Boring bit first, the bit about me. In many ways, probably most ways, I’m your typical Scarlets fan. Season ticket since I was about 10, watched us beat a touring team, win leagues and cup finals and, despite those moments, sat in the stands with head in hands at the final whistle of those semi finals, continue to travel around Europe with varying degrees of hope and expectation that we’ll win a European Cup, that hope remains.
Career wise I had a go at journalism out of college, but it wasn’t for me so don’t get your hopes up for this piece. I’m not exactly a people person so journalism wasn’t the smartest career path to go down, saying that though you can probably imagine how much I enjoyed the opportunities to report on rugby and interview and meet some great characters like Grav, Scott Quinnell and Martyn Madden, but I struggled somewhat to muster much enthusiasm for council meetings and court hearings (think more pick n mix thefts from Woolworths than the Hatton Garden heist).
Also not being able to watch a game as a supporter is something I struggled with, on a few occasions I’d watch the game in the terraces instead of the press box, and even now I think I’d struggle to work on matchday, I’d miss the normal match day routines too much.
Since then I’ve worked in various roles in the financial industry including audit, training, supply management and currently lead a team of business analysts. I hung up my rugby boots a fair few years ago but then put them back on to do some coaching in junior rugby.
Moving swiftly onto topic I’ve been a member of the Crys 16 board for just over 8 years and have been attending Scarlets board meetings as the supporters representative for 18 months.
Since Crys 16 took its first steps over a decade ago in a flat in Cardiff (don’t worry, the owner of the flat was a Scarlets fan) one of the Trust’s goals was to have supporters representation on the Scarlets board to ensure that fans have a voice in the boardroom on the matters that affect us and the club. In 2018, we achieved that goal and being selected to represent Crys 16 on the board was a genuine honour.
Quick disclaimer prior to talking about the Crys 16 role and my thoughts on the Scarlets board; there’s a lot of praise for the Scarlets board coming up, and I’ll make no apologies for it.
The relationship that the trust has developed with the Scarlets is testament to everyone that has been involved with Crys 16 since its inception including the Crys 16 board members, our members and the many other people that have helped us along the way. Also it wouldn’t have been possible without the club’s appreciation that the supporters are key to the success of the Scarlets. Whoever has been at the helm at the Scarlets over the years, from Huw Evans and Stuart Gallacher to Nigel Short and Mark Davies to Simon Muderack and Phil Morgan/Jon Daniels, the connection with the supporters has remained a priority.
Because of the nature of Crys 16’s role, we’ve had our share of disagreements and differences of opinion with the Scarlets along the way, and that’s natural and healthy as long as everyone continues to approach things with positive intent and for the good of the club. The fact that the levels of trust and communication between Crys 16 and the Scarlets have continued to grow demonstrates that a challenging relationship is a healthy one, well at least in these circumstances!
Before saying any more, we should give a special thank you to Nigel Short. During his time as Chairman, Nigel has been a great supporter of Crys 16 and ensured we were able to achieve that goal of having representation on the board. Rugby in Wales offers as many challenges off the field as on it and despite being ever present in battling for the club, Nigel has always had time for the Trust and supporters, he’s been a massive asset to the club, and no doubt will continue to be.
The thing that really struck me about the rest of the board is we’ve got a host of people that aren’t just experts in their own fields, their holistic knowledge is also excellent allowing them to challenge each other and the management teams in great detail on all topics.
Most people are pretty good at what they do for a living, it’s why we do the jobs we do, but it seems like most of the people sitting around the table (or desk, sofa or beachfront in the new world of Zoom calls) could be excellent at whatever they wanted to do. Sometimes it’s pretty difficult to tell which one of the board is a lawyer, which one founded and chairs one of the largest independent TV production and distribution companies in the UK, which one was a partner in Deliotte UK and which one likes a bit of whiskey and farming!
It was also really pleasing to learn how many of them are involved in rugby at the community level, they’re very much rugby people and like the rest of us, out and out Scarlets fans, but with an added obligation to both the success and solvency of the club.
I could go on with their CV’s being equally impressive, I know because I made sure I knew as much about them as possible before joining the board. There’s nothing worse than the new kid who hasn’t made the effort to know plenty about everyone, but I’ll save their blushes, I’m sure most of you have checked out their LinkedIn profiles anyway!
I won’t lie… Learning about the board members did make my legs wobble a bit walking into the Phil Bennett lounge for the first time. Realising I was heading into a room of people that have achieved so much who I’d have to challenge and raise issues with on behalf of supporters was as terrifying as it was exciting.
Turned out that I shouldn’t have worried about the reception I’d get. Our new Executive Chair Simon Muderack recently commented how taken back he was by the welcome he received, and I’d wholeheartedly echo those sentiments.
Being a supporters representative and largely unknown to the majority of the board, you’d have forgiven them for being a bit cautious, but I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome. Not only did they show full trust in me straight away, they actively sought supporters’ opinions. It was very clear straight away that they wanted to get as much from us as we could get from them.
The board meetings themselves are held monthly (with ad-hoc ones when required) and last around 3 to 4 hours. The meeting packs are extensive covering both rugby and the business. The rugby section can cover anything from updates on the global game to analysis on Scarlets training and matches to updates from the academy and Dewar Shield competitions. The business topics are equally varied from stadium events to new pitches to new beverage suppliers, as well as the more standard items such as the accounts. It’s essentially a monthly update on everything happening at the club and everything happening that impacts the club.
Everyone has an input, and there’s no wrong opinions (apart from some of my views on match analysis and kit preferences) and if I had to sum up the general feel to the meetings in a few words I’d go with collaborative, ambitious and resolute. We’re in safe and determined hands but can’t settle for where we are at, and there’s no sign we are with the appointment of Simon reflecting that.
Saying all this, there are challenges and differences of opinion varying from minor to major, but they’re all discussed openly and even when you don’t agree with a decision, the debate has ensured you can understand why a decision has been made.
I spend plenty of time discussing all things Scarlet with the rest of the Crys 16 board including all the feedback we receive from members, as well as keeping an eye on views on social media, forums and general pub talk to try and get a good gauge on supporters’ feelings and issues and generally supporters’ views are fairly aligned so putting them on the table is usually pretty easy and gets plenty of support.
I’ve oddly enjoyed putting a view across that I may not agree with because arguing the consensus view, or a mixture of views from supporters that may not match my own is what I’m there to do and looking at both sides of a debate is a great habit to get into. Ultimately my role is to represent supporters and not myself, and it’s been a privilege to do so.
Naturally as in most businesses a lot of what is discussed in board meetings must remain confidential so I can’t go into specifics but as a Trust, we’re looking to increase our outputs to members from our regular catch up meetings with the Scarlets management teams which often cover similar topics such as the match day experience, website and social media offerings, season tickets and merchandise.
We’ll also continue with our meet the players, coaches and management meetings where members can pose questions directly to them. We’re very fortunate to have such open and honest people involved who give us fantastic insights, like the evening with Simon Muderack and Sean Fitzpatrick we held recently.
I’ll continue to represent you as best I can at the board meetings until the baton is passed to the next person. I just hope they appreciate the buffets as much as I do.