Presenting the end of year accounts, Chairman, Rob Davies, commented:
“I am very pleased to present my first Chairman’s report following my appointment as Chairman at the start of March 2019. The Ospreys are a great community based rugby club with a very impressive history and an exciting future. We are here to stay and we are ambitious to succeed!
Going forward, everything that the board and management does will be geared towards ensuring that the Ospreys continue to be competitive and prosper as an elite professional rugby region.
2017/18 was a transitional season for the Ospreys. It was a season when we didn’t manage to qualify for the Guinness PRO14 play offs and despite some excellent performances in the European Rugby Champions Cup we fell just short of qualifying for the latter stages of the competition from a very tough group. In January 2018 we decided to change the head coach and agreed that Steve Tandy would move on to new challenges, after six years in his role. We will always be grateful to Steve for his considerable contribution and we wish him every success as he develops his career.
Allen Clarke, our forwards coach, was subsequently appointed as interim head coach. With Allen later confirmed as head coach on a permanent basis and buoyed by the high profile recruitment of proven international quality such as George North and Scott Williams, on field performance during the past season has, despite some distractions and ups and downs, been greatly improved. Indeed when our international players have been available to us we have won 11 out of 13 matches in the PRO14 – competitive with anyone! We are delighted that we have recently qualified for the Champions Cup for the 2019/20 season as Wales’ only representatives, and to have added, amongst others, Gareth Anscombe to our squad for next season.
There is no disguising the fact that accounts for 2017/18 tell a now familiar story, one that has been told across all four regions over the last few years; significant annual trading losses in order to try and maintain a competitive squad. Continuing to operate on this basis would clearly be unsustainable for the Ospreys or any other region in Wales. In the case of the Ospreys, our 2017/18 trading position was further exacerbated by a number of one offs including costs associated with changing the head coach.
It has been clear for some time that a change of outlook and core funding was needed across Welsh professional rugby as a whole which is why, all four Regions and the Welsh Rugby Union have come together to look to the future organisation and management of the professional game in Wales. This has led to what became known as “Project Reset’ and resulted in the formal creation of the new Professional Rugby Board (“PRB”) to oversee the game earlier this year.
I would like to thank the board of WRU for having the vision and determination to put in place these necessary and radical changes in the governance models for the professional game and indeed for the community game. The establishment of PRB represents a major positive move forward.
As Chairman of the Ospreys working with the other Regional Chairmen, Martyn Phillips, and WRU representatives, together with the other independent directors appointed to PRB, I look forward to ensuring that we maximise this new opportunity for all of Welsh Professional Rugby in what is becoming an increasingly competitive, ever changing and exciting rugby world.
As a result of the commitment to these radical and positive changes to governance in Wales, the benefactors, shareholders and directors of Ospreys Rugby agreed to a necessary financial restructuring of the business and the introduction of additional funds.
It was needed to enable the creation of a more sustainable model for the rugby business, securing a long-term future for Ospreys Rugby as a standalone rugby organisation. Despite going through a difficult period, the introduction of new capital directly into Ospreys Rugby together with the write off of certain historic debt enabled us to report a pre-tax profit for the year of £1.85m. There is no doubt that going forward we will continue to face challenges on and off the field, however we can look to the future with real optimism.
The recent introduction of new directors and advisors to our board has brought with it a fresh impetus, adding new skills and experience to allow us to really get to grips with the challenges we face. There is an air of excitement and real momentum across our organisation that has been galvanised by the recent challenges. We will continue to enhance and develop the board and the management team over the coming years ensuring we are fresh, fit for purpose, enabling us to be at the forefront of the professional game. The importance of the Ospreys, to rugby in this region, to the Welsh game, and to the wider British and Irish professional rugby is clear for all to see.
Finally I would like to acknowledge and thank everyone at the Ospreys, both on and off the field, for all of the effort and hard work that has gone in week in and week out in recent times. This effort, quality and resilience has allowed us to navigate our way through challenging times and to emerge stronger for it.
As ever we remain enormously grateful to our supporters, sponsors and benefactors for their continued support and contribution.
I look forward to the future.”
Image: Huw Evans Agency