INFO

We are excited to confirm that the Ospreys Supporters Club has shown its commitment to the up-and-coming talent in the region, by becoming the exclusive Player Sponsor of Harri Deaves.

Following his debut in 2022, Harri has regularly featured in the squad this season, including being named in the starting line-up for our recent wins over Sharks, Benneton, Scarlets, and Cardiff together with his Player of the Match performance against the Lions in South Africa.

Speaking on the announcement, Sarah Collins-Davies (OSC chair) said:

“We are delighted to be able to support the Ospreys this season through the sponsorship of one of our brightest future stars, Harri Deaves. We are proud to be a part of his journey which we are sure will go from strength to strength in the coming seasons and we look forward to working with the Ospreys as part of a successful partnership.”

Our new OSC badges are now available!

The 2023-24 badges mirror the colours of our new European shirt with an aqua mask on a black nickel background.

All profits from badge sales go to the Ospreys Supporters Club chosen rugby related charity

You can purchase your badge on matchday at the Riverside Bar or from our online shop by clicking on the link below.

SECRETARY’S REPORT

This year in an effort to avoid unnecessary duplication, the chair, Grant Berni and myself, decided to agree on a set focus for our reports. Consequently, it falls upon me to offer a reflective synopsis of what, in all honesty, been something of a turbulent year for the game in Wales. What, I hear you ask, is new in that? I think that the most significant factor is the absolute chaos that followed the revelations brought to light by a small, but brave and determined band of women who ensured that the WRU was finally brought to answer for some of its significantly damaging short comings. I am sure that members will join me in hoping for a significantly improved structure at the very top of Welsh rugby.

Back now to our primary focus, that being the season for our own team, the Ospreys. URC wise, it was certainly a mixed bag of results, but within the higher tier competition in Europe, we certainly provided a reason for optimism! Personally, I have to say beating Leicester at Welford Road, was equally matched by the whole experience at Saracens. We didn’t manage the win, but we did compete and were, in all honesty, unlucky to loose that day! Results aside though, the OSC filled 5 coaches to travel to the game, a big contribution to the 2,500 plus Ospreys supporters that were there to support the team that day. Ospreys Number 8 Morgan Morris and several other players reported that the sight of the, “Black Sea,” as they left the bus on arrival, was the highlight of their season! Enough said. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking those committee members who were responsible for running, “Operation Saracens,” a wonderful achievement.

Our charity activities, once again we excelled, raising £2,000 to support our nominated charity, “Sporting memories,” run by the OITC team. Once again thanks to all involved, for their fantastic efforts and of course, to our fantastically generous supporter base, who once again exceeded all expectations! Our speculative decision to diversify in to the millinery business and produce OSC bucket hats, proved to be successful, as we add different colours to our range this coming season! The addition of , “ Toby’s Tombola, ” to post match activities, has contributed to our charity fund and provided much entertainment! Thanks also to Ospreys Rugby and local businesses, who have donated prizes.

Last season we continued to contribute to the Ospreys Online Match day Programme, with various features on our pages, focussing heavily on our wonderful supporters, teams from our feeder clubs and rising stars.  Our thanks to Ospreys Rugby, who have ensured that we have received visits from players throughout the season. I think I speak for all Ospreys supporters, when I say, that we remain grateful to the players for coming over; especially those who have arrived straight off the field!  It means a lot to us all. Our system of awarding OSCAs (Groggs) to the players awarded Player of the Month/ Season, has once again proved popular with players and supporters alike.

Congratulations to Morgan Morris on winning the Player of the Season award, for the 2022-2023 season.

I think that I have covered everything, if not please forgive my lack of memory.

In conclusion, I would like to thank everyone who makes the OSC a success! It is my firm belief that the OSC extends beyond the management committee and includes all who hold a current season ticket, the current requirement for membership. Any member wanting to help in any way, please speak to one of the committee.

From a personal perspective, I would like to say that I am honoured to have served as OSC Secretary, this past season and thank everyone for the support I have received.

Keith. J.Collins. OSC Sec.

 

CHAIR’S REPORT

I’d like to start by rewinding to 2020 when we started planning how to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Ospreys Supporters Club.  As well as planning events for our 10th anniversary, we set out some ground rules on how committee members should behave, we generated clear objectives for the OSC and a plan on how to achieve them.

From an ambitious 24-point action plan that’s now three years old, we’ve made significant progress and are a long way down the road to building on what we already did, so whilst the journey isn’t over, committee members should be proud of what we’ve achieve as a collective.

Our 3 objectives remain unchanged:

  1. To be the best supporters club around
  2. To have OSC committee members happy with what they do
  3. To have OSC members happy with what we do

We plan to continue doing what OSC members find valuable in terms of matchday experience both at home, semi-home and at away games (Saracens last season will be a lasting memory for anyone who travelled to North London last season) & we value feedback from all OSC members to help shape how we develop what we do in the future.

Working relationships with the Ospreys and Ospreys in the Community remain in good health and I’d like to thank former Ospreys brand director Paul Whapham for helping establish more robust lines of communication with the OSC over the past few seasons.  Despite it being a given that the OSC supports Ospreys Rugby, we don’t always see eye to eye and I appreciate that the Ospreys management value the voice of the OSC and do listen to our concerns when we raise them.

On another positive note, work continues as part of Joint Supporters Group Cymru and meetings with the WRU resumed after Ieuan Evans and with Nigel Walker took up the two senior leadership positions.  Meetings have continued following the appointment of Richard Collier-Keywood as chair & we aim to continue to provide a voice for supporters of the professional game with the governing body.

I’d like to thank the committee members for their hard work throughout the season and say thanks to Nigel Maggs, who stepped down during last season.

Thanks again to the committee members, to the Ospreys and most of all to our membership – here’s to the new season.

Grant Berni, OSC Chair

 

TREASURER’S REPORT – Year ending 30/06/23

We opened the 2022 /23 season with a carried forward balance of £2,214 and at the 30th of June
2023, we reported a closing balance of £5,307.

Within that, I would just like to take some time to highlight some figures of material significance:

We received £500 in sponsorship money from Sportsbreaks.com. We would like to note our thanks to Sportsbreaks.com for their support in recent seasons, enabling us to fund our Player of the Month and Player of the Season awards.

Badge and Tombola proceeds totalled £2,507 – thanks for this must go to the loyal supporter base and Riverside regulars for their ongoing support. As a result of their generosity, we have been able to donate more than £2,000 to Ospreys in the Community and their Sporting Memories Project. The donation has been made since the closing of the 22/23 season accounts and will be reported in next season’s figures.

In terms of expenditure, we spent £775 on Groggs / our Player of the Month and Season awards. As previously noted, the majority of this cost has been covered by the sponsorship received via Sportsbreaks.com.

Badge sales covered the initial outlay of £588 to purchase the badges, with any profit then added to our fundraising for OitC.

Following a successful trip to Saracens for our last 16 Champions Cup tie, we made a profit on bus sales of £1,446. It is never our intention to make money on such trips and even in a climate of ever increasing costs, we endeavour to make transport as affordable and accessible as possible. The money generated from this trip was as a result of unprecedented uptake and a significant effort to organise five supporter buses for the game. Some of the profit offset the £130 loss made on the Neath bus, enabling us to keep that service running.

We have expanded our supporter merchandise offering with the sale of OSC bucket hats. Sales covered the initial outlay on these, with any profits intended for investment in enhancing the supporter match day experience.

Other small items of expenditure incurred as a result of running our core activities, can be shared as part of the full end of year account. We have continued to be self-financing and again, have not required financial input from Ospreys Rugby.

We have continued to develop our online shop and the option for contactless payment has proven popular with supporters. The efforts of committee members to continually improve what we can offer and in the most convenient way possible, is hugely appreciated by myself
and others involved.

Louise Collins-Davies, OSC Treasurer

The Ospreys Supporters Cub’s Annual General Meeting will take place at 18:30, Monday 13th  November at the Swansea.com Stadium.

All OSC members (season ticket holders) are invited to attend and to stand for election to the committee should they wish to do so (providing conditions laid out in the constitution are met – see the link below). If you have the energy, commitment and the skills to contribute to the OSC, please email keith@ospreyssupportersclub.com to find out more or to submit an application to join the committee.

Applicants will need to meet the conditions laid out in the OSC constitution, (link below). 

Further details about the AGM and committee and can be found here in the OSC constitution

Meeting Minutes: JSG WRU Meeting

Date: 10th May 2023

Attendees:

  • Nigel Walker (WRU)
  • Ieuan Evans (WRU)
  • Malcolm Wall (WRU)
  • Barrie Jones (Crys16)
  • Keith Collins (OSC)
  • Grant Berni (OSC)
  • Lynn Glaister (CF10)
  • Simon Harrington (CBSC)
  • Dan Hallett (DOSC)

Agenda Item 1: PRA Deal and Payment Strategy

  • Nigel Walker provided an update on the PRA deal, stating that it is currently subject to banking consent. NatWest has granted the required permission, but the process with the Welsh Government is ongoing. Some advanced payments have been made to the regions to support them during this delay. The lending arrangements and due diligence have caused the process to take longer than anticipated. The completion is expected within the next couple of weeks, and the WRU is in daily contact with the Welsh government to meet their requirements.
  • Lynn Glaister raised a question about whether the WRU proceeded with the agreement without making the necessary arrangements with the Welsh Government. Nigel Walker assured that this was not the case.
  • Malcolm Wall emphasized the importance of the deal’s long-term planning opportunities and highlighted the need to develop academies, improve player pathways, and enhance commercial efforts to attract more funding for the game. The WRU and the regions are working together to create a plan to raise additional funds during the six-year framework.
  • Barrie Jones inquired about the expected completion date of the deal. Nigel Walker acknowledged the time sensitivity and stated that every month that passes the more difficult it has been for the regions but everything possible was being done to assist, the regions. The WRU is working closely with the Welsh Government to expedite the due diligence process and aims to complete it within the next couple of weeks.

Agenda Item 2: Professional Rugby Strategy

  • Lynn Glaister expressed concerns about the number of players being released from clubs. Nigel Walker explained that player releases at this time of the year are common, and the regions have retained the majority of their players. Cardiff is an exception, where some players have been released due to specific circumstances. Nigel Walker confirmed that a strategy day is planned next month, where the WRU and regions will collaborate to develop a comprehensive strategy for professional rugby in Wales.
  • Lynn Glaister emphasized the importance of having a comprehensive strategy that provides hope for the future of Welsh rugby. She also inquired about the duties of Mick Hogan, who has been brought in as a consultant to the PRB (Professional Rugby Board). Malcolm Wall clarified that Mick Hogan’s role is solely focused on improving the commercial performance of the regions.
  • Barrie Jones sought assurances that the WRU would not adopt the Scottish or Italian models of reducing the number of professional teams. Nigel Walker assured that the PRB has discussed and voted to stick with the four-region model, and there have been no changes in this regard.
  • Ieuan Evans highlighted the significance of improved commercial performances to sustain the four regions and stated that it’s the size of the cake, not the size of the slice, that matters.
  • Dan Hallett inquired about the progress on the independent ownership of the Dragons. Nigel Walker stated that the conclusion of the independent ownership is on track within the specified time limit, without disclosing the specific timeframe.

Agenda Item 3: Squad Sizes

  • Nigel Walker mentioned that squad sizes in the regions have traditionally been around 48-50 players. However, going forward, he anticipates squad sizes to be reduced to 40-42 players. This reduction presents a challenge but also an opportunity to give younger players a chance. He clarified that this does not mean having a team primarily composed of 18-20 year-olds. The intention is to review the inclusion of 21-23 year-old players who traditionally wouldn’t have had such opportunities. The adjustment has been made for financial reasons, and the squad sizes will be kept under review.
  • Lynn Glaister sought clarification regarding the squad size target of 40-42 players, citing information that Cardiff is likely to have only 39 players next season. Nigel Walker acknowledged the slight deviation but mentioned that initial discussions with the regions indicated a target of around 42 players. He acknowledged the challenge this presents but assured that it would be monitored closely.
  • Dan Hallett raised concerns about player safety in case of a run of injuries in specific positions, such as props. Nigel Walker emphasized that player safety is of utmost importance, and they would not field a player between 17-19 years old who is not capable of competing at that level. He mentioned the consideration of loan systems if a region is unable to field a complete team due to injuries.
  • Regarding the impact of call-ups to the national squad and Six Nations on squad sizes, Dan Hallett highlighted the possibility of some teams being significantly reduced, with Ospreys potentially losing a full team. Nigel Walker stated that the URC season starts later this year, allowing time for players to join their teams after national duties. He also mentioned ongoing discussions with Ospreys about the challenges they may face during certain stages of the season. The situation will be monitored closely.
  • Barrie Jones emphasized that the World Cup period will be challenging for all professional sides. Nigel Walker acknowledged the difficulty and affirmed the need to find solutions.
  • Keith Collins raised concerns about the potential for increased injuries if more players are away with the national team. Nigel Walker discussed a conversation with an Ospreys colleague, who mentioned that the team had a relatively good year in terms of injuries. However, if the attrition rate increases, it will pose a challenge. Player welfare and fixture fulfilment are paramount, and measures such as loan systems will be considered to ensure safe participation if a team cannot field a complete squad.
  • Keith Collins expressed his appreciation for the response and the consideration of player welfare.

Agenda Item 4: WRU Cost Savings

  • Lynn Glaister inquired about cost reductions within the WRU and whether all parties are sharing the burden. Nigel Walker confirmed that the WRU has been actively seeking cost-saving measures over the past three months. Initially, there was a significant gap between available funds and planned expenditure, but this gap has been closed through cost-cutting and savings across various areas.
  • Dan Hallett raised the topic of the finance director leaving, which leaves a vacancy at the top of the organization. Nigel Walker explained that the deputy finance director will assume the role temporarily, and the position will be advertised in the Autumn.
  • Lynn Glaister mentioned that fans would like more details about the cost savings made. Malcolm Wall clarified that the funding provided by the WRU to the professional clubs has not been reduced; rather, the focus has been on ensuring that clubs manage their spending within their income. He emphasized that investments in development have not been cut as they are vital for the long-term future. While there have been cost cuts within the WRU, Malcolm Wall expressed concerns about the perception that funding had been reduced

Agenda Item 5: WRU Enquiry

  • Barrie Jones requested an update on the WRU enquiry.
  • Nigel Walker informed the attendees that an independent review, chaired by Dame Rafferty, has been ongoing for approximately 10-11 weeks. Two reports have been received so far, and interviews have taken place with more scheduled in the coming weeks. The report is expected to be delivered within the next three to four months.
  • Lynn Glaister acknowledged the importance of independent reviews and expressed the need to move forward.
  • Nigel Walker stated that the organization is committed to implementing the review recommendations in full. He highlighted the progress made by the organization over the past 18 months, recognizing the continuous need for improvement. The report is eagerly awaited to understand the existing gaps and receive recommendations for further improvement. The organization strives to become more inclusive and enhance its contribution to Welsh rugby.
  • Ieuan Evans emphasized the importance of not being stagnant during the independent panel review and expressed the determination to continue evolving across the entire organization.
  • Lynn Glaister inquired about potential conflicts between the major reforms being implemented, such as executive changes and November elections, and the review recommendations.
  • Nigel Walker expressed confidence that the announced governance changes, including the introduction of independent non-executive directors and the goal of having at least five women on the board, align with best practices. The organization has designated Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) champions on the main board and executive board, established a whistle-blowing hotline, and formed an ED&I steering group. He assured that these initiatives will not contradict the review recommendations.
  • Ieuan Evans emphasized the need for continuous review, assessment, and measurement in governance, emphasizing that it is crucial for all organizations.
  • Lynn Glaister asked if the WRU would be involved in promoting wider diversity of governance within the regions.
  • Nigel Walker explained that discussions regarding diversity of governance have been taking place over the past few months. It is the responsibility of all organizations involved in Welsh rugby. During the district visits to discuss governance changes, several clubs requested assistance, and the WRU has committed to providing support. The organization aims to understand the current gap and learn from the ongoing review to share knowledge and work collaboratively with clubs and regions.

Agenda Item 6: Any Other Business (AOB)

  • Lynn Glaister informed the attendees that the URC has reached out to the Joint Supporters Group (JSG) to seek opinions regarding their PR and communications. A meeting has been scheduled with the URC in the near future.
  • Ieuan Evans expressed his satisfaction with the URC’s initiative.
  • Malcolm Wall confirmed the awareness of the URC’s request and stated that the received report will be incorporated into the strategy days mentioned by Nigel Walker. The organization is collecting input from various stakeholders, including themselves.
  • Barrie Jones asked if there was anything the organization would like to see from JSG.
  • Malcolm Wall expressed the need for increased support at games to drive progress and achieve bigger and better outcomes. He thanked everyone for their support and emphasized the importance of its continuation.
  • Barrie Jones provided an example of the successful marketing of the European Challenge Cup quarter-final by the Scarlets, resulting in a significant turnout of local attendees. He expressed the hope that these attendees would continue to engage with the organization.
  • Ieuan Evans emphasized the positive influence and impact of scenes and support like those witnessed at the quarter final. He highlighted the value of parochial support in fostering the game of rugby union.
  • Keith Collins mentioned the remarkable support of over 2000 Ospreys fans during an away game against Saracens. He shared the players’ awe at the overwhelming turnout. He also stressed the importance of shedding the perception that it is the Welsh Rugby Union versus the four regions, and instead promoting unity.
  • Nigel Walker emphasized that it is Welsh rugby as a whole that needs to succeed, not just the regions or Wales. He highlighted the interdependency between the success of the regions and the senior men’s team. Sustainable success requires successful regions.
  • Keith Collins expressed frustration over having to play URC games with a depleted squad and welcomed the Union’s willingness to collaborate rather than work against the regions.
  • Lynn Glaister shared positive feedback regarding the Women’s 6 Nations, noting that friends who attended the games and had not previously watched rugby were now considering attending pro games at the Arms Park due to the enjoyable atmosphere. She thanked Nigel for the improvement in the women’s game and highlighted the potential for traction in the women’s rugby market.
  • Nigel Walker acknowledged the efforts of Ioan Cunningham’s coaches, support staff, and players, highlighting their hard work and deserving rewards.
  • Lynn Glaister inquired about the timeline for appointing the new chief executive and chair.
  • Ieuan Evans confirmed that they are currently in the process of shortlisting candidates for the independent chair, and subsequent appointments will follow. It is anticipated that all positions will be filled before the end of the year, with the independent chair being the first appointment.
  • Lynn Glaister asked if the commitment to having either the Chair or Chief Exec be a woman still stands.
  • Nigel Walker affirmed the aspiration to have five women on the board and either the chair or chief executive position. However, the organization recognizes that the best candidates for the roles need to be selected, and achieving the aspiration might require multiple stages rather than a single step.
  • Ieuan Evans reassured attendees that they are pleased with the number and quality of candidates.
  • Barrie Jones concluded the meeting by expressing gratitude to all attendees. He noted that the minutes would be agreed upon by all parties before being issued to the members. The next meeting is scheduled for August 9th.

When & Where

Scarlets v Dragons will kick off JD at 15:00 before we take on Cardiff for a place in Europe’s elite Champions Cup at 17:15.

🔵 Cardiff Rugby

🏟️ Principality Stadium

📅 22 April 2023

🕔 K.O. 17:15

Getting there

There is a full train service running on matchday with journey times of around 55-65 minutes from Swansea.  Click here for the latest train times for Saturday morning

Meet up Point pre-match

We’ve reserved the 1st floor of the Head of Steam between 11:30 and 14:30 on matchday.  We’ve used the Head of Steam a few times recently and it makes a good base to order some lunch from their menu or just meet up for a few refreshments with your friends and fellow Ospreys supporters – children are welcome.

The Head of Steam is just a few minutes walk of the stadium on Church Street and If you’ve not been there before, click here for more information about the Head of Steam, Cardiff

 Tickets

If you have requested a free season member ticket it will be issued to your mobile number this week via the Principality App. Please see a guide to this process hereIf you have not received your ticket(s) by Thursday 20th April, please contact the ticket office on 01792 616400 (option 1.) 

We’re aware that tickets have begun appearing on peoples accounts from Monday 17th…please be patient whilst tickets are issued but make sure you call the ticket office if you’ve not heard anything by Thursday!

If you have yet to request a season member ticket, there are a small amount remaining. Please contact the ticket office on 01792 616400 (option 1.)

Information from the Ospreys

Click on this link for the latest JD news from the Ospreys

Post Match

Cardiff is a big city and has plenty to offer for all tastes.  We’ve not planned any for post match but there’s usually live music around the ramp area next to Cardiff RFC’s clubhouse that might be worth checking out before heading into town or heading home.

Joint Supporters Group Cymru & Welsh Rugby Union Meeting

Date: 15thFebruary

Time: 18:00-19:10

Location: Zoom Call

Agenda:

Professional game structure and funding

Present:

WRU: Ieuan Evans, Malcolm Wall, Nigel Walker

Ospreys Supporters Club: Grant Berni, Cathy Green

Crys 16: Barrie Jones, Ian Lewis

Dragons Official Supporters Club: Dan Hallett

Cardiff Rugby Supporters Club: Hugh Campbell, Simon Harrington

CF10: Lynn Glaister

Minutes

  • BJ opened proceedings and thanked IE, MW and NW for meeting with JSG.
  • It was agreed by both parties that minutes would be taken and agreed by all present before they would be shared with the membership of the various groups represented by JSG
  • IE asked about the history of the JSG/WRU meetings and BJ explained that following a meeting with Roger Lewis, there were a series of regular meetings with Martyn Phillips and then Steve Phillips but that stopped in August 2021 with no explanation from the then incumbent management team at the WRU.
  • GB stated that from a supporters’ point of view it appears that the regions were being run into the ground due to the lack of a financial agreement (whether purposefully or by accident) and asked what the plan was to put this right.
  • MW stated that the clubs are not being run into the ground and added that over the last five years, the WRU and the clubs have been at fault in paying more out more than they’ve had coming in (most notably squad costs). MW added that COVID exacerbated that situation because the revenues to the clubs fell very significantly.
  • MW stated that after joining the WRU board, he had the responsibility to look at the pro game and felt that Welsh rugby has moved slowly, most notably compared to in England, in reducing its cost base.
  • MW stated that the pro teams have been sadly lacking in their ability to generate commercial revenues & noted the importance of the loyal supporter base but added that the average gates from all four clubs has not increased over the last 10 years.
  • MW stated that there was a 6-year funding framework worth over £300 million to the clubs over the next six years. The funding is made up from a number of component parts. The first part is the PRA funding which comes from the profits made from the WRU through their activities.  There is around £90 million revenue generating about £35 million of profits. A proportion goes to the community game and the large proportion to the professional game. The WRU have continued to raise its profits and therefore made more money available for the community/professional game.
  • MW added that the WRU are releasing the majority of CVC investment into the pro game over the next four years & that they were in the process of arranging a debt facility for the clubs. The clubs are also required to increase revenues over the next six years.
  • MW stated that he believed that after negotiating and agreeing heads of terms, they are very close to the long form agreement that maximised the amount of money coming into the game, however squad costs must be lower.
  • MW added that players’ current contracts would be honoured, but players don’t like some of the terms that are being offered going forward. MW added that he has a great deal of sympathy for the players.
  • GB stated that JSG had previously been told by the WRU that CVC money could not be used within the pro game.
  • MW replied that this had previously been the case & that he had convinced the WRU to go back and to renegotiate the terms of the CVC money in order to get it released to the clubs.
  • LG asked when the funding agreement would be completed.
  • MW replied that the clubs should have a long form agreement by 17th February & that if they were to sign it straight away, the monies would flow.
  • IL asked how the WRU plan to address the relationship between the WRU and the pro teams which had previously been described by the pro teams as parent-child, but by the WRU as 5 equals.
  • NW stated it was appropriate for him to pick up the question as he had referred to the relationship as one of parent-child when he was on the Cardiff Board. NW added he has repeated that statement when he appointed as the PD of the Welsh Rugby Union & had discussed it with Steve Phillips at length before his appointment as PD.  NW stated that when he was appointed, he wanted to change the relationship between the WRU and its regions, noting it was difficult at times.  He added that material had been leaked by people who have not been at meetings saying they’re representing the region.
  • NW stated that it was a collaborative partnership and he had mainly been liaising with John Daniels (Scarlets), Dan Griffiths and Corin Palmer (Ospreys), Dai Young and Richard Holland (Cardiff), and James Chapron (Dragons). NW encouraged JSG to ask clubs how they view the relationship with him and that the relationship he has with the club representatives is what he would like to exist across the WRU and regions at all levels.
  • IE stated that he was part of the panel that appointed Nigel in the role of PD and that every relationship has peaks and troughs, and the scar tissue needs to be dealt with to develop and strengthen relationships in the future. IE added that to get alignment, clear communication. clarity and collaboration are needed.
  • IE stated that resource hadn’t been optimised in the past & the only way to keep hitting above our weight was by working together.
  • MW stated that NW had made huge difference on the playing side but that there was still a poor commercial relationship, which had been described by one club as toxic, partly because the way the financial funding was set on an annual basis. The annual model led to six months of negotiation with clubs looking at short term gain, taking away the focus on academies.  MW added that the purpose of the six-year framework was to give everyone a good idea of where they stand financially.  MW noted that they wanted to improve the commercial relationship in the same way NW had improved the playing relationship.
  • CG asked how the WRU proposed to improve the commercial relationship.
  • MW explained that it was two-fold. Firstly, the funding agreement where teams would have a clear view of revenue from the different include streams (PRA, CVC, URC and commercial activities) and secondly by getting the clubs to work better together & that they had brought in a consultant to work on improving commercial prospects collectively.
  • MW started that he hates the term ‘region’, and we should think of them as clubs going forward, adding a sense of community.
  • MW noted that more needs to be done on engagement via social media (noting that the clubs’ social media is not as good as their local football clubs), pricing for children and making more out of projects such as Judgement Day.
  • LG noted that major reasons that crowds are down were that our league takes away the ability of most people to be an away fan as well as being linked to poor kick-off time slots that stop younger children attending. She added that there is an understanding around television kick-off requirements but asked what the WRU can do with the clubs to help.
  • MW stated that each club gets around £2.5m from URC television money & that the teams will stay in the URC, He then added that he sympathised with the concerns of playing in a geographically disparate league & noted that there is working group looking at timings of games.
  • DH noted that previous talks about potential mergers between the Osprey and Scarlets had not gone down well & asked if there would be a commitment to continue with four teams.
  • MW stated that there was agreement that having four clubs was in the best interest of the individual professional clubs as well as the national interest in terms of feed for the national team. MW added that the financial offer and the contractual offers are all based upon four teams, including a smaller fraction of finance from the private owners of the teams. MW stated that if a private shareholder fails to provide funding, it will be impossible for the WRU to step in and provide that finance, leading to a requirement for structural change.
  • DH asked about timescales for transfer of ownership of the Dragons.
  • MW stated that the ongoing work for a consortium to take the Dragons into private ownership is directly linked to the funding model being agreed. MW noted that there is a 6 year business plan for the Dragons & this was to be reviewed by the consortium on 21st February.  MW was very optimistic on the transfer in terms of the consortium & also that the other clubs felt uneasy about asymmetric ownership, adding that either all clubs should be privately owned or all WRU owned.
  • BJ noted that the low likelihood of supporters transferring to another club gets missed and that Martyn Phillips seemed surprised at the reaction to the Scarlets and Ospreys merger debate.
  • MW noted that the point is not missed, and IE added that there is a value to the tribal element & that the value of loyalty is important.
  • MW noted that one of the reasons Wasps failed was having six different locations and expecting the supporter based to grow.
  • IL asked how the WRU were planning to ensure the financial survival of the clubs in the interim, given that no payments had been made to date
  • MW stated that two of the clubs have taken short term loans from the WRU to meet to meet their payroll in the last two months, so the WRU has done everything it can to keep these clubs alive until longer term funding is in place
  • IL asked if there will be a 12 months interim deal before we get to the six year deal?
  • MW confirmed that the 6-year deal includes this year, including an enhanced payment for the current financial year.
  • LG noted that the confidence of the players has been hit, especially with around 90 players out of contract at the end of this season & asked what the WRU will do to giver players confidence about wanting to stay in Wales & also asked if the 60-cap rule was remaining.
  • MW stated that the WRU had made a press release during our meeting that makes it clear that all existing contracts were being honoured and that the WRU are offering new terms and contracts. MW noted that the reasons for the concerns are that contract negotiations are three months later than usual and that some players will see a 20% reduction to their income.
  • MW made it clear that the offers are not in line with market values market but that there are some well-funded English and French rugby clubs, who will be able to afford to pay more leading to the loss of one or two more players. MW added that this is regrettable, but it is the price we pay to have four sustainable clubs.
  • MW stated that players will have to decide on either staying in Wales, giving up pro rugby, or leaving Wales in the knowledge that (depending on where we are on 60 caps) they might not play for their Wales again. MW added that players can earn up to £100k if they play in all internationals matches in a year & that under the new agreement, the average earnings of a professional player for Wales, not including international income is £100,000 a year.  MW noted we are not going to go through this unsettling period again once a 6-year framework is in place.
  • LG stated that if academy and young talented players have had their confidence knocked, this could have an impact on the game in three to four years.
  • MW noted that one of the funding conditions is that every club has to increase development and academy funding MW added that conversion rate from the community game must be 2%, which is far higher than in other sports.
  • HC asked if changes are planned to the strategy for the pro game development pathways and the community game and how they may dovetail together.
  • NW stated that John Alder (head of player development) has put together a framework for the academies. Each academy will have to apply for a licence & need to meet certain obligations.  NW added that he has worked with Geraint John (Community director) to make sure that there is a smooth transition from the community game from under 12 boys through to the under 18s in particular, to keep more boys in the sport for longer. NW added that the first thing he did was establish a women’s strategy group to ensure a pathway from under 12s through to national under 18s, under 20s and a development team below the now professional national team.
  • NW noted that it would take three or four years to see the benefits of the new frameworks and strategies.
  • IE added that it’s about future proofing in terms of skills and coaching to develop players in line with where the laws of the game are going in the future.
  • LG asked if proposals include the pro teams having women’s’ teams.
  • NW stated that discussion had started with regions but that it was Higher Education establishments winning tenders for development centres as they were willing to fund better facilities for the girls.
  • MW noted that having been associated with a club (Harlequins) that won the woman’s and men’s Premiership in the same year, the positives of having two successful teams within the organisation was immeasurable in terms of both the community and commercial sides of the club.
  • IE endorsed MW’s point on the women’s game & noted that the Lions have carried out a feasibility study of a women’s Lions team for the same reason.
  • BJ commended NW for the work he has done on the women’s game.
  • Before NW and IE left the meeting, it was agreed that a regular series of meetings between JSG and the WRU would be set up again.
  • JSG thanked IE and NW for their time
  • BJ asked it if the 6-year deal could make the pro teams competitive.
  • MW stated that he thinks money had been badly spent in the past and that other Northern Hemisphere clubs spending £7m and have achieved more in Europe than Cardiff have with the same budget. MW added that the elite players are receiving a premium, but the salaries of the player who may get 150 games plus for their clubs and maybe a few international caps are under the greatest pressure, as they’ve been overpaid compared to market value.
  • MW stated that the Irish models are being looked at and noted the success of Leinster’s pathways in terms of school scholarships. MW added that results will take some time & we will have to build commercially to reinvest in the squads.
  • LG asked what size squads will be in the future & noted how difficult it is during the international windows when players are not released back to their clubs.
  • MW stated that he expects squad sizes of 45 & that NW had been working on better relationships between pro teams and the Premiership to provide a backfill. MW added that a flexible loan system between clubs was part of the framework & gave the example that if one club had a back row problem, they can request the loan of a player from another club.
  • MW noted it’s not good for the players if one club is effectively warehousing players.
  • CG stated that that success brings crowds & that clubs will struggle to grow crowds watching teams losing against sides with bigger budgets.
  • MW challenged the premise that success drives crowd growth & added that he has used Nick Hogan (recently ran the RL World Cup) to review the topic. MW noted added that success allows the supporter base to be built more quickly but it is also possible to build the fanbase without success on the field through better marketing and better engagement. MW stated that a more youthful audience needs to be brought in through making rugby more of an event, selling the prospect discounting heavily to children and developing the links between community clubs and pro clubs.
  • CG stated that there needs to be a degree of empathy for the players who are facing 20% pay cuts & asked if they are being offered any financial advice or counselling
  • MW agreed that empathy for the players is important and stated that they are working with the WRPA and Gareth Lewis (WRPA chief executive) to provide welfare officers to give players better financial training.
  • MW stated that the consequence of not reducing players wages was a reduction to three clubs and making players redundant. MW added that 4 clubs, with some reduction in salaries, provides a better product for the long term.
  • CG asked how other European wages compared to the new contract offers.
  • MW stated that the budgets are in line with average European budgets but are significantly lower than wealthier clubs such as Lyon, Toulon and Leicester
  • IL asked if MW thought clubs would be voting for or against the governance changes.
  • MW stated he’s visited Glamorgan Wanderers & Crumlin & is due at Neath & so far responses have been very good. MW added that as a matter of principal he could not stay on the Board if the governance vote does not reach the 75% required for change, noting that he joined the WRU with promises of governance changes to address the lack of diversity.
  • MW stated that the Principality Building Society and other partners would also walk away if governance changes were not made, with devastating consequences.
  • DH asked if there is a specific strategy to engage with the community clubs on the governance changes.
  • MW explained that there is a full campaign planned to run until 26th March via roadshows, ads in the press, social media exposure & endorsements from key influencers. MW added that the last campaign was badly run and resulted in 66% of the vote.
  • MW reaffirmed that JSG and the WRU should meet regularly as the money spent by supporters on season tickets and supporting their clubs was vital.
  • BJ closed by thanking MW for his time.

 

I don’t know whether I’m trying to avoid apathy or suppress anger.  Well, actually I do – if it were apathy, I wouldn’t be writing this.

Welsh rugby seems to be using it’s last bullets to blow off whatever toes it hasn’t already dismembered.  At probably the most critical time that the sport has seen in Wales, there are individuals who seem to be doing their utmost to make things even worse (and maybe they do or don’t realise that they are part of the problem).  When you list what’s got us to this situation, its a truly shameful place that we’ve ended up in.

Parts of the press seem to delight in digging up any old click-bait headline, whether based on truths, half-truths, half-baked opinions, or just plain imagination.

Ex-players, now pundits in the public eye (and not just on social media) are making statements that are on the point of libellous, with statements along the lines of “in particular the Ospreys are struggling financially” – really?  REALLY?  With a relatively modest level of funding from the WRU under the existing model, the Ospreys have benefited greatly from the backing of the Y11 Group.  It genuinely looks like a model setup in terms of the imminent 6-year funding model in terms of developing private revenue streams.

One rugby administrator is suggesting taking a step back in terms of governance changes and an ex WRU CEO is suggesting shutting down the most successful Welsh club in the last 20 years.  Do either of these ideas suggest that Welsh rugby will be still sitting at the top table in 5 years?  I do wonder if we’ve already lost that right.  Without four competitive professional clubs, Team Wales will surely continue to crumble.  I’m pretty sure that wise investment in the teams will improve performances and results, bringing in new revenues and result in a self-fulfilling improvement cycle.  Surely shrinking the professional influence at board level, shrinking the player base, and shrinking funding of the professional game is just short sighted (and an echo of the thoughts of previous WRU management).

I do wonder how much of the garbage that seems to pop up on sometimes a daily basis is from people diverting attention away from the plight of their own former clubs or just to gain attention for themselves.  This is a time when point scoring at the expense of others could weaken the entire micro-climate of the game in Wales.

Clubs have been told they must find minimum levels of private revenue as part of the new 6-year funding agreement. This is hard at the best of times, but given the constant grumblings and rumours on the future of the clubs, the commercial teams must be pulling their hair out.  Potential deals might not make it over the line or potentially be devalued massively.  Is this the way to build for the future?  Is this the way to encourage new funding into the sport we love?  Hardly.

Supporters might get wound up by the Ospreys silence in dealing with the nonsense we’ve heard in the past few months with the latest around Ealing mergers, Y11 pulling out, Joe Hawkins going to Exeter, & an ex WRU CEO saying the Ospreys should be axed.  I understand the Ospreys’ position that if they start dealing with the garbage, due to the volume of it, the one comment they don’t respond to will be assumed to be true, however, people fill voids with whatever satisfies their own mind, for better (rarely) or for worse (regularly – as anyone who spends any time on twitter will know first hand).

We find PRB trying to force through a funding model that was the mandate of the WRU’s former CEO, and look at the carnage that this is causing.  There must be a transition from where we are now to a model with longer term horizons, but the transition from the here and now to next season looks like a train wreck – and who knows who’ll survive?

There must be an element of the staff and players at the club who are really struggling with the perceived pressure.  It’s hard enough for us as supporters to go through the mill hearing the latest rumours, but at least for us, our investment is JUST our heart and soul (and as much money as we can justify in following our teams around Europe and the URC), and for us, it’s not the way that we pay our mortgage, our bills and provide for our families.

I’ve seen the phrase “Read the room” used regularly on social media recently around Welsh rugby, so let’s try to help and not hinder.

Now is not the time to back track on proposed governance changes.  Now is not the time to shaft one professional team to benefit another.  Now is not the time to hide.

Now is the time for people to do what’s right and not what’s easy.  Now is the time for the right people to stand up and lead us forward. Now is the time for YOU to support YOUR team.

 

Grant Berni

Chair

Ospreys Supporters Club