Phil regales the audience with his exploits on tour / Photo: Ryan Milsom

British and Irish Lions, Wales and Scarlets legend Phil Bennett swapped his training kit (yes he still trains) for a business suit on Thursday (Aug 1) as he addressed a large delegate of business men and women at the introbiz Expo at Parc y Scarlets.

Stands representing some of the leading Welsh businesses were open to the public with seminars and workshops throughout the day.

Phil was one of the many key speakers along with ‘Wealth Coach’ Kevin Green.

Phil did a questions and answers session mainly surrounding his days as a rugby player and the antics he and his team-mates got up to on tours around the world.

 

Lucy Fiola interviewed Phil and asked him about the importance business has on rugby teams like the Scarlets.

Phil Bennett interview

How does an international rugby player like yourself fit into an event like this?

Well I do quite a lot of these actually. What happens is I mostly speak in the evening, after they’ve had a full day of conferences or business meetings. Then in the evenings when they want to chill out, relax, forget business, and sort of enjoy the occasion and talk about sport then I come up and talk, although today I started with that. I just hope that with a bit of fun and a few stories, they’ll go there fresh, happy and ready to make friends, because my speech was all about loyalty and friendship so hopefully it’ll rub off on them.

Phil posing for pics with organisers
Photo. Ryan Milsom

If you hadn’t gone into rugby would you have gone into business?

It’s so difficult to know. I was very young boy and a couple of soccer clubs, one of them West Ham, offered me to go for a soccer trial. So I had a huge future. Then my father had a very nasty accident in the steel industry, so how could I ever take up the opportunities? I was in the steel works at the age of 15 to help my family cope.  So really who knows what would’ve happened, who knows where we would’ve got to. I’m sure sport would’ve taken a huge chunk of whatever I was going to do because that was my life.

Photo: Ryan Milsom

In your days business was a no no. Do you welcome the involvement of business in the lives of professional rugby players today?

We’ve got to have the businesses, you know without business the game would fall. I mean regional rugby is not well supported at the moment, you know with only 5,6,7 thousand fans, you cannot survive on that. If the Scarlets didn’t have some very very good businessmen backing them on the board, putting money in, saving the region, then they could’ve gone under a few years ago. So business is vital. Its vital for them, these people bring their clients and customers to enjoy the occasion, while also making new business contacts themselves. So I think today business and sport go hand in hand.

Photo: Ryan Milsom

What kind of future do you see for the Scarlets given that times have been tough not just for this club but many around the country?

I think with all welsh rugby clubs, including my village club of Felinfoel, if you go round to do a survey of all clubs 95% will be struggling. The drinking culture is gone, the heavy industry is gone. Its vital that businesses are involved with rugby. In 2 years time, we want to be playing the English clubs like Bath and Bristol, the Gloucester’s, the Exeter’s, and I’m sure it’ll flourish again in a few years time.

Will we ever see the day when you’ll share your experience as a coach?

No no I will never be a coach. The game has passed me by now, its got so complicated I even have to ask my son ‘what was that penalty for?’ because I haven’t got a clue! Offside, through the gate, all these expressions, I’ve never heard of them. When I played, my first thought was ‘Let’s get the hell out of here!’, so no I’ll never be a coach, I’ll stay an avid supporter.

 

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