed it? You know does February mean Six Nations to you?

- Ugo Monye: 

I love it. I absolutely love it. And I think there's a real hunger for international rugby at the moment, especially off the back of what was really a successful world cup. And I kind of feel as if going back to the domestic game was a stop gap waiting for the international game to kind of pick up.

I would say I grew up on it. I was a football fan. I only really took to rugby age 13. But then I went to the same school as Jonny Wilkinson and seeing his success, alongside the likes of Pete Richards who went on to play for England. That was my introduction to rugby and I guess in those early days where England was so successful, well they still are now. But that was my introduction then, and then being a part of it was genuinely a dream come true because the things that you watch on TV, I think probably moulds the way in which you certainly look at things and your ambition. So to then be a part of it, and then to be talking about it is brilliant. And now I  can remove myself, to such an extent, I'm not commentating I'm just being a fan, because it's very rare I go to rugby when I'm not working. So just been a fan with a pint in my hand.

I remember last year I went to Dublin, for the first rounds, Ireland against England and I wasn't doing any work and I was a proper fan, slightly rowdy fan. It got to about 65 minutes and then Henry Slade scored a second try and the game was all but done and Ireland came off the back of beating New Zealand. They were Uber confident. And I reckon 15,000 Irish men and women started leaving and I had quite a few drinks that day, and I remember shouting from the top of my voice, "Has there have been a fire alarm going off?". It didn't go down so well, but I loved it. I loved that moment. I'm a big fan it. 

- Alex:

Interesting you said you were at school with Johnny and Peter Richards. Was Johnny head boy?  Was he sort of tightest of ties and the smartest of blazers?

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah, he's annoyingly one of these guys who's a legend in his own right. But you almost feel a pressure to say he was perfect.

- Alex:

Its tiresome isn't it?

- Ugo Monye: 

It is but, he generally just was. I just wish I had a story or something, just a bit of dirt just to smear his name. Cause he is the most angelic of all human beings and this wonderful philanthropical human being. Also an exceptionally talented rugby player. But he went out with the head girl.

- Alex:

Did he really?

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah. I mean he couldn't have found it. I mean, I was just going to say Harry and Megan, but that's slightly been tarnished. We won't go down that route either way. But he was brilliant. He was in the first team for cricket. He could play basketball and considering he was 5ft 8, he was still a very good basketball player and obviously like a brilliant rugby player. You know, I remember break times where as a kid aged 14 kiss chase, playing football in the courtyard with a tennis ball. He was out with his dad practicing gun kicking and all that kind of stuff. So there's no surprise as to why he did what he did. And then I did what I did. 

- Alex:

There is a very good story about him and one of the spice girls. We'll do that, we'll do that later.

- Ugo Monye: 

Is that baby spice?

- Alex:

Yeah.

- Ugo Monye: 

See, I blamed Johnny for the last 10 years for where rugby's gone because in 2003 he was the poster boy of our country. He could have been prime minister if he wanted to be. He could have put rugby on the front page. He could have gotten with a spice gal and made everyone's life so much easier. He decided not to, you know, he decided to just shy away.

But yeah, I mean, what could rugby have been. We would have had a load of Gavin Henson's.

- Alex:

Even more fake tan and shaven legs.

- Ugo Monye: 

Faketan's not really been my bag funnily enough. 

- Alex:

No, that doesn't surprise me. 

What were you like as a student?

- Ugo Monye: 

Uh, disruptive.

- Alex:

Disruptive, disruptive, or mischievous?

- Ugo Monye: 

Mischievous as a kid, I think. Yeah I enjoyed being in class, but I enjoyed being in class because I was a class of all my mates rather than that to learn so much. I love languages, absolutely love languages.

- Alex:

Do you speak others? 

- Ugo Monye: 

A bit of French, "un petit peu". A bit of French, a bit of Spanish, but that was a long time ago.

But yeah, I was probably quite disruptive, I was quite energetic. I've always been that as a character. Really struggled with maths. Actually, I found out just a couple of years ago that I'm dyslexic as well.

- Alex:

Really?

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

- Alex:

How did that come about?

- Ugo Monye: 

It actually came about through the job, which I do now, work in media. So commentating, trying to analyse things, be really concise and get to the point and get people to understand a very technical sport. All within 30 seconds is quite a challenge. And I found myself during different games and watching it back, but I could see myself physically, I'm watching myself trying so hard to be able to work at what I was saying. And there was times where my brain was working at a certain rate and my mouth just wasn't catching up. I just thought, okay, maybe I'm just nervous. Maybe it's this, maybe it's that. So I did a bit of research, did a couple of tests and I found out that I was dyslexic. That was where I actually worked out that my brain was probably working, or my mouth was working quicker than my brain was.

I just felt at times, to use kind of mechanic analogy, that I was trying to go from second to third gear but I just couldn't quite get there. I'd get there eventually, but it was just a bit clunky and that's sometimes how things come out my mouth.

- Alex:

And has learning that helped now? Is there processes you can put in place that help you with that, or is it just an understanding and therefore some of the pressure comes off?

- Ugo Monye: 

I think once you getting an understanding, you also get a bit of an acceptance as to why things are, but then at the same time, I didn't want it to be an excuse because it's very lazy. "Oh I'm dyslexic, that's why I said that slightly wrong, or that's why I didn't make that point." No it's still your job. It's your profession to be able to detail that better than anyone. You know, you can't go to the TMO on things when people ask your opinion. You're there to provide your opinions, to be articulate to get people to understand and educate.

- Alex:

And in the moment it's easier said than done.

- Ugo Monye: 

And in the moment and live, whilst everyone's watching and wanting you to explain as to why that ball went forward, but it's not a forward pass. Doesn't make sense, but it's one of the technicalities in rugby, which we have to deal with. But yeah, it helped me accept certain things and I think, I guess probably in a broader sense, it's actually quite nice to be slightly vulnerable at times. I think that's the one thing, I think everyone tries to perpetuate an image that everyone is super bright, is on top of everything, gets it right every single time. And Twitter sometimes is an assessment for these things, and they're very quick to point out or things you do wrong, but actually none of it really matters and it's alright not to be absolutely perfect all the time. And it doesn't matter what the reason is. Do you know if I found out I wasn't dyslexic, it was just because I've got to work a bit harder in the way in which I present myself and talk about things, and that's absolutely fine, but I don't really like lean upon it as, as an excuse.It's just part of who I am and that's fine.

- Alex:

We should actually mention you had a glorious career - one club, quins, premiership winner, obviously England, glory, and then lions as well in 2009, which is, I think the most romantic team in sport. At what point? Or who was it that said to you, right concentrate. Stop being disruptive in class and actually you've got what it takes to have a really glorious career. Do you remember that? Was there a person or a moment?

- Ugo Monye:

I think right throughout my life, I'd always probably lent upon sport as a way to express myself slightly.

- Alex:

Did you sprint at school? Did you do nationals or?

- Ugo Monye:

Yeah went to nationals. Age 16 I ran some really good times.

- Alex:

Fastest time for the hundred?

- Ugo Monye:

Ten point six. I ran it ten point three, three. But that was unofficial.

- Alex:

Right? Ten, three three is that down to a wind assisted.

- Ugo Monye:

Yeah exactly, someone just off the stop watch, it was Mr Featherstone at age 75.

So yeah, I really enjoyed athletics. I love cricket actually, and I love football.

- Alex:

Batsman or bowler? or all rounder?

- Ugo Monye:

I was a bowler but I enjoyed batting. I'd say I was probably number six. Freddie Flintoff, not caring so much, just literally just swing the bat. I mean, I probably, I think if you studied me, you would of thought, 'Why is this guy playing cricket? But he's looking like he's playing baseball.'

- Alex:

Oh I see, you're one of those.

- Ugo Monye:

Yeah, but when I connected it travelled but I just didn't connect all that often. So yeah I loved all sports. You know, I was born in North London, so for me, the sounds I heard every weekend were very different to the ones that I was surrounded by at private school.

- Alex:

So are you an Arsenal fan, is that right?

- Ugo Monye:

Yeah Arsenal fan..

- Alex:

Sorry about that.

- Ugo Monye:

Wish I'd stuck with football. But yeah, so I grew up actually wanting to play football. That's all I knew. There wasn't rugby around where it was, there wasn't any rugby role models. I couldn't name you a single rugby team. It wasn't until I went to a posh school, Lord's Wandsworth college in Hampshire, where I rocked up, I thought I was being stitched up by my family who didn't love me because they sent me to boarding school and they effectively said they didn't play "chav ball" here.

- Izzi:

Chav ball, that is hilarious. 

- Alex:

So did you take that on the chin or did you react against that?

- Ugo Monye:

I didn't really have a choice. One, because it was in a totally different environment. It's the first time I've ever been away from home, and I was one of two black kids at the school. The other one being my brother. So I was like if this is what the school does, this is what I have to do. And I just found it as a vehicle to be able to make friends. That was it. I was like, you play rugby, I want to make friends.  Do you know what, I bloody love rugby. I absolutely love rugby. I mean that, you know those players, and the tackling and the kicking. I love everything about it. And so that's what I did. And I was always really quick. So if, and when I caught the ball, which was infrequent, and it was right throughout my life, I could make people look silly. I was a little whippet back at school. I was small but really quick. So, um, trying to find open spaces and actually having a total lack of understanding about rugby, it was like a kind of organised game of British bulldog.

I just tried to invade people because if I tackled, I didn't want to do that. And if I had to enter a ruck, I didn't know what I was doing. So I just did my level best to try and avoid it. So that's where I was steered more towards rugby, and I think as a kid, you're very fickle. If at Monday morning at assembly, you get called to the front and you get a pat on the back for scoring a couple of trys for your school at the weekend and you beat the local rivals and it's good. And all of a sudden you love it. Cause the teachers who normally I got in trouble with them or because I was late with my homework, are now liking me and patting me on the back, then this is exactly what I want to do.

- Alex:

Yeah. So we mentioned having a glorious career. What do you look back on now? I mean, this will be listened to by people in music, sports, fashion. What do you look back on now as the days which in 20, 30 years time where you're lying in the bath with a cigar and a glass of champagne, and you think, do you know those were the days of my life?

- Ugo Monye:

It's funny because I think people often expect you to talk about medals and trophies and those moments, and yeah, they're really important. Of course they were, because the whole part or the whole point of playing high level professional sport is to win, to succeed. But for me, the memories are the greatest stupid ones. Being on the back of the bus, on the way back from Manchester, haven't won a game. The game was relevant, but the memories that I had was, Domino's and a few beers and the singer alongs that you had for four hours when you're absolutely shattered. I love that. I remember we won the premiership in 2012, that was just an incredible day.

I was fortunate to play for Harlequins, and if anyone doesn't know Harlequins there the team that like four quarter shirts, proper champagne drinkers. Yeah, they didn't really, there history didn't really involve people like me, North London boys that ended up falling into rugby. So to be part of that day was, it was amazing. It's the first time I ever won the premiership. And I remember being out on the pitch was great, Chris Robshaw lifted the trophy. But the memory that sticks out for me, was actually walking back down the tunnel, walking into the changing rooms and shutting the doors and just be sat there with a bear in my hand surrounded by my friends that I did it with. Because they were ultimately the guys that I grew up with. We were lucky to have the group of players that from the age of 17, all the way through to mid thirties that genuinely grew up together. They were my best mates, some of them, my best friends now, Danny Care I played with is the godfather to my daughter, Phoenix. So I've got a better understanding of it now working with the media, all we want is greater access. What camera's in the changing room, we want to be on the pitch to interview people, we expose and share so much. But being in the change room with the door shut, that wasn't about anyone else. It wasn't about the fans, and as much as they are important to the game, it wasn't about the media, it was about the 23 lads and the extended squad, the physios, the coaches, and everyone that poured everything into that season having a moment of silence together. And that's it. 

I have such a precious emotion about what changing rooms are. I'm slightly fascinated by them. Genuinely, like I've said it on a few occasions, when people go into changing rooms they'll see, especially Twickenham - it's amazing. You've got state of the art TV, sound systems, everything's picture perfect. Got the shirts out there, towels, shampoo, shower gels in the showers for everything after. But the one thing that no one can get a sense of is the emotion. You can't see emotion. There's been times where I've been at my worst in tears, having played poorly. There's been times where I've had the best memories of my life, so whenever I walk into changing rooms, they're the things that stick out for me. It's the things that you can't see. Those smells, it's those emotions, it's those feelings that I will forever remember. It's those moments more than anything.

- Alex:

Do you miss that now? Even though you've retired five, six years, whatever it is that the 30 seconds before you out Twickenham, Ellis park, Stoop. 

- Ugo Monye:

Love it. I love it. Yeah I miss the changing rooms, but I don't miss playing rugby, the games too hard.

- Alex:

It's the people in there and the nerves.

- Ugo Monye:

It's everything. I've been in some awful changing rooms. I remember in 2009, the second test, you were out there covering it. One of the most phenomenal games of rugby that I got to witness. I mean, I witnessed it because I got dropped for the first test. But I was back for the third which was great, but I was in the stands watching the second and you know the lions series was over. It was over and I walked into that changing room, for anyone who hasn't watched that match, go and just click a link, find it on YouTube.

- Alex:

It was one of the highest brutal test matches ever.

- Ugo Monye:

It was. You've got Adam Jones, legend played almost a hundred tests for Wales, he dislocated his shoulder. Walked in into the physio room, you've got one physio holding his head, two physios holding his arm trying to put his shoulder back into its socket. Brian O'Driscoll, 137 caps for Ireland, absolute legend. He didn't know what day of the week it was. He'd been concussed that day. Simon Shaw, who'd been on two previous lions tours, made his first lions test match. 

- Alex:

Was unbelievable. He played so well. 

- Ugo Monye:

Was man of the match. 6ft8, giant of a man, he was in floods of tears. Ronan O'Gara who had an in different last 20 minutes, came off the bench as he got concussion. He had a massive eye and he was sat there. Honestly, and you just walk into a changing room like that and you just don't know what to say. And, that for me is where I dunno, I do still believe that there is a distance between the person on the pitch and the fan in the stand, but then walking into a change like that, that for me is the human element of rugby, which no one ever sees.

We judge everything, especially in a sporting context, about the 80 or 90 minutes that you see on a Saturday. You don't care about getting an insight into the training, the sacrifice, the commitment. But when you walk into a changing room like that and get a true understanding of what it means and how it can break grown men, is just... I've never ever been in a changing room like that. Look I've got goosebumps just thinking about it and actually the feeling of like, I just didn't know what to say because there wasn't anything to be said. But to share a changing room with people that you deeply care about and you've given so much too and not actually be able to fix it, because I suppose we are control freaks.

- Alex:

Yeah.

- Ugo Monye:

We talk about control, controlling balls all the time. You know, performances, your diet, preparation, everything. Even your nerves. You're trying to control your nerves. That's just the human response. You do your best to control that. So when you go into a changing room and you have no barrier or control over how people are feeling, it's so raw. It's so disarming. It's actually, yeah, that's probably one of the lowest I'd ever been, and I hadn't even played in a match.

- Alex:

Yeah. It's extraordinary isn't it?

- Ugo Monye:

Yeah, but I love it. I think it's fascinating.

- Alex:

What that leads onto very nicely is that it can be a very, very short career, particularly in professional sport. And it's not just rugby, it can be football, cricket, or whatever. You know, you're only potentially one bad injury away from it all being taken away from you. We had coffees, probably about four or five years ago, where we were talking about ways to help current players broaden their horizons and to make sure that they were collecting business cards, developing relationships, et cetera.

And that sort of leads on, I suppose, to influencers, etc. Were you always very conscious as a player of the connections and the opportunities and the brands and the people that you were able to meet through your sports?

- Ugo Monye:

No. Initially I was really ignorant to it, because you're invincible and you'll play forever and actually like, you know, it's, "you're playing rugby, I'm like really cool".

And genuinely for the majority of my twenties I was single and I bloody loved life, you know, the day before...

- Alex:

I think I would go as far to say you are the best smelling rugby player. You always smell good. 

- Susie:

And well moisturised hands.

- Ugo Monye:

Yes well moisturised hands.

- Alex:

Off the pitch you always smelled good. 

- Ugo Monye:

I genuinely loved my twenties. I lived life to the max as a single 20 year old who though he was like uber cool who played professional rugby, who lived in Southwest London, tore up Fulham and Chelsea most Saturdays, was in The Ship on a Sunday and life was good. So I didn't really, I wouldn't say I was savvy at all.

It was a one road relationship, rugby was giving me so much and look how cool I am, and this will continue forever. And then you grow up a little bit and you realise that there is a responsibility which, whereby your relationship with your teammates, your clubs, supporters, as well as your sponsors and brands has to be symbiotic. And from there on, I think I actually started to develop really good key relationships, and I wouldn't even call them sponsorships, their relationships. The relationships slash sponsorships that I had towards the backend of my career, I still have now. And the partners that I worked with was really deliberate. I only wanted to work with brands and partners that I was, passionate maybe too strong of a word, but I really believed in what they were about. And I probably have five or six key partners and those relationships have been brilliant. One of them, Beats, do the headphones. Unbelievable brand, love what they're about. I think they're really cool. How cool can a headphone be?

- Izzi:

Really cool.

- Ugo Monye:

Yeah, really cool actually. But it's just a headphone. But I bought into who they were and what they're about. It wasn't actually, in fact, it was more, it was just as important about the people I was working with, as the brand I was working with. One of the guys there, called Alex Wilde, he's now moved on and works at EA sports, he's godfather to my daughter. 

- Izzi:

No way.

- Ugo Monye:

We worked at a Fifa event at the Mayfair hotel, where they had booked a penthouse suite. We had a load of consoles and TV screens set up, and I had a load of influencers in there playing FIFA or whatever it was, and that was it. And I thought what a really cool guy, so we exchanged phone numbers. We went out for lunch just a way to say thank you. And I thought he's really cool, I like him. Really, really liked this guy and that relationship was organic, it was natural. And the more I got on with him and realised what a good bloke he was, the more I wanted to do with their brand. And every partner I've had, that's just how I work.

- Alex:

So who have you got? You've got Adidas, Beats...

- Ugo Monye:

Yeah worked with Adidas, worked with Beats, Gallagher who are sponsors all of the premiership. Once again, their commitment to what they want to do...

- Alex:

Fits with what you want to do.

- Ugo Monye:

Really passionate about it. They are an insurance card. Once again, like how cool can that be? But what they want to do and the effect they want to have on the game, I'm all for, and it just works with me. There's a synergy in what their messaging is and who I want to be. So I don't want to list all them cause you sound like a bit of a weapon.

But yeah, so all of those relationships are longstanding, I've just gone away from, "Hey, if I give you X amount of money or if I do this, can you post that?" And that's that. There's no real benefit for me. I want my message, I want people to look at my page or look at me or whatever, however they view me and say, "I know what he is. He's X, Y and Z, and the brands that he's associated with or buys or fits into the person that I am". And I've made a real deliberate approach to be that, not because I want to be seen in a certain way. I think it has to be pretty natural. I think I've been able to sustain that.

- Alex:

Yeah.

- Izzi:

They compliment you, and enhance what you do.

- Ugo Monye:

Yeah, yeah. I mean that's how I've tried to approach it. Doesn't mean it always comes off. There's been times where, not that long ago actually, and it's quite good money and like you can get seduced by the numbers, but I think the minute you align yourself with certain partners or companies, I don't actually see as a fee or association. I generally see it as compensation. It's great money for now, but I reckon that's going to damage where I want to go in six months, a year. Because once you've signed that contract and once you put yourself out there, you have a footprint. The footprint in the commercial world, you have a footprint out that and you have an association.

Ryan Giggs's brother, Rhodri, he got paid, am I allowed to say?

- Alex:

Yeah.

- Ugo Monye:

50,000 pounds I think for his partnership with Paddy Power when he did that commerical. That's not partnership. That's them taking advantage of the, really sad situation. He took the money, but I mean..

- Alex:

Neither party actually comes out of it looking very well.

- Ugo Monye:

It's awful. But I've watched it a million times.

- Alex:

So that's really interesting because... yeah it does get cut throat. What's really interesting about that, and actually it dovetails more and more with what we hear from the people that we speak to around what we're doing at The Influence Room, is that it's not just, and there aren't those obviously who take all the money that they can because they see it as a short career. But the longevity that people are now concerned about is becoming a bigger and bigger factor. And I just wondered, you know, you've got very good partners, but how many people do you say, thanks very much for that I appreciate the offer, but actually this isn't for me. How often do you find yourself turning down lucrative opportunities because it's not necessarily fitting with your long term strategy.

- Ugo Monye:

I recon I probably, I generally feel quite fortunate to be in the position, which I am, and I genuinely don't know how long it lasts last for. I could be sat down with you having a coffee in a year's time going, "Why didn't I take that cash because I'm not working, I'm unemployed. I've got two kids..." 

- Alex:

I recon you'll be alright/ No violins on this side just yet.

- Ugo Monye: 

I hope so, but I don't know. I think you've certainly got to back yourself, and so I probably say no to just as many things as I... not that I say no a lot more than I say yes to things, and I think that's just how it's got to be. One, I think it adds a greater value to what you do. If you're just saying yes to everything, it actually reduces your value because you're saying yes to everyone, there is no clear message. 

Who are you? Who are you? And you know, we've got mutual friends and I can look at them and I'm so confused as to who they are and where they want to go.

- Izzi: 

Especially when you know them personally.

- Alex: 

I'm thinking of one man in particular.

- Ugo Monye: 

And I have not a clue, but then I also think there is a realism in the fact that no one knows whenever their journey, professionally is going to end. The average career length as a rugby player is seven years, and we've had many conversations on how do you tell that 18 year old that you might retire at 25. So if you do have money thrown at you, if you do have commercial partners offering you X, Y, and Z. How can I say to you be really careful as to what you select, but also make hay whilst you have a profile. It's quite a tough equation to be able to work out for yourself. And I wasn't very good at maths, so I'm not going to do it for you anyway.

- Izzi: 

Do you ever get any mentoring around it or like do you haven't given advice about, you know, the best partners and what you should be doing with your fame and career once you have finished playing rugby and moving on. Do you ever get on of that. I'm really really interested? 

- Alex: 

That's a good question.

- Ugo Monye: 

Not a huge amount, but the one thing I've always tried to do is set myself four year plans. So I started my last contract age 28 or 29. And I spent those three years trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. And once I was able to figure that out, in fact, it was actually more important for me to figure out what I didn't want to do then what I wanted to do. I always use the analogy of like ex partners. I'll tell you, once you've had a nightmare ex, you know exactly... 

- Susie: 

Where you don't want to go again.

- Imy: 

It's so true. 

- Ugo Monye: 

Do you know what I mean?

- Izzi: 

It's so true. 

- Susie: 

It's so valuable that. 

- Ugo Monye: 

Do you know what I mean?

- Susie: 

I know what you mean.

- Ugo Monye: 

Never again. Never again cause I'm married and that's for life. So yeah, once I figured out what I didn't want to do, it was really easy for me to figure out what I wanted to do. And actually I think the commercial stuff, totally works back to front. I think people chase commercial rather than stability. So once I've got my foundation or body of work, I've got a platform. With that actually, you get security. You're not chasing every single speaking gig, this gig, that gate, that Instagram post, that whatever it is. So once I go about body of work set, that allowed me to be able to give me that  visibility to then cherry pick X and Y. And that's where I went with it. So in terms of the advice, I had advice in terms of what I wanted to do career wise, how much advice do I get with regards to commercial stuff? That really varies. I've been offered some really stupid things by agents that I've looked after me. I'm telling them like, that doesn't make sense.

- Alex: 

What's the stupidest? You never got a Joe Marlin McDonald's ad, which he filmed on an iPhone.

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah, but there was a reality show the other day, it was like celebrities on a farm or something like that. And it was good money. Good money for three weeks work. 

- Alex: 

Milking cows and chasing chickens.

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah, but it wasn't just the fact you were going to do utterly terrible shit.

- Alex: 

Yeah.

- Ugo Monye: 

The money's great, but if you just look at the figures like you do loads of dumb things. It was also the kind of association with the other people on that show. I wanted to be, or I still trying to be known as like credible, rugby pundit, and the next thing you're on a magazine hanging out with some randomer from TOWIE. And no offensive to that. Those guys are making lots of lots of money doing it a certain way. But if I wanted to stick on this path..

- Izzi: 

But if it's there brand. 

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah, exactly. For longevity in this, then I can't be doing that. I mean, I'd love to revisit this in three months because if everything goes tits up and I'm on celebrity on a farm, its because I need the cash, and please someone just text me to see if I'm okay.

- Alex: 

I got asked to do celebrity show jumping on channel five about 50 years ago. I was like never going to happen. Now I find of hoping they might call back. I'm looking for a way back into it.

- Alex: 

Can you actually ride?

- Alex: 

I used to spend a lot of time riding a while back. 

- Ugo Monye: 

We'll leave it at that.

- Alex: 

Yeah exactly. 

- Ugo Monye: 

One thing I don't want to sound like self-righteous or that I've nailed it, because I definitely haven't been.

- Alex: 

But you've got a clear path and an idea.

- Ugo Monye: 

I just have a clear path and an idea to where I want to go. That doesn't mean that I'm doing it the right way. But it's certainly what I want to do is keep in mind like professional and personal integrity and it's helping me along the career path, which I am. I'm only retired four and a half years. I'm not sure I'm nailing anything, but I'm happy with where I'm at.

- Alex: 

You're killing it. Absolutely, loving it. And actually I wanted to sort of move the conversation because one of the things that we talk about is that the word influence and are basically as defined by, someone with an Instagram following and engagement, right? We love people of influence who talk across the things that they obviously get paid to talk about, but also the things they want to talk about, and the things they believe they should be talking about.  So it's sort of commercial, contra and cause, but also across a multitude of channels as well.

I think more and more people nowadays are going to have to change horses when they can. I think the days of the one career, front to back of your working life is disappearing. I've gone through sort of broadcast media and now moving into tech, you've gone from sport and into media . I just wondered now as you move into that sort of presenting, you know, being an analyst, being a commentator, you know, how you found that transition from player to sort of media personality is a bit generic, but from player to broadcaster how you found that?

- Ugo Monye: 

Quite funny actually I remember, I retired in 2015 and lots of people had conversation with wife and said, "Oh, just keep an eye out for him because you know, lots of people struggle with, you know, enter into depression, this and that, all the rest of it. I booked ourselves a three week holiday; Thailand, Bali, Bangkok, Singapore. We're going to just travel, just get away. And it was in the middle of summer, the labs were at pre season and this wasn't my excuse, but it was at the time. It was that point in Thailand where it was cheaper to drink beer than it was to drink water and hydration is key. So most mornings I'd wake up at like 11 o'clock and with whatever I was having for breakfast, I'd have a Bintang or whatever it was.

- Alex: 

Singha beer.

- Ugo Monye: 

Singha beer. And it was great. I remember like four days in a row I was there just having a couple of beers and just really just enjoy it. The pressures, or the lack of pressure of being a professional rugby player. And my missus said to me, she was Iike, "is everything alright?". And I was like yeah, I think I'm alright. It's thirty degrees. You know a massage costs three pounds for thirty minutes. Everything's really cool. But she kept like nagging at me and I was like you're actually, I'm actually now just annoyed. Stop asking if I'm okay. I said I'm okay, I've got there in my hand, I'm loving this now. She just went, "well it's just you know people said that, you know, you might just really struggling. You'd been drinking quite a lot and I was like the lads are flipping tyres and hill sprints and I'm on a beach in Bali. Like life is really good, but I think that certainly is the case for lots of rugby players or sports people in general. I do honestly believe every sportsman that retires will suffer financially, physically, mentally.

- Alex: 

Yeah.

- Ugo Monye: 

Sometimes all three of them. I've got good friends of mine who retired before 30 and had no money, had all kinds of surgeries and then fell into depression. And one triggers another, and you could find yourself in a real horrible place. I feel like quite fortunate that I think I'm probably suffering from one of them. That's physically. I've got...

- Alex: 

Are you still struggling?

- Ugo Monye: 

I was in A&E three days ago.

- Alex: 

Go on.

- Ugo Monye: 

I've got two prolapsed discs, which I've suffered with through all my career. I woke up one morning and couldn't stand up.

- Alex: 

Oh my god.

- Izzi: 

Oh my god.

- Ugo Monye: 

I genuinely couldn't stand up and my wife's 39 weeks pregnant, expecting a baby, and I'm whinging about this back and almost now trying to figure out how I'm going to look after her and a toddler who's three who wants to go soft play. And how I'm going to change nappies and look after my wife who's about to give birth, end up in A&E, and that just an ongoing thing. I'm probably going to end up having surgery, so that's why I'm really paying for it. Like financially I'm okay, I'm working. I'm good, I'm happy.

- Alex: 

The bank man is very happy. 

- Ugo Monye: 

I'm just happy that I'm able to just pay the bills. So that's great. And mentally I feel great. And I think the reason I feel mentally really strong is because we were chatting about this earlier, I'm I'm still in the world that I've ever really known. My life, I mean I'm 36. 18 years I went to school, and then the other 18 has been involved in rugby. I've moved on. I said it earlier I've moved on without moving that far away, and so I still get the buzz of being at great stadiums, watching really good games. totally from a different guys, but I get boss when I got into common trait. And I see the guys walking out and things that go through my mind are probably just reflective of, 'Oh, I remember that moment".

I remember that moment of walking out. I don't miss the tackles and the collisions and waking up the next day. But actually I remember my first year more than anything. So you're doing like prem final, Champion cup finals or six nations, whatever it is. Seeing people lift trophies. My only thought wasn't, 'Oh, how great a moment is this for those people?', it was, 'how big are these guys going to happen?'.

And for me that, that was where I got my satisfaction. So in terms of transition, it was, not too bad, but there was lots of complexities and difficulties in that. Because my first job and I was so fortunate to be given it was working the 2015 world cup, the dream. Home world cup, you know, for the England team, I've one of my best mates, that I've known for the majority of my life, Chris Robshaw, England captain.

England bombing out at the group stages. I'm now pitch side, I've been out the changing room for three months. The head coach was a guy who capped me and I've got a microphone under my chin, 'Ugo should Stuart Lancaster be fired as head coach and should Chris Robshow, my mate of who I've know since I was 16, be England captain?'

So in my mind, I've got two trains of thoughts. I've got, I want to be a credible pundit, and your job is to be honest and keep that integrity. So keep that professionalism and integrity and the other part of me is like these my friends. Like, what do I do. I can't say, 'Stuart Lancaster, in fact I think they should extend his contract and what a great guy.' He just bombed at a world cup. And to Chris who's the captain. What do I say? 'Yeah what a wonderful lad. I mean he definitely be captain.' So I ended up saying, and this is the part of me trying to understand what the media world is about, was get asked the question, 'Should Stuart Lancaster be head coach and should Chris Robshow be captain?'

I went, "No it's been a failed campaign". "Okay thats all we've got time for it." I'm like, "no, no, no. I need to quantify it. I just need 30 minutes." I had 30 seconds. And, you know, you put it out there and next thing you know, you're getting quoted in certain papers,  'Ex-friend or ex colleague of Chris Robshaw says he should be stripped of captain.'

- Izzi: 

Does it affect relationships or ?

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah, yeah, undoubtably. With Chris, I mean is still a good friend of mine and was absolutely fine, but I just felt really awkward. Stuart Lancaster, that was different. I was over in Ireland last year, like I just said, for six nations match, and that was the first time I'd seen him since the World Cup. And we were doing this corporate hospitality thing together and you know that like are like Al. Really good fun, 300 people closed room. You can kind of say what you want and a few stories, this, that and the other. He was reflecting on that world cup and was close to tears. I've never ever been in a pre match Q&A like it. And afterwards...

- Alex: 

That's four years on.

- Ugo Monye: 

Four years on. And genuinely some of the stuff he was coming out with, I was just like poor guy. And I'm so happy to see how successful he is. He's now coaching Leinster, double European champion, won the PRO14, he's really happy.

The bits which people on the outside who make all those comments were, he's got two teenage kids who went to school the next day the dads of their friends are slagging off their dad. And a couple of them were getting bullied at school, because your dad did this to our country and all the rest of it. They're reading it. They're old enough to read it. So I spoke to Stu after it and just said, "Hey how are you?" Stupid question. You often ask those questions when you know exactly how they feel. And he wasn't feeling great. And I said, "Hey I said a few things, you know, and I kind of stand by them", and I guess what I'm trying to get to is, it took me probably a year and a half to be able to get comfortable within saying those things. I always felt I compromised, but I just, I guess I probably got a bit of peace about understanding whatever I said on TV or a podcast or whatever, so long as I'm willing to say to that person's face, then I'm going to be cool with it. And that took a bit of time, but that was a bit of a struggle, especially in that context because that was super sensitive.

- Alex: 

It's a small world, as we were saying.

- Ugo Monye: 

Crazily small world.

- Alex: 

Final question in terms of, I mean, you've achieved so much and you've got a huge opportunity in front of you, with your broadcasting and your analyst work, commentary, etc, where would you like to be 12, 18, 24 months from now? WWE? Or you going to stick a bit closer to the... you had a go out that.

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah, I had a crack at WWE, which was really good fun.

- Alex: 

Hooping in the hallway.

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah, it was a lot of that. You can imagine what an American broadcast person sounds like and feels like. It's different. Interestingly enough, like I grew up on WWE, I, I love WWE.

- Alex: 

Top three of all time. Who were your faves?

- Ugo Monye: 

The rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mankind.

- Alex: 

So I was before you, I was  Hulk Hogan, the policeman and Hackshaw Jim Duggan.

- Ugo Monye: 

Okay, what a legend. He just walked out of his two by four.

- Alex: 

What impresses me is that I'm a previous generation to you? I mean, three years apart. 

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah, exactly.

- Alex: 

I'm an old git.

- Ugo Monye: 

But, um, I've forgot the question now.

- Alex: 

Where do you want to be? WWE. Where do you want to be 2 years time?

- Ugo Monye: 

So the season finished, last summer and I don't know, I've probably never been this person, but perhaps it's the character or part of my character, which I developed, is just to reflect, project and then look forward. And we had such a good summer of British sport, once again. And I remember I rang Mario Itoje about it and I questioned him I said, "Who has been the biggest success stories this summer, sporting wise?". So I looked at Coco Gauff and I looked at Lewis Hamilton. I looked at Roger Federer, and I looked at Rapinoe, the womens American football captain. 

- Alex: 

Megan?

- Ugo Monye: 

Megan Rapinoe. And who else was there? And actually just outside of sport, Stormzy and what he did at Glastonbury. And I said, "For me, all what they have in common is they've all transcended their sport and they stand for different things". Coco Gauff, aged 15, what was I doing?

- Alex: 

I dread to think.

- Ugo Monye: 

Every 15 year old kid at home is going, I can do this. In fact why can't I do this. Look at Roger Federer, who's in a Wimbledon final at age 37, by there's no limit on your age. You got Louis Hamilton as a record breaker seven times at Silverstone. You've got Rapinoe who's all about diversity and inclusivity. And the message was for me, which I took away from it is, I don't care how successful you are as a sportsman. I really don't. What the thing which actually creates a legacy is what you do out of it. How you can affect and impact people outside of your small bubble, which you think is also important, and those sports and Stormzy have been able to step outside of that industry and affect a wider audience. And so do you know what? I was happy my career. I wish I'd done more. I really do wish I did more. I wish I'm doing more now.

So in terms of what I want to do in 12 years, it's, you know, I can have another 12 years of commentating, presenting or whatever, but that's not going to be as meaningful as the things that I can do outside of that. And so the things that matter to me are being able to promote, represent, and create opportunities for people who are just like me. I think people that don't know me but know me through Instagram and just go, "Oh, hey, cool. He's got a nice family, and he went on a nice holiday and he was at cool game". But that's not really me. That's a small percent of life, because we only project and perpetuate the very best percent of us on social media because that's what brands need to see. They don't need to see me who's been up six times in the next four weeks because I've got a baby that poos..

- Alex: 

...and vomits on the floor.

- Ugo Monye: 

No ones going to like that post. And I need likes, I need likes, I need people to like me.

- Susie: 

I think that would get more likes than you think. I can tell you.

- Ugo Monye: 

True. That's true,

- Alex: 

It's that authenticity.

- Ugo Monye: 

That's true. And then I've got to figure out the prime time to post it so I get likes, in the real world, as well as that virtual world. But, I guess the point is, my story is quite a simple one, and it's actually not an extraordinary story at all. I was a kid that was born in North London that ended up, that wanted to play football and ended up playing rugby, and that shows me that life can take you all over the place. I had a single mother, my dad left when I was a teenager. Mum had five kids and brought them her up on her own. You know, once upon a time we lived in a two bed, two bed house. You could barely call it a house. That was probably, I mean, this space was bigger than our house, but I was able to just focus my energy and find something that I really enjoyed and made a career out of it just by, just kind of just like working hard. I don't want to oversimplify things because if I worked twice as hard as Usain Bolt, I wouldn't be faster than Usain bolt. I was quite lucky to be given a talent that I just put all my energy into an area where I felt I could excel. So what do I want to do? You know, rugby wasn't played in these inner cities. It's still not. I mean, talks at the moment with the RFU to try and collaborate and, and actually produce foundation and get more. Get more people involved in rugby. Not because I want to see, well I would like to say an uptake and a growth or people getting involved in the sport, but it's actually more the skills and the values, which rugby has given me more so than the trophies that I've won.

The totality of me today, Ugo, is the direct result of the environment I grew up in rugby and experiences that I had. And I would love to offer that to someone else. Whether it's giving them confidence to be able to speak, whether it's giving them direction, whether it's mentoring them, discipline, whatever it is. It's using the core values of rugby to be able to help people be better people. We say it all the time, and it's so cliche. But cliches are cliches because the often proved right so many times, But better people make better rugby players. We always say it. So I'd love to set a foundation up, do something which helps better people, and that for me, in terms of, to answer your question, what to do over the next 12 years, it's actually fairly insignificant in terms of the professional sense. It's the things that I can do outside of it, which might help, and affect people outside of what I do in a professional sense. That's really my goal. If I can do that, then I will be happy, but I still like to be able to pay the bills.

- Alex: 

Keep living the dream. What an incredibly inspiring notes on which to finish. But I think it is because I think there are a lot of people out there who wouldn't have the foresight or the interest in putting back and therefore to hear from people who've been there, done it, got the t-shirt, and are conscious of where they've come from and the people that they want to bring through, I think is very inspiring.

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah, maybe, I mean yeah.

- Susie: 

Definitely.

- Ugo Monye: 

Well, I just, I dunno, I'd like to trigger other sports men and women to, not think the same, but do a bit more. Do you know what, like, we've got really good rugby team at the moment, you know. We've got some guys who are under the age of 25 that have almost achieved everything in the game, but when they retire, someone else will do that again. So your legacy, as much as it will revere you and support you and put you on pedestals and there will be lovely imagery around you. Twickenham do more than just be another really good rugby player because there's going to be lots and lots of them.

- Alex: 

Keep living the dream. Thank you so much for your time. We'd love to do this again.

- Ugo Monye: 

Cheers. Yeah thanks for having me.

- Alex: 

Super interview.

- Ugo Monye: 

Yeah it was cool, was good fun.

- Alex: 

And good luck with the little on when she arrives. 


Thank you so much for listening to the influencer and podcast. If you'd like to know more about what we do and become a member, please head over to the influence room.com or you can follow us on Instagram at the influence room. See you next time.