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Getting to Know: Tracy van Ginkel

She’s the Manager of Contracts and Operations at the Lions Rugby Company and has been with the union for seven-and-a-half years, during which time she’s been involved in a couple of different areas of the business.

Q: What does your daily routine look like?
I arrive at work before most (07h00/07h30) and ensure any urgent matters are taken care of before the day officially begins. Mondays are usually the most challenging days with meetings, as we have management meetings for the United Rugby Championship and Currie Cup squads, a head coaches meeting, as well as a full medical feedback. This allows us to plan for the week and provisionally identify possible teams. Tuesday to Thursday is mainly focused on contracts and operations, with Friday ensuring game day is on track and operations are taken care of. I attend home matches (the full day) to ensure no challenges arise and if needed, I travel with the teams. I recently fulfilled the role of Team Manager for the URC team for four weeks in the UK, which was a great opportunity for me. It definitely pushed me outside my comfort zone.

Q: You’ve been involved in contracts for over seven years at the Lions, but four years ago also moved from PR into Operations. How exactly did you manage that transition, as surely those two disciplines are quite different?
The PR role saw me primarily involved with the recruitment and relationships of new players, parents and stakeholders. This led directly into the contracts and enabled me to increase my knowledge and skill set relative to the contracting of players. Before joining the Lions, I was at the University of Johannesburg as Recruitment and Bursary Co-Ordinator, so the one led into the other. Today, I still do a lot of PR with junior players, parents/guardians and agents. You need good PR to sell the product!

Q: How would you describe your contract negotiation style and what are some of the key elements in this negotiation process?
I ensure the player knows all the facts and makes an informed decision. In the competitive industry we are in, there are many tails and blurred lines. I prefer to keep negotiations simple, straight-forward and with as much transparency as possible. I base a lot of my communication on relationships and try the utmost to ensure a personal relationship with players and agents, as this allows for negotiations to be honest and mutually-beneficial. Obviously, it is not always successful with the financial implications, but we pride ourselves on giving opportunity and transparency. Elements in the negotiation process typically include agents communicating on the player’s behalf and finding a deal that suits all parties. Once figures and terms are agreed upon, I draw up a contract and the rest is history.

Q: Can you run us through the (summarised) journey of signing a new player at the Lions, from initial scouting all the way through to signing on the dotted line?
We have a procurement committee which first takes a look at what our needs are – a “pantry” list and rankings of players. Once our needs are identified – position-specific and type of player – we will begin researching the market. This entails identifying players we see fitting in at the franchise, getting game time, and what their availability may be. Once we have a clear indication as to who is available, I will then make contact with the player’s agent and begin possible negotiations. Often the agent presents a player to us, after which we research the player from that point. Once an amount and clauses are agreed upon, a contract is drawn up and the player joins after being medically cleared.

Q: What do you feel makes you a good sports administrator?
I run a very tight ship. I trust that all parties play their individual roles as they are expected to do. I’m not a fan of micromanagement and therefore I prefer to empower everyone to take charge and add value to the system. I ensure I am up to date with trends and try to remain as informed as possible within the sporting industry in general. We never lose the fun element, but also realise that hard work will lead to success.

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Q: Has your academic background – Masters in Sports Management and candidate in PhD in Sport Law – helped you as a sports administrator?
I am a sucker for organising, planning and controlling my environment. I really do enjoy reading up on new research or articles, so this allows me to understand the realm. As a candidate of PhD, I like increasing my knowledge and filling the gap of research within the regulations of contracting, and deriving comparisons of contracting models. As far as assisting me in my current field, I like to increase my base and can apply best practice for the franchise and player.

Q: What is the Lions Rugby Company doing to ensure its players can transition seamlessly into life after the game, once they’ve retired?
At development level the players are all given the opportunity to further their studies with our partners – namely UJ and Wits. We pride ourselves on creating an environment whereby studies and rugby meet. We understand rugby will be their priority and give them realistic study options they can achieve. We build the qualification around their rugby career and utilise every year as a “building-block” to obtain a qualification.

Q: There’s no doubt that rugby in South Africa is a male-dominated sport, so how have you managed working in that sort of environment?
I see the challenge as an advantage. I believe hard work supersedes all and I always strive to prove myself through skill and determination. In the earlier years I did receive some resistance, but when you prove yourself, your knowledge, your skill and capability, you are seen as invaluable.

Q: What impact has Covid-19 had on contracts and the broader commercial environment at the Lions, and how have you, as a business, managed that?
Like all industries, it has had a huge impact on us financially and psychologically. The continuous changes in periodization for the athletes has been difficult, as well as the emotional rollercoaster of games been called off etc. Sport encompasses entertainment and is hit hard when limitations are thrown as a curve ball. Not having guarantees in competitions and no spectators, combined with global effects on sponsors, affects all aspects of the industry.

Q: How do you like to spend your down time?
A: Down time is a scarcity, but I do try to spend time with my family and friends. I am very blessed with an incredible support network. I wish I had more time for golf and getaways, as I love the outdoors.

Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers

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