GJ Van Velze wins first Vodafone Business Gain Line Award for 2023/24 Season

The Rugby Players Association (RPA) is delighted to announce GJ Van Velze of Bath Rugby as the worthy recipient of this season’s first RPA Vodafone Business Gain Line Award.

The RPA Vodafone Business Gain Line Award was created to support current and former players of the game in their off the field business ventures.

In 2020, Van Velze suffered a long term injury, which lead him to create his business, VanVelze and Smith. They sell and design luxury boots and leather goods, and for every pair of Chelsea boots sold, they provide a child in South Africa with a new pair of rugby boots.  To help fund this business and scheme, he also created an online business, Big Dog Paints, which specialises in abrasives and paint consumables. By creating these two companies, the back-row has provided an extra income for his family but also provided employment opportunities for other individuals.

On winning the award, Van Velze said: “Thank you for this award. It is the outcome of extensive effort and numerous mistakes made over the past six years. These awards are significant as they offer rugby players a sense of stability in life and motivate them to consider their lives after rugby.

My carcass is not getting any younger and the support from the rugby community has been amazing.”

Van Velze’s RPA Player Development Manager, Matt Garvey, said: “GJ is no ordinary nominee; he's pretty exceptional. He's also shown a deep appreciation for the sport that's been a big part of his life and his family’s. He's proven that even when things don't go as planned, like when he got injured playing rugby, it can be a chance to do something amazing. GJ doesn't just shine on the field; he's a role model for others, proving that you can succeed in both your sport and in life beyond it.”

Jo Wedlock, Brand Marketing and Communications Director, at Vodafone Business said: “We’re thrilled to hear that GJ Van Velze has been awarded the RPA Vodafone Business Gain Line Award. It’s inspiring to see how GJ has turned time out from rugby due to injury into two positive ventures. We’re looking forward to seeing both companies “VanVelze and Smith” and “Big Dog Pants” go from strength to strength.”

For more information about the Gain Line programme, please visit the RPA website: https://www.therpa.co.uk.


Ste Thomas – Communications Manager, RPA sthomas@therpa.co.uk

About The RPA

The Rugby Players Association is the representative body and collective voice of professional rugby players in England. We represent more than 800 male and female current rugby players, as well as more than 400 former players.

It is our mission to support, promote and protect the interests of our members, from the moment they sign their first professional contracts, throughout their playing careers, and beyond as they embark on the next phase of their lives.

Our members enjoy a wide range of benefits, including: independent representation; legal advice; personal and professional development; playing insurance; education; confidential counselling; transition support; and much more. Members can also access the support of our official charity, Restart, in the event of serious illness, injury or hardship.

The RPA has also acted as the exclusive commercial representative of the England Men’s and Women’s Team and performs the following duties on behalf of Team England: Negotiation of the Elite Players Squad Contract, England match fees, England team win bonuses and Image Rights payments with the RFU.

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were also the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester. As of June 2021, we have 5G in 364 locations across Europe – 124 in the UK and 240 across Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland. Our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. To help deliver Gigabit UK, our full-fibre broadband roll-out programme now covers 15 UK towns and cities through partnerships with CityFibre and Openreach.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

For more information about Vodafone UK please visit: www.vodafone.co.uk