Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Against the backdrop of what would be the Ospreys’ worst ever season and the Covid-19 pandemic, there was some light at the end of an awfully long and very dark tunnel when news broke on May 13th, 2020. The Ospreys had new owners and had been taken over in a what was stated to be a “multi-million-pound deal” and these new owners had a local connection in James Davies-Yandle.
Mr Davies-Yandle is the son of a former Swansea RFC centre, and has established a sports and media marketing company in the far East of Hong Kong. This company, Y11, had acquired a 75.1% stake in Ospreys Rugby with the assertion that all of the financial benefits of the transaction would be ploughed back into Ospreys Rugby. A brand-new holding company – Ospreys International Group – was set up for this role. There would be some continuity with Ospreys Rugby Chairman, Rob Davies, remaining in his role with Davies-Yandle and his partner Donald Tang joining the Board as directors.
The quotes from Rob Davies were incredibly positive saying things like,
“Since the advent of regional rugby, the Ospreys have always aimed to be pioneers. We have not been afraid to push the envelope and do things differently. This announcement is the Ospreys doing the same thing again!”
“For some time, we have been planning a radical gear shift and the last 12 months of hard work and strategic planning has resulted in this new partnership with Y11”
“We wanted to secure the success of the past, whilst fully embracing the future and that is what we are now doing together. We are thrilled at the potential opportunities. We are confident that our stakeholders and partners will be as excited….as we are. Now we look forward to planning for the Ospreys’ future!”
Mr Davies-Yandle said, of the takeover,
“Rugby’s potential has been overlooked for far too long……but the environment is changing, and rugby is one the verge of evolving as have other sports before it.”
“The Ospreys…...have gone on to be one of the most exciting brands and teams in rugby……. its potential to fully emerge and take the next step is far beyond its peers”
“We want to……...be a part of that journey by investing in a root and branch transformation of the Ospreys…...alongside Ospreys’ management we have agreed a programme of development and investment.”
“Initially we will take our time to methodically build operational strength……and it is an exciting time for the Ospreys – its teams and its supporters!”
However, there were some initial roadblocks to overcome, least of which was the Covid-19 pandemic that forced the postponement of all sport in the UK and forced the Regions and the WRU, through the PRB, into hasty budgetary reviews since there would be no income from matches for the foreseeable future. All of the professional players in Wales are apparently in the process of negotiating a pay cut of up to 25% with some players readily agreeing but others still holding out. The WRU is seeking a loan to help cover the cost of effectively mothballing large elements of the game in Wales.
The Pro 14 season has just resumed with the teams playing local derbies to minimise travel and infection risks. The Ospreys faced the Dragons at the Liberty and started well until the 16th minute when North saw red for a rather reckless airborne challenge. The Ospreys took and held the lead until the 79th minute when the Dragons finally managed to score the game tying try. Fortunately for the Ospreys, the conversion sailed wide and the game finished 20-20.
In their second derby and ultimately final game of a simply dreadful season, the Ospreys faced the Cardiff Blues at Rodney Parade. The Ospreys had the best of it for the opening five minutes but once the Cardiff Blues took the lead they were never going to be caught. A try in the final few seconds for the Ospreys was nothing more than a consolation and made the score slightly more respectable, 29-20 to the Blues.
The Ospreys have signed some new players – local boys like Protheroe, Thomas and Davies and the elder statesman Myler but there are still massive holes in a terribly unbalanced squad that really does struggle when the Team Wales & internationals are away. The front row is reasonably well stacked, but the second row needs another quality lock to cover for certain absence of Alun Wyn Jones and the possible absence of Adam Beard on international duty. The backrow lacks dynamic, explosive ball carrying athletes, so the Ospreys game plan is limited to one up runners. A new backrow would be very much welcomed or two players who can cover the multiple roles. Scrumhalf is a position where we appear reasonable well stocked
With the unfortunate Anscombe likely to be out for the season and Price out long term as well, the Ospreys really do need a playmaker at 10 who makes the team tick. The signing of Scott Williams has not worked out at all and young Thomas-Wheeler, to date, flatters to deceive so we could do with another centre to partner Owen Watkin when he is available and Kieran Williams when he is not. We seem well stocked in the wings position and we are fortunate that the versatile Protheroe can cover almost all of the back line. The ever dependant Dan Evans though is our only real fullback.
So, there we are. New owners, awful season and a global pandemic that has looks as if may have changed our lives for ever. However, let us not forget that the new owners concluded the deal to purchase the Ospreys in May in full knowledge of the effects Covid-19 was likely to have.
These are the questions facing the Ospreys at this moment…
1) Can the Ospreys and the WRU complete the apparent pay reduction negotiations without player losses as seen in the Gallagher English Premiership with Leicester Tigers?
2) What has happened to the multi millions that were to be ploughed back into the Ospreys?
3) Will they be needed to repay any Covid-19 loans used to keep the business afloat or will it be used to enable the Ospreys to go out and sign the players they so desperately need to cover the holes in the squad when the internationals are away and may be away for up to four months this coming season?
4) Can the new owners make available sufficient sums of money to allow Toby Booth to go out and sign the quality the Ospreys need to fill the obvious gaps in the Squad? Given that many other countries and teams are hurting financially, there is probably better value for money in the player market than there has been for some time, for the shrewd and smart recruiters.
Only time will tell.