Wasps’ former captain Chris Bell, who was sadly forced to retire last season due to a shoulder injury, has returned to the club to take up the newly-created role of Wasps’ Head of Off-Field Player Development.
The England Saxons’ centre, who made 80 appearances for Wasps as a player, has experienced the importance of planning for life after rugby not only through personal experience, but also through his two years’ on the RPA (Rugby Players’ Association) Board.
Wasps has identified players’ off-field welfare and development as a key area to expand, now that the club is in a position to invest in resource to deliver off-field programmes.
Bell will work closely with RPA Senior Player Development Manager Ben McGregor, who works on behalf of players at Wasps and Harlequins, to make sure players’ off-field requirements are looked after. In the new role, Bell will continue to encourage players to use time away from training productively, building qualifications and interests outside of rugby, and will provide support for players planning for the future, as well as aiding their transition to life after rugby when the time comes.
Wasps’ Deputy Chairman, Nick Eastwood, said: "It is a huge boost for players and staff to see Chris Bell return to the club. Chris is one of the most popular and respected characters in the game, admired as a role model for the unwavering commitment and professionalism he showed at each club he represented, during a distinguished 14-year career.
"We are thrilled to see Chris back at Wasps and are very pleased, thanks to the off-field business generated by the move to the Ricoh Arena, we are now able to invest in this important area.
"Wasps are determined to make sure players are looked after off the pitch as well as on it and we have no doubt that Chris Bell will prove as successful in his new role as he was leading the squad as Wasps’ captain."
Chris Bell added: "I am really pleased to be back at Wasps. From personal experience, I can assure players that no matter how much you think about the future and how much you try to prepare in case injury strikes, you are never fully ready for that day when a doctor tells you that your playing career is over.
"I have taken some time out to assess various career options, some in the city and non-rugby related, but when I was offered this role, I felt I still have a lot that I can give to the sport I was fortunate to play professionally for so long.
"I am passionate about players’ welfare and off-field development, which is why I volunteered to be Wasps’ RPA rep a couple of years ago and I am really looking forward to building the club’s first off-field development programme.
"It is fantastic to see Wasps investing in this area, which is so important in the professional era when many young players join the academy at a young age and go professional straight from school. Wasps Academy already has a strong off-field programme in place and I look forward to complementing that and developing a programme for the senior squad to benefit from on a weekly basis."