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Ospreys chairman resigns over WRU's 'catastrophic mismanagement' as Owens voices deep concern

Ken Owens described Welsh rugby’s proposed restructure as ‘the most challenging situation that arguably any player has faced’ during their careers.

Ospreys are set to merge with their western-Wales rivals Scarlets in the near future.
Ospreys are set to merge with their western-Wales rivals Scarlets in the near future.
Image: Alex Davidson/INPHO

OSPREYS CHAIRMAN MIKE James has this afternoon resigned from his position with the Welsh club, citing the Welsh Rugby Union’s “catastrophic mismanagement” of their bid to overhaul the sport on home soil.

Reports emerged on Monday that Welsh rugby was set to undergo its most radical refurbishment since 2003 with the country’s two most successful professional sides – the Pro14′s Ospreys and Scarlets – being due to merge, perhaps even as soon as the start of next season.

Ospreys benefactor James announced at today’s Welsh Professional Rugby Board (PRB) meeting in Cardiff that he has stepped away from his role with the Swansea-based club. James was addressing the management group in charge of ‘Project Reset’, or as he now describes it, ‘Project Inept’.

Speaking after his resignation, James said:

“None of us doubt that regional rugby requires restructuring in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the game. The way in which this has been handled, however, is nothing short of chaotic, resulting in a fatal combination of uncertainty, conjecture and insecurity now hanging over regional rugby’s future.

To methodically, rationally and impartially map out the future of regional rugby is one thing. To fatally wound it with an ill-judged, cavalier process is another. We now have the worst of all worlds: a lack of clarity, a lack of transparency and a total inability to plan ahead. We can no longer make sound rugby or business decisions and nor can our players or commercial partners. Project Reset has become Project Inept.

“I cannot and will not be a party to this level of catastrophic mismanagement and today I’ve make the decision to stand down as both chairman and a director of the Ospreys, surrendering my position on the PRB.”

Olly Cracknell leaves the field dejected Ospreys have been plagued by off-field uncertainty, and have lost three games to the Irish provinces in as many weeks. Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

James will be succeeded as chairman by Rob Davies, who has also invested millions into the Pro14 club.

A statement released by the Ospreys indicates that Davies “will start his new role by overseeing a legal and financial forensic review of the WRU’s actions in administrating Project Reset.”

The statement from the west Wales club continues: “Amongst the concerns to be investigated is the independence of the WRU’s role given its conflict of interests, the lack of appropriate transparency and adequate governance in the Project Reset process, as well as inducements by officers of the WRU for the regional side to commit further private funds to the game whilst acting against its interests.”

Reiterating the need for regional restructure, Mike James concluded this afternoon: “The only responsible way forward is to now accelerate the plans for a holistic and meaningful restructuring of the game — not delay them or force asymmetric outcomes to emerge.

“Certainty has to be restored to the game and quickly. The restructuring process itself has to be revisited, with appropriate checks and balances, independent oversight and transparency.

“We already have so many disadvantages in keeping pace with the professional game, we don’t need more.”

Ken Owens arrives Welsh Rugby Players Association chairman Ken Owens. Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

Speaking today in his role as Welsh Rugby Players Association chairman, Scarlets and Wales hooker Ken Owens called for all involved to put first the concerns and welfare needs of players and those employed by the existing regional sides.

“I am deeply concerned about the situation that the players across the four regions face,” Owens said.

“I recognise that this is the most challenging situation that I, or arguably any player, has faced during our rugby careers.

“I appeal to all stakeholders to have the concerns and welfare needs of all those that stand to be affected by the proposed changes at the forefront of their minds.

It’s also clear players need to be represented on the PRB because they can and must be part of the solution. Without them there is no Welsh rugby.

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Scarlets and Ospreys set to merge in major Welsh rugby overhaul

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