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Attendees:

Cardiff Blues Supporters’ Club Sarah Hopkins, Catherine Smart, David Elsmere

CRYS16 Barrie Jones, Ian Lewis, Gareth Payne

Dragons Official Supporters’ Club Dan Hallett, Ryan Price

Ospreys Supporters’ Club Nigel Jones, Grant Berni, Lynne Jones

Welsh Rugby Union Martyn Phillips, Mark Killingley

 

Agenda:

  1. Update on Project Reset and the way forward
  2. Player retention/pay bands
  3. Communication from this meeting
  4. Any Other Business

 

SH thanked MP and MK for meeting with the JSG so soon after the last meeting. It was acknowledged that things had changed reasonably substantially since the last meeting and that updates from PRB statements had confirmed the change in position.

 

1 – Update on Project Reset

MP said that it was no longer deemed to be ‘Project Reset’ as the new legal agreement was now in place and was no longer a project. Future reference should be made to the Professional Rugby Strategy which covered the five Professional Entities (the four regions and the WRU).

PRB were focussed on doing right thing for the game and whilst it was agreed that the current position was ‘business as usual’, the facts remain that transformational change is required to enable 4 professional teams in change to be sustainable and competitive.

JSG asked whether consideration had been given to the appointment of a Supporter Director on the PRB. MP said that this wasn’t really on the agenda and that the focus was on appointment of non-exec Directors as they can bring required skills to the board. In addition, it was not possible to make room for all stakeholder representatives on the PRB – e.g. the players also wanted representation which had resulted in far more regular dialogue between the PRB and the Players association (WRPA) and the players themsleves. He confirmed that members of the PRB have fiduciary duties.

 

However, it was noted that PRB wanted and needed to take the views and feedback from supporters into account, and that the JSG would be the preferred option to do this more formally and on a regular basis together with supporter forums at local level.

MP went on to say that since 2016, there had been an increase in funding from WRU to the regions from £10 to £20m. This totalled around £32m when competition income was included to the four regions, in addition to the clubs’ commercial and ticketing income generated locally. Whilst the improvement is welcome there remains much to do with the 5 entities working interdependently.

There was a detailed discussion in respect of the supporter experience and ticketing. MK said that the research seemed to suggest that the price of season tickets were too low but that the overall price point on match tickets was about right. One of the key requirements for all regions was to drive attendances up. There was agreement from all that regions could and should do better – but under resourced in commercial departments.

JSG pointed out that the structure of the season was not helpful and with regular changes from International periods to league and Europe, the season tended to lose momentum. MP acknowledged that this was a difficult position which was under constant review. MP confirmed that there is Private Equity interest in the PRO14, but that this was primarily a matter for the PRB to consider.

JSG representatives raised some frustrations about regional teams not using players to better leverage their brand and start to build on international successes back in the local areas.  

JSG and WRU agreed that a lot of the media articles written about the regions seemed to have a negative spin – intended to ‘create a good headline’ – which was undermining the hard work being undertaken by the regions and not encouraging people who were not already committed to regional rugby to have a desire to attend. As an example of this, MP handed out a copy of a graph showing the increased funding given to the Regions by the WRU. Funding had doubled since 2016.

MP reminded JSG that there were seven agreed key indicators of success for the regions, Including:

  • Welsh International players
  • Youth Development and Academy
  • Management structure / coaching / governance
  • Community
  • Marketing

Work is ongoing on a formula based funding model going forward to better link funding to these areas of success.

A question was asked about the commercial structure:

Rugby Board – Team Managers from regions and Head Coaches

Business Board – tasked with reducing costs, leveraging economies of scale and increasing income.

 

2 – Player Retention and Pay Bands

JSG asked about the recent departures of promising young players and whether the changes to the pay bands were preventing the retention of key talent. MP said that, whilst he was not prepared to discuss individual players, some wanted to seek a different experience and that pay bands were not a factor in their decisions.

JSG asked whether regions were able to ‘top-up’ the pay bandings offered to individual players – thus encouraging players to choose one region over another. MP confirmed that this was allowed, but only to the top of the relevant banding which have been agreed by the Regions and WRPA. There was a further discussion about the perceived value of a player being different to different regions based on their depth in that particular position. MP confirmed that the reason for a band with a lower and upper limit was to cater for this eventuality.

The discussion moved onto whether the first season of working with Premier Sports had been deemed a success for the Pro 14. MP said that feedback seemed positive and that he understood viewing figures for the coverage to be broadly in line with that experienced by the BBC when all games are taken into account. He reminded JSG that BBC did not formally bid to cover the Pro 14. JSG members said that the coverage was good and it was encouraging to see decent exposure on regional rugby, as national media outlets traditionally focused on Team Wales. MP agreed and indicated that the PRB were increasing its focus on exposure for the Professional rugby brands in 2019 onwards.

MP agreed that the focus from the media on Team Wales did not help the regions and that he would prefer to see more balanced coverage. He said that there was work to do to educate many people attending Wales games that the team were successful because of, and not in spite of, the regional teams.

The Union is working with Regions in an effort to cut costs across the board. Savings are being made by agreeing deals where all Regions use the one travel company for travelling arrangements. Kit sponsorship is also being considered, but currently Regions have arrangements in place which end at different times.

 

3 – Communication from this meeting

Notes of the meeting would be produced by JSG and circulated to the group prior to publishing to members.

 

4 – AOB

There was no other business and it was agreed that the group would meet again in a few months – date tbc.

 

3 wins, 100 points scored, 13 tries and a playoff for Eupeans Champions Cup secured…..all in all, a very good month!

There have been some outstanding individual and team perfromances (including Dan Evans but as he won last month’s OSCA, he’s excluded from this month’s vote), but we’ve narrowed it down to a select few.

Sat, 06 Apr 31 – 14 W Cheetahs
Fri, 12 Apr 43 – 7 W Southern Kings
Sat, 27 Apr 26 – 23 W Cardiff Blues

Voting closes 5th May.  Thanks again to PB Garage Services for their continued support in sponsoring the OSCAs.  For a full list of previous winners, click here

April Player of the Month Vote

  • Owen Watkin (36%, 64 Votes)
  • Nicky Smith (30%, 53 Votes)
  • James King (22%, 39 Votes)
  • Adam Beard (8%, 14 Votes)
  • Bradley Davies (4%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 178

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Its time to vote for your penultimate player of the month for the 2018/19 season.   After a disapppointing end to the seasonal 6 Nations Irish campaign, the squad delivered a much needed boost contributing to six tries (only four were our own) in a bonus point victory over the Dragons.

Sat, 02 Mar 5 – 46 L Connacht
Sat, 23 Mar 29 – 20 W Dragons

Thanks again to Peter Benjamin of PB Garage Services for his continued support, sponsoring the 2018/19 OSCAs.

Voting closes Saturday 6th April.

March '19 Player of the Month Vote

  • Dan Evans (87%, 122 Votes)
  • Tom Botha (6%, 9 Votes)
  • Olly Cracknell (6%, 8 Votes)
  • Bradley Davies (1%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 141

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For a complete list of previous OSCA winners, click here

Now is the winter of our discontent….William Shakesphere’s word from Richard III’s words have rung true recently!  Two games during the 6 Nations, with no players released and two losses against strong Irish opposition.  But still, there have been a few glimpses of spring surely?

Get voting for your February Player of the month vote sponsored by PB garage Services.  Voting closes 18th Feb.

Fri, 15 Feb 0 – 8 L Ulster
Fri, 22 Feb 13 – 19 L Munster

February '19 Player of the Month

  • Hanno Dirksen (45%, 43 Votes)
  • Matthew Aubrey (24%, 23 Votes)
  • James King (15%, 14 Votes)
  • Scott Baldwin (12%, 11 Votes)
  • Bradley Davies (4%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 95

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For a full list of previous OSCA winners, click here

This morning, members of the OSC committee met with Andrew Millward (managing director), Peter Owen (media manager), Adam Palfrey (commercial manager),  Paul Wapham (OiTC).

We discussed the concerns of supporters based on rumours, speculation and conflicting press statements.

To this end, we were advised that a Q&A evening has been arranged for season ticket holders which will be held at the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday 12th March (full details on Ospreys website here ).  This will be an opportunity for season ticket holders to put questions to Andrew Millward, Allan Clarke and representatives from the Ospreys board of directors.

It is apparent to the OSC committee that statements released by Scarlets Rugby and PRB were misleading and did not accord with that said at a meeting with the WRU/PRB last Monday attended by members of the OSC committee and other members of the JSG (Joint Supporters Group).   Accordingly, as a committee, we fully support the Ospreys board in the decisions taken to date and for the way forward.

We would urge supporters to attend Tuesday’s Q&A and ignore the speculation and ill informed comments appearing on social media.

As a committee, we will continue to work closely with the Ospreys management and ensure that supporters are kept informed of all developments at the earliest opportunity.

We fully encourage everybody to turn up for the final home game of the season against the Dragons on 23rd March and show your support.

#ourbloodisblack

Yesterday, representatives of the Joint Supporters Group which includes Cardiff Blues Supporters Club , Dragons Official Supporters Club, Ospreys Supporters and Crys 16 met with the Chief Exec of the WRU, Martyn Phillips along with Ryan Jones – both who sit on the PRB.

The update we received was completely in line with what’s been reported in the media before today.

It would now seem that the situation has dramatically changed in light of reported events and the statement via the Ospreys today, and the subsequent statement by PRB which confirms what we were told yesterday.

We were assured that the recommendation to proceed with 4 regions based in the North, South, West and East of Wales was agreed unanimously by all PRB representatives which includes the Chairs of each of our regional Boards. We were assured that the proposed changes are financially focused and aim to tap into new markets both on and off the field, as well as evolve the regional structure to one which is more future proofed than the existing model. This of course would have a huge impact for the Ospreys and Scarlets.

Last night we expressed our sadness and anger at the disregard for existing supporters who have been deemed ‘expendable’ when compared to a potential new market. Members from OSC and Crys 16 passionately explained the impact they felt this would have on them and the wider supporter base of the Ospreys and Scarlets. CBSC and DOSC fully supported this position.

We also expressed our complete disappointment on behalf of all supporters of professional rugby in Wales at the lack of communication during the discussions over the last few months regarding ‘Project Reset’. This was recognized by Martyn and Ryan who said that it was difficult to communicate when positions and decisions were changing by the day.

Members of the JSG are united in the belief that regional rugby supporters have largely been ignored and excluded from any of consultation during this period, with the exception of some more regional communications at the Scarlets. We have agreed that we stand together as announcements and decisions are made, and we support each other and the stance that all existing regions should remain. There are precious few people putting money into the regional game in Wales and we represent those that do … so as you would expect, we have requested a follow up meeting in the coming weeks which was agreed.

We will of course provide our members and the wider supporter community with further updates as soon as they are available.

The Joint Supporters Club represents the four official Supporters organisations for the Welsh region (Crys16, Ospreys Supporters Club, Cardiff Blues Supporters CLub and Dragons Supporters Club).