Ulster Rugby stars join ex-Manchester United chief Peter Kenyon's stable
The market value of Ulster's biggest rugby stars rose yesterday as a result of a merger which has brought them in under the roof of a now-major agency, fronted by former Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon.
And it could prove a very timely union for Ulster, who are on the look-out for replacements for loose-head Tom Court, tight-head John Afoa and possibly lock forward and captain Johann Muller.
Court and Afoa are on their way to London Irish and Gloucester respectively at the end of the season, while Muller's contract expires at the same time. He has yet to indicate whether or not he will sign an extension, but there is a growing belief that he may well be on his way home to South Africa to work the family farm.
Kenyon (right) has just been named as non-executive chairman of Esportif International. Locally-based Corner Flag Management is the agency which represents the vast majority of Ulster's home-grown players.
And with Esportif International's highly impressive portfolio including World Cup winners and Ravenhill favourites Muller and Afoa, plus other rugby superstars like Welsh and British and Irish Lions pair Jon Davies and Mike Phillips, England's James Haskell and Australia's Matt Giteau, it is obvious that this is an agency able to boast a stellar clientele list.
Further proof is provided by the players on the books of Esportif International in New Zealand, where it enjoys the status of one of the largest rugby management agencies in the country.
All Blacks Jerome Kaino, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Steven Luatua and Charles Piutau are all on board, as is Kiwi Rugby League icon Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Having teamed up with leading Irish rugby agency, Corner Flag Management, to create Esportif Ireland, that brings Ulster's four British and Irish Lions Tommy Bowe, Rory Best, Stephen Ferris and Tom Court in under Esportif Ireland's umbrella, that being the name of this new merger.
Corner Flag also has Irish international trio Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster) and John Muldoon (Connacht) on the books. Nor has Corner Flag confined its interests solely to working on behalf of Ireland-based players; South African back row forward Francois Louw is playing for Bath these days while fellow-Springbok Zane Kirchner is with Leinster.
In both cases, the deals which brought them to the Recreation Ground and RDS respectively were negotiated and struck by the Corner Flag agency.
By combining their clientele lists and know-how, in one telling clout this new much-enlarged agency has significantly expanded its areas of influence.
Former Dungannon and Ulster centre Ryan Constable, the Australian who founded Corner Flag of which he is managing director, explained the benefits of the new merger, saying: "It represents an exciting opportunity to extend our global reach.
"Our comprehensive network will provide invaluable market knowledge across key rugby territories and this will undoubtedly benefit both the individual players and coaches we represent and the clubs we work with on recruitment and retention objectives."
Duncan Sandlant, managing director of Esportif International in Europe, welcomed the new non-executive chairman, an appointment with immediate effect.
He said: "We are really excited about the appointment of Peter Kenyon to our business, which when combined with the creation of Esportif Ireland, marks a significant step towards Esportif's development as the leading global rugby management agency."