The Ospreys today unveiled their latest weapon in their bid to stay ahead of the pack in regional rugby in Wales
The current Celtic League champions announced they have appointed one of Welsh rugby's most highly respected figures to realise the club's ambition to be the most professional regional side in Wales.
Former Wales skipper, Paul Thorburn, has been appointed as Strategic Development Manager at the club. Based at the club's £27million Liberty Stadium in Swansea, Thorburn's role will be to build upon the Ospreys' universally applauded marketing campaigns and to take the club to a new level of commercial awareness and operational professionalism off the pitch.
Former Neath full-back Thorburn won 37 caps for Wales between 1985 and 1991, captaining his country 10 times and scoring a then-record 304 points. He will forever be remembered for the monster penalty he landed from the incredible distance of 70 yards, 8 inches against Scotland at Cardiff Arms Park in 1986. It still stands as the longest goal-kick in the history of the game and it's always been seen as a record that's likely to remain unsurpassed.
But his performance off the pitch has been equally as impressive. Since retiring from international rugby in 1991, he has carved a successful career in the commercial rugby world. He was tournament director for the 1999 World Cup when Wales hosted the event and he most recently worked as special projects manager for the WRU where he helped secure four Rugby World Cup matches at the Millennium Stadium as part of the 2007 tournament, with an estimated income in excess of £10million for the game in Wales. His team was also responsible for securing the first-ever sponsorship for the Autumn series, for getting Principality Building Society as sponsor of the Premier league and in securing supermarket giant Asda to sponsor the whole of the national league structure.
Joining the Ospreys is somewhat of a homecoming for the 43 year-old as the majority of his rugby was career spent in the Ospreys region, firstly at Swansea University and then at Neath RFC where he captained the side between 1987 and 1992.
Commenting on his appointment, he said: “The Ospreys are widely regarded as the only club in Wales to have fully embraced the true concept of regional rugby. I am, therefore, delighted to be involved with such a forward-thinking team and look forward to realising the opportunities that regional rugby presents. The challenge is to help make an even greater impact for the Ospreys brand and will involve enhancing commercial and merchandising activity, targeting the business community, initiating community programmes and engaging all the feeder clubs within the region to make them feel a part of our success.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me to bring my experience gained at governing body level to the regional structure. My aim is to introduce a range of innovative new ideas to develop our relationship with our sponsors even further, particularly in grass roots rugby in the region as this is ultimately vital to the success of not only the Ospreys but to Welsh rugby as a whole. My experience has shown me that the relationship between the regions, their feeder clubs and the union is vital for the future of the game in Wales and this will be very much an underlying theme of my work at the Ospreys.”
Ospreys joint managing director, Roger Blyth, said: “We're delighted to have Paul on board. Since day one we have constantly striven to have professionalism in all that we do and Paul's appointment demonstrates that we are now taking that mantle to the next level. In Paul, we have one of the best commercial rugby minds in Wales and this is hugely significant in allowing us in building upon our success both on and off the pitch. I have no doubt that his experience and expertise will help us to achieve our goal of firmly establishing the Ospreys as one of the leading sides in European rugby.”
As well as lifting the Celtic Cup last season, the Ospreys are also widely renowned for enjoying success off the pitch. They already boast the highest crowd attendance in the history of regional rugby after attracting an 18,000 strong crowd to their clash with the Wasps at the beginning of this season. The club also boasts the biggest sponsorship deal in Welsh regional rugby with npower renewables, the UK's leading green energy developer and operator.