Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

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darkside lightside
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Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by darkside lightside » Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:16 am

I’ve spent the last year and a half working on a number of debt restructurings – vast majority good well-managed companies whose markets died on their ar$e at the end of ’08/start of ’09, and who had to fight for survival.

But there’s one case where the company hit the downturn unprepared, having stagnated for the 3 years since their buy-out, no leadership internally, poor oversight from their shareholders. Last year when their markets flat-lined they were suddenly forced into a flurry of activity, sacking their CEO, running around trying to implement the strategy, the exact same strategy they had set when the deal was done, which they had just never got around to doing. Now that we are in restructuring, we are seeing a little bit more behind the curtain, the management and the finance function have been hair-raisingly bad – and this is a big company carrying a brand name that most people on here would be familiar with…

The combination of complacency, arrogance and inefficiency have been reminding me very much of Ulster Rugby, just on a bigger scale. The idea that the insiders know best, and can sort things out among friends.

Following rugby having turned pro, everyone has been scrabbling around for a model of how to run clubs – still a work in progress, and sports clubs in general are a tricky enough business to manage well and make money. But come clubs in Europe have had a good stab at it, primarily in France and England, but also Leinster and Munster closer to home.

By now, after a decade, they have fairly smoothly upgraded facilities, professionalised the commercial side of the clubs, and developed settled coaching regimes, with good succession planning. On the field they have developed settled squads augmented by astute NIQ signings. A series of modest, but forward, steps, resulting in a virtuous upwards cycle.

It seems quaint that even as recently as a couple of years ago we were worrying on these forums about how Munster & Leinster ‘might’ pull away from us…

Ulster has stagnated, management characterised by indecision, incoherence and incompetence. Governance opaque. Executive appointments of questionable quality. Scant evidence of commercial instincts. Haphazard and small-scale approach to facility development. We have lurched from one dysfunctional coaching set-up to the next, usually in crisis mode, and with a strong whiff of jobs-for-the-boys. Result – a lack of stability and continuity, which has resulted in on-field under-performance, and important players exiting, resulting in more crisis-mode patching up of squad with NIQ players (as opposed to the considered, strategic signings made by M & L).

We have now:
* a small, crumbling stadium with no prospects of anything better even in the mid-term;
* coaches about whom the best you can say is that the jury is still out, who have increasingly appeared incapable of arresting the team’s slide in form
* a small and threadbare squad, bereft of leadership and struggling to keep pace even in the mid-table reaches of the Magner’s League.

Sometimes you get what’s coming to you.

Maybe what we need is to finish plumb bottom, and if the IRFU (who I assume is UR’s shareholder) have already flexed their muscles to oust MR, maybe they need to step in definitively with a complete regime change (with or without the current CEO) – because the amateurish, insider, half-assed set-up that we have has never delivered, and is definitely not working now.
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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by for dog and ulcer » Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:23 am

Excellent post- that is what it looks like perfectly encapsulated.

Wait for the "Ulster are Brill" response!!!!

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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by mikerob » Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:43 am

I've never actually tried this in real life :wink: , but there is an analogy that if you throw a frog in hot water, it will hop out but if it is put it in cold water and the temperature increased gradually, it isn't smart enough to realise that it is getting into danger until... boiled frog.

Its a bit like UR. I don't think they ever realised how far they were slipping behind the rest in all facets of the game. DS/DL is right that if you go back a few years on fan websites, there was concern that Ulster wouldn't be able to keep up with the likes of Leinster, Munster and the Os. Now there seems to be acceptance that this is just normal - ach sure, what do you expect? So now it is a concern that we can't keep up with the mid-table ML teams... how long before people treat this as normal?

The really depressing thing is that none of this was inevitable.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by Ardglass2 » Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:54 am

Spot on.


The fear is that at he end of 2011 the best of what we have will leave and we will be years away for getting back to the top table. If a shake up doesn't occur soon we will be in the bottom tier of the Magners alonside the Italians, Connaught and Scarlets i.e. beind even the Scots and Dragons. A depressing prospect

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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by UlsterManiac » Wed Apr 14, 2010 12:23 pm

[quote="darkside lightside"] We have lurched from one dysfunctional coaching set-up to the next, usually in crisis mode, and with a strong whiff of jobs-for-the-boys. quote]


Excellent post, I'm in full agreement. and there's more than a 'whiff' of jobs for the boys- it's fact. The online shop that never has any goods in stock is run by SS Moores.....the owner of SS Moores is a personal Friend of Mike Reid...
Last edited by UlsterManiac on Wed Apr 14, 2010 4:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by AndyB » Wed Apr 14, 2010 12:28 pm

Would agree with most of what was posted previously. Ulstermaniac wants to be be careful what he posts though. Accusations of corruption need evidence otherwise they could be libellous.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by AndyB » Wed Apr 14, 2010 1:23 pm

Red Hand Hero wrote:Could be worse you could start talking about Mike Reid's friendship with Raker McL....now that would be embarassing :wink:
Least said about Raker the better.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by darkside lightside » Wed Apr 14, 2010 5:01 pm

A couple more points (as if my earlier wasn't long enough :) )

* I'm not having a pop as much at the players, poor though many of them have been in the last while. They are victims of this abject situation as much as any of us - look at Rory Best's face after the Os last try, pain was etched all over it (and in fairness if all our players had his bottle we wouldn't be in the situation we are in). I know what it's like to work for an unstable employer - ain't a bundle of laughs. The chopping and changing of coaches, and what sounds like horrendous man-management (Boss, Jim, EOD) probably add up to a rubbish environment - BOD nearly left Leinster because of the Ella/Kidney-era messing around.

* For all that I'm saying the IRFU should take its responsibilities as shareholder seriously, and act to prevent a bad situation getting worse - in some ways it's already too late. The time for decisive action was probably when McCall left - it was already plain then that all wasn't well. Even if we hire Bill Gates, and Spiderman, as trouble-shooters we will still be playing catch-up with the tier 1 clubs for some time to come...

* The situation can still be turned around - it will just be much harder, and take longer, than if the nettle had been grasped years ago.
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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by for dog and ulcer » Wed Apr 14, 2010 5:18 pm

darkside lightside wrote:. Even if we hire Bill Gates, and Spiderman, as trouble-shooters we will still be playing catch-up with the tier 1 clubs for some time to come...
Which one is scrumhalf and which is outhalf?

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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by Bart S » Wed Apr 14, 2010 7:16 pm

Good posts D/S L/S. As you say, the key time for change was probably when McCall left. We had got ourselves into a position where for whatever reason the team was incapable of winning, was suffering divisions within and we had a number of key first team players (Bowe, Best, Wilson, Harrison) already leaving. A major rebuilding job was required and this was a situation that Ulster rugby should have done everything to ensure would not happen again.

My real fear is that we could end up in a similar situation next season. If things don't go our way, how long until BMcL is shown the door and how many players will already have made their way to the exit door by then. Wonder how Ferris feels about a future where the likes of Kevin McLoughlin and Denis Leamy are getting the chance to show DK what they can do in big H Cup quarters and semis against top teams, whilst he's trying to stem the tide against the likes of Connacht and the Dragons (no offence meant to either of those teams by the way - I would expect them to be using Ulster these days for their own similar analogies!)

Is there no-one within our coaching set up these days from outwith the province? Do we really have such a monopoly on good quality coaching and backroom staff?

Not sure if they exist, but could some 3rd party be brought in to do a top to bottom review of Ulster rugby to get to the bottom of where things have gone wrong over the past few seasons and make recommendations about how to fix them? Should include discussions with former players, coaches, CEO, people performing similar roles at "successful" clubs etc

May cost a bit, but otherwise I have a real fear that we are going to have to put up with some old stuff year after year.

Finally, we seem to have an Academy capable of producing young talent, yet why has Ferris been the only player from the province to hold down a consistent place in the Ireland team for about the last 7 years?

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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by the original kimble » Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:06 pm

I'll disagree on one point.

We have the money (cash up front - no loans) and the plans for three more new stands. Just need to clear planning for the Aquinas end. Watch the press for details. Should all be in place within 24 months, capacity 15,000, complete with all facilities.

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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by scrum5 » Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:16 pm

Good news at last Kimble :salut:
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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by for dog and ulcer » Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:19 pm

the original kimble wrote:I'll disagree on one point.

We have the money (cash up front - no loans) and the plans for three more new stands. Just need to clear planning for the Aquinas end. Watch the press for details. Should all be in place within 24 months, capacity 15,000, complete with all facilities.

tok
Perhaps it would have been constructive if you will excuse the pun and would be in future - - to let the public know such things!!!

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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by Article » Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:21 pm

scrum5 wrote:Good news at last Kimble :salut:
Ulster are Brill :wink:

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Re: Ulster Rugby - driven into the ground

Post by Kofi Annan » Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:27 pm

I'll disagree on one point.

We have the money (cash up front - no loans) and the plans for three more new stands. Just need to clear planning for the Aquinas end. Watch the press for details. Should all be in place within 24 months, capacity 15,000, complete with all facilities.
WELL i hope that they recruit the right man to oversee the development of these new stands.Someone with experience in a similar project with rugby knowledge and knows the workings of UR so there is good communication channels. I can not think of anyone recently unemployed that meets this criteria :roll:
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