Following intense speculation on Friday about Project Reset and its impact on the future of Ospreys Rugby, Andrew Millward, Managing Director, delivered an update on the latest developments.
Here’s everything that Millward had to say in a briefing held shortly after Friday’s Liberty Stadium clash with Munster drew to a close.
What is the latest?
As you know there was a meeting this afternoon and what I want to say is that in a nutshell we are delighted with the outcome. In its basic terms, there is no change. That’s it. There has been lots of speculation in the press all the way along this process and every avenue has been explored. We are delighted with the final outcome. The problem we’ve had has been any comment we could have made would have just fuelled the argument.
The Ospreys will continue but what sort of model? Will you be funded as you are now in the future?
With the funding model you have to remember that the business plan from PRB has to go to the WRU board on Monday and needs to be passed. As far as I’m aware from Friday’s meeting, the business plans moving forwards are the same as this year. There is no change.
We’ve been in a position this year where we’ve had to make some cuts dating back to last summer and the start of Project Reset. We needed to make some cuts in our squad spend and we’ve achieved that. We’ve achieved our targets. As regions we all had business plans as well as financial targets for rugby and the business. We’ve achieved all our targets. Unfortunately there is not the money around to get more, but as far as I’m aware and it will be signed off on Monday, our budget will be the same next year as it is this year.
Now you have certainty?
Exactly. It’s the same for us as it has been for everyone. It has been difficult and PRB’s function is to look at all the options that have been available for Welsh rugby moving forwards professionally. They’ve done that.
Was merging the Ospreys with the Blues on the table?
Everything was discussed. Every permutation was discussed and worked out. We are where we are and we’re happy with the outcome.
Sean Holley said there was a very real threat the Ospreys would cease to exist. Is that correct?
No. It would be interesting to see where Sean got his information from and why he’d want to say that. I’m really not sure why he would want to because that in itself could cause an issue.
Can Ospreys now sort out recruitment?
We’ve already done that. We have had to ride a few horses at the same time and work with various possible scenarios, but we have worked in advance in terms of our budget for next year by assuming it was going to be frozen. We never worked off a plan of a budgetary decrease. That would have been difficult for us.
All the work behind the scenes in terms of planning and retention and recruitment has been done. It’s now about executing that.
What is that budget?
It’s not that straightforward because the way Project Reset works is around the funding gap. How much you have to spend on your squad depends on how much you spend in other areas of the business. If you start with your squad, then you can then divvy up the rest. I’d rather not go into an overall figure.
How tough has this been?
It’s about managing people, not just the players. I had a chat with the squad before the Munster game because it had escalated to a point where things were becoming unmanageable.
You can’t tell people things when you don’t know yourself and that’s been the position. It’s people’s livelihoods and that’s been really difficult. We’ve tried to manage it all the way through staff meetings, meetings with the senior leadership group, and letting players know. One of the values we have at the Ospreys is honesty. You have to be careful about how honest you are, but keeping people informed and being fair to them is important to me.
It has been very tough. I’d like to think we have managed it fairly well. I’ve never spoken to the players before a game, but I told them pre-Munster we’d had the meeting and I was happy with the outcome.
What was the player’s reaction?
Overall, if you look at our performance against Munster on the back of what has been the worst week I can remember in the Region’s history, you can see their reaction has been good. I played amateur and professional rugby, but I can’t remember a time where it has been as tough as it has been recently.
They were in the position where they knew in three or four months they might not have a job. For the boys to galvanise themselves and produce a will to play for the jersey was fantastic. The players who were out there were the ones that were most at risk.
How do you sum it all up?
How long have we been in this position in Welsh rugby? Are we ever really going to get on the front foot and stop all the bickering and political crap which goes on behind the scenes? We need to be united and move forward. That’s the frustration for me as a rugby man.
What has been going on in the last year?
It’s been a reality check of where we are compared to where we thought we were in terms of the money available. I don’t mean this as a derogatory comment, but expectation in Welsh rugby far outweighs the situation in Wales as a country.
People expect our teams to be up there competing with everybody at every level. The frustration and difficulty is we can’t compete commercially because Wales as a country can’t operate at the highest level. We haven’t got the business or the GDP. We just can’t do it. Nobody wants to be mediocre. You are only in sport if you are competitive and want to win, but sometimes you stretch yourself too far in terms of your budget and that leads to difficulties.
We are constantly trying to push and pull to better ourselves in one area but to the detriment of something else. That might be true in all professional sport. Swansea City might have a couple of extra noughts on the end of their budget compared to us, but they’ve still got the same problems to a degree.
What is the overriding emotion?
You used the word certainty earlier. I’d use the word clarity. Once you know what you’ve got, you work with it. I’m task orientated and now I know where we’re going and the road map to get there is what now needs to be put in place. It’s not relief and we’re thinking ‘Thank God for that’. We’re thinking ‘What’s next?’ ‘How do we make sure we can be as good as we can be?’