There are some press conferences that are carried out in a spirit of levity.
This wasn’t one of them.
There were serious matters to discuss because a team are in the process of parting company with their coach.
At the outset, Ospreys chairman Robert Davies took a journalist to task over a report, while there was an exchange, albeit good-natured, between managing director Andrew Millward and the same reporter.
Then proceedings kicked off.
Coming in from the Pavilion End or thereabouts was Millward with a short statement on the status of Allen Clarke amid reports the man who’s been Ospreys head coach for the past 18 months had parted company with the region.
We then moved on to the questions.
All this, of course, came after a confusing week and a very awkward PRO14 launch event on Wednesday when young contact skills coach Richie Pugh and player James Hook had to face the media amid multiple reports Clarke had left and silence from the men in charge.
Here’s how it unfolded.
Q: Would you have dealt with all this any differently this week?
AM: It is fine with hindsight to look back but taking the situation as it happened we did what we thought was appropriate at the time and the advice was to say nothing about it because we did not want to compromise the situation.
The reaction was incredible on social media to the point where we needed to say a bit hence the reason why we are saying something today.
The difficulty we have today is there a legal issues and we don’t want to compromise the situation.
Q: Has Allen Clarke left the Ospreys?
Q: Is he in charge of first-team rugby?
RD: No. I have been involved in business for about 40 years and in rugby for almost all of that time.
I was at the front of this, this week. I was in Geneva and I have never seen anything like it. It became a matter of personal conduct.
When it is a matter of personal conduct, it is very difficult to comment because of legal consequences of what you do and say.
It’s a well-trodden legal path that you have to follow and you can’t go off piste.
That’s what happened at the start of this week, starting at 4:15pm this Monday. I have been around a long time and this is pretty unusual. It is impossible to say anything other than it is a matter of personal conduct.
You can read into that what you want. As of today Allen Clarke is still legally an employee but he is not in charge of rugby matters.
Q: Is the matter of personal conduct purely to do with Allen Clarke?
Q: Who is taking charge of the game on Saturday?
AM: Carl Hogg and Matt Sherratt are leading the rugby front this weekend, sharing responsibility with the rest of the team.
They are more than capable of picking up the reins, it’s something they do week in week out.
Q: Is there any prospect of Allen Clarke working as part of the coaching team again?
RD: There is no prospect as it currently stands.
Q: When will a new coach be appointed?
AM: We are under review with our rugby structures anyway.
Q: Were results part of the process (Ospreys have lost seven out of eight games this season).
RD: Of course results always have a bearing on the situation. They are bound to. I hate to use the cliché ‘it’s a results-based business’, but it’s unfortunate that the results were a consequence more probably because of an absence of players, the terrible injuries that we’ve suffered.
So it’s not just the results, it’s everything associated with it. So I can’t say it’s just results.
The results are a constituent part of it — of course they are because that’s what we are here for, to play rugby football and to win games. So inevitably it’s part of it.
Q: Is there a sense of regret that such a young, inexperienced coach (Richie Pugh) and a player (James Hook) had to deal with these questions on Wednesday?
AM: I’m glad you asked that because that event has been in the calendar for a long time and it was a Pro14 event. I heard the (BBC Scrum V) podcast yesterday and I’ve got to say, the way it’s been set up I was little bit disappointed.
That event was a Pro14 event specifically for a coach and a player and the responsibilities in that were to supply a coach and a player, not a management and for that to be hijacked in the way that it was by you guys (the media) because you wanted a piece of information, I find that a bit disappointing.
Q: So what should we have asked then?
AM: The questions that were there at the time – the Pro14, the purpose of the meeting. It wasn’t an Ospreys meeting . It was Pro14.
Q: It was very difficult to converse with the situation before we came when there’s no clarity around the head coach. Now we know the situation, it’s easier.
RD: Well that’s why we’ve put ourselves in front of you to help clarify matters.
Q: We appreciate that, but at the same time it was difficult. It was an impossible conversation to have with somebody when there’s an elephant in the room.
AM: The purpose of the Pro14 meeting was to talk about Pro14 and rugby so we were obliged to supply a coach and a player, not management, so it was unavoidable other than you (the media) could have chosen not to ask them kind of questions to the people you had in front of you and you didn’t.”
RD: Or you could have asked for us to be there.
Will the new head coach or director of rugby be a Welshman?
It will be a person not defined by his nationality.
Needless to say, lots of people have already put their names forward.
Q: Can you appoint anyone until the Allen Clarke situation is resolved?
RD: Yes, we could.
Q: Do you expect the Allen Clarke discussions to go on for a long time?
Once lawyers are involved, who knows?
Q: Long-term the fans will be wondering what’s going to be happening?
AM: It’s been difficult as everybody knows in the last two years, and there’s no point going over old ground on where we’ve been, other than to say we’ve been in the situation where budgets have been cut, which plays a significant part in where we are and with our season and compounds things with the World Cup and injuries as well.
But moving forward we are actually moving to a far better place with the PRB and the union. The future is bright and it’s about making sure we are geared up for the future.
RD: As you all know the PRB Professional Rugby Board, for Wales has been in place for a relatively short period of time.
I’ve been involved for seven months and last week was probably one of the biggest steps forward that board has taken in that we agreed the new distribution model, which guarantees funding for a period of years.
Since the game went professional in 1995 it’s probably the most exciting development I can remember. It is fundamental to the future of the game in Wales.
It is an agreement that gives all of us a fair chance to build a business model, but in particular in answer to the question about a coach, it is a pre-requisite now that as part of our business model we have a certain amount of funding for coaching.
Q: You have 21 players out of contract, I think. Will this affect recruitment and retention?
RD: Of course. What it means is all the regions can get on with recruitment. We’ll be now be starting — have already started — in earnest to recruit all those that we want to build for the future. It’s so exciting now because you’ve got the CVC investment coming in hopefully by the end of December.
That is a large sum of money, which will underpin what is the distribution model. It’s £35m, which for Welsh rugby is a phenomenal amount — in anybody’s terms it’s a phenomenal amount.
The PRB has the ability to distribute that as wisely as it can. We are trying to be fair and equitable to everybody.
Q: How tough a period has this been?
RD: It’s been tough but I’ve been in a tougher place and we’ll come out of it pretty well. We were already coming out of it pretty well.
Losing a coach is a mere blip and is not going to stop the progress we are making. With the help of the PRB and others we are making very good progress towards achieving our ambition to be a highly competitive region when the British & Irish League commences.
All the TV deals are due to expire in two years’ time, in the 2022 season.
CVC, who already have an interest in the English league, are attempting to secure the rights to the Six Nations. That discussion is well advanced.
Those negotiations are proceeding quite well. The timescale for that is probably the middle to the end of the autumn internationals next year.
That will enable a different outlook towards planning towards planning a season in a better, more structured way so that then you can fit in your league and Six Nations in a more orderly fashion.
That is the opportunity and that’s what makes it exciting.
It is as certain as once you get these hedge-funds involved and there’s lots of money on the table, something is going to happen.
It will be nothing to do with me but I’ll vote for it.
Q: How did the budget cut on the Ospreys come about?
RD: The budget being cut was forced upon us quite simply. Our budget was cut by £900,000 whereas everybody else went up.
If you suddenly lost 20 per cent of your salary you’ll find difficulty in managing. Despite that we still finished better than every other region and we still managed to virtually to break even in a financial sense.
Everybody on and off the pitch did a fantastic job in difficult circumstances. There have been repercussions about that decision.
We weren’t party to it and there will be other repercussions going forward. There was self-interest.
The fourth international, and in this case it’s not even an international, has always been a source of frustration. Unfortunately it is the economics of the TV companies that pay the wages.
That fourth international produces a substantial sum of money that goes into the PRB which enables us to pay the players and to enable us to invest in the future of coaching and everything else that we require to do under the new distribution model.
On one hand I am furious I haven’t got the players but I’m very happy that we’ve got the money. Where do I go?
I’d like it all of course. I’d like the penny, the bun, I’d like the van and the driver. I’d love the whole bloody lot but I can’t have it.
Q: What do you mean by self-interest?
RD: Self-interest, people looking after themselves.
Q: Do you mean other regions?
Q: Are you disappointed?
RD: Me? I’m terribly disappointed.
I’ve been involved in rugby a long time and I’ve never seen anything like it.
Q: Is it the case that there’s a potential 2+2 model funding?
RD: That’s gone by the board. It went by the board after fiasco of last April.
Q: Can you confirm the Ospreys will be up there with the top-funded regions?
Absolutely. All this talk of one-plus-three and two-plus-two is a load of nonsense.
Let me make it clear. It was always a virtual impossibility.
We were asked (about it) and looking back and given our history we always think we’d like to help the future of Welsh rugby. I think we like to help too much sometimes and we did partake of the PRB discussions looking at ways to save money.
Some people think that more is less or less is more and better and all the rest of it. It doesn’t work.
In sport a little bit more money goes nowhere. It can buy you the shoe lace of a centre forward and I’ve experienced it here at the Swans.
You have to build from the bottom up. An extra half a million is nothing.
It gets you nothing. You have to build a proper business.
And some fools thought that a little bit more money in certain places will help them secure a better place in the future. It blew up in their faces pretty quickly and now I’m happy to say there’s a more sensible approach.
A more fair approach and people have realised the folly of their ways. The 2+2 (model) you may as well go back to school and learn that 2+2 = 4.”
Q: You have a very strong squad of Wales international players, but has the balance been quite right in managing those players?
RD: Our problem has been that we’ve tried to play all-Welsh squads.
Instead of doing like some others have done and concentrating on recruiting a team that plays while the internationals are away, we concentrated on Welsh players.
That may have been a mistake.
I don’t think so because I think it’s the right thing for Welsh rugby, but it may not be the right thing for the region.
This content was originally published here.