Ryan Brierley: Combining life as a pro rugby player and a budding football agent

Drew Darbyshire
Ryan Brierley Salford Red Devils Alamy

Salford Red Devils star Ryan Brierley is a professional rugby league player and an agent in women’s football. His life is chaotic to say the least – but he loves every single second of it.

The 31-year-old, who is preparing to enter his third season with boyhood club Salford, has been running his own management company – The Players’ Player – since 2020, playing a small part in the meteoric rise of women’s football.

Brierley is likely to finish his career at Salford after recently committing his future to the Red Devils until at least the end of 2026.

And although he’s got plenty of rugby at the top level left in the tank, the Scotland international started preparing for life after league a couple of years ago when he dipped his toe into becoming an agent in women’s football.

Fast forward four years and he now has 25 clients. His thriving business is something he wants to fully immerse himself in once he hangs up his rugby boots: whenever that may be.

Being an elite full-back in Super League would take up the bulk of your day at the best of times, but just imagine how chaotic your life would be managing 25 clients on top of that. That’s Brierley, but he wouldn’t change a thing about it.

The big question is: how does he juggle his life as a pro rugby player with being a budding agent?

“I get asked that question quite a lot and, ultimately, I don’t know!” Brierley laughed in an exclusive interview with Love Rugby League at Salford’s media day.

“I tried to structure it in different hours and stuff, but it just didn’t work. It’s just 24/7, and my life needs to be chaotic otherwise I don’t function! If my life is boring then I’m doing something wrong. If my girls need me at 1am or half nine at night, then I’m always on the phone.

“As you can imagine, the stories and questions and issues that come up at such random times… You can’t work to hours. You’ve just got to go along with it.

“Even through the day it’s just phone calls and voicemails, but I love the dramatic nature of it. I love chaos, it’s just something I’ve always had, I prefer it that way.”

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How Ryan Brierley became an agent

Jess Park England Lionesses Alamy Jess Park (left) comes on for Chloe Kelly (right) for the England Lionesses

The Preston-born speedster took on his first client in 2020 in the shape of Jess Park, who has since won international honours with the Lionesses whilst at Manchester City and Everton in the Women’s Super League.

Recalling his first steps into management, Brierley said: “I’m friends with Steph Houghton and she knew I wanted to be an agent in rugby league after I finished playing and she was like ‘can you look after a player I’ve got at City who needs looking after?’ and it was Jess Park.

“I got lucky with that one because she was my first one and everyone signs on the back of that don’t they? But by accident, Steph kind of put me on to Jess and one thing led to another and I thought I’d just give it a crack and I thought if I don’t take this opportunity now I’ll regret it.

“I was in the deep end massively. I didn’t have one number in my phonebook, I wasn’t even licensed at the time, so I had to get all that done very quickly.”

Brierley, who has scored 265 tries in 303 games during his impressive rugby career, admits he suffered with a bit of imposter syndrome at the start of his management journey, but was always willing to ask questions to aid his development.

“I thought I might’ve been out of my depth, that’s what I was panicking over,” he said.

“I had a lot of help, but a lot of it was me asking questions. I wanted to know what I was doing right, what I was doing wrong, nerves, anxiety, knowing that I had an 18-year-old girl trust me with her career is pretty daunting, especially when she’s that good and there’s loads of agents sniffing around her everyday.

“I’m lucky that I consider Jess as one of my best mates now, she’s a legend and I love her to bits and 95% of our conversations aren’t even about football – they are just about all sorts of random stuff! That’s how it kind of fell into place.

“I still feel out of my depth now in some instances, but you are just always asking questions and I think being open and willing to learn is a big one.

“I’ve made mistakes and I’ll make more mistakes but it’s always out of the best interests of the player so as long as I’m working in the best interests of the player, I love it.”

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Turning the players into household names and bringing out their personalities

Luke Littler Warrington Wolves Alamy Darts sensation Luke Littler was presented with a special ‘180’ shirt from his boyhood club Warrington

Rugby league is entering a new era under the assistance of global media giants IMG, with a fresh optimism amongst many heading into the 2024 season.

Under the governance of IMG, rugby league’s elite have enjoyed crossovers with other sports in recent times. Warrington‘s George Williams went along to Wimbledon, St Helens‘ Jack Welsby supported Michael ‘Bully Boy’ Smith at the darts, Warrington duo Josh Thewlis and Matty Ashton went along to support Luke ‘The Nuke’ Littler at the darts and Leeds pair Harry Newman and Mikolaj Oledzki were invited to a UFC event.

Brierley has seen firsthand the commercial and sponsorship opportunities in women’s football, and has encouraged rugby league to do as much as possible to make their high-profile stars known to the wider public: for the benefit of the game and the players.

“The commercial element is massive,” Brierley told Love Rugby League.

“Jess is sponsored by Puma, she did a shoot with Jack Grealish the other day in London so I had to get a private jet and manage that. I was thinking ‘how mad is this?’. She doesn’t really see it like that, she just sees it as her job. That’s the sort of stuff I have to manage and making sure that when she goes to events that she’s picked up by the right people and making sure at awards nights that she has the right dress to wear and making sure she has a picture on social media – everything and anything you can think of falls under that banner.

“They (women’s football) have their players as commercial assets so that’s where I’ve seen a difference in rugby league to women’s football, all their players are stars and they make it like that.

“How do you grow Jess’ profile? Well, stick her on a poster in Manchester with Jack Grealish. People go ‘that’s Jack Grealish, so who’s that?’. That’s why I got Jess to do my announcement signing because I knew how much catchment she has on her social media, that’s why I wanted her to announce it so I and we as a club get more traction from it.

“Jack Welsby did it with Michael Smith as well didn’t he? It is taking off, I think we are getting better with it, but I see what the girls do and we are so far off it, but it’s nice to see some improvement around that area.”

Brierley and Salford kick off their Super League season with a trip to Leeds on Friday night, live on Sky Sports.

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