Supporters update from Jon Daniels

Rob LloydNews

Ahead of a busy summer preparing for a new season of rugby with exciting talent and experience arriving, Jon Daniels, Scarlets Managing Director, issues an update on the latest from Parc y Scarlets.

How have your first two months been in the new role as Scarlets MD?

JD: “It’s been good and every bit the challenge I expected when I accepted the role, and good to get back to some of the things I have done in the past. I’ve spent time with the whole team including the rugby section, while we are in the process of putting the new structure together, to understand roles and challenges. So it’s been enjoyable with plenty of hard work ahead this summer before the new season starts.”

What have been your key priorities?

JD: “We needed to pick up the results on the field and finish strongly which was a number one priority and we went some way to achieving that. It’s a tough place to be when you see how hard the players work and we’re not getting the results that deserves. It’s been important to see the style of play we want to impose on the pitch so our supporters can see what has been done this year now stands us in good stead for next season.

“The other key focus has been engaging with the new team and pulling everyone together and delivering on some big events, like our last home game when we gave a send off to the legends of the club who have been with us a long time. Having our fans on the pitch afterwards was brilliant.”

Are Scarlets turning a corner?

JD: “For a couple of games we were seeing it for 40/50 minutes but then we’d switch off and by the time we regained our composure the game was gone – but I think we saw a difference in the final games, we controlled the games against Zebre and Dragons and I felt we were in control of our destiny.

“It’s been great to see players like Eddie James and Tomi Lewis having an excellent finish to the season and to see the Scarlets boys called into the Welsh camp. These are stories that we will see and hear more of going into next season.”

What’s the latest on recruitment and retention?

JD: “We have announced some quality players are joining next season; Marnus van der Merwe, Alec Hepburn and Henry Thomas give us a strong front row to go along with Wales internationals Kemsley Mathias, Harri O’Connor, Sam Wainwright and Ryan Elias. We’ve also signed Max Douglas and of course the retention of Sam Lousi is a big one for us. There are still more to come with some key retention announcements in our next generation leadership group to come in the next few weeks – so we are very excited about this group.”

What’s the latest on the new Performance Director?

JD: “It’s been a very thorough process, we’ve held three rounds of interviews, shortlisting as we go. We have one final shortlisted group for interview with a senior player involvement and then we’ll be ready to make a decision. It’s taken time because we wanted to make sure we find the right person – we have people left in the process who have been there in winning environments, that are proven culture leaders in winning environments so they can support Dwayne and the player leadership group, so we’re very excited.”

How are the next generation of Scarlets developing?

JD: “Our U18s have had a great season and 10 of that group are contracted to us next year. Some are still U18s next year, which is exciting so as an U18s we hope to see an equal measure of development and success in that group. Those coming out of U18s will be going into the new Super Rygbi Cymru competition with our partners Carmarthen Quins and Llandovery RFC.

“Our Academy team will work closely with the clubs through coaching, strength and conditioning and nutrition to make sure they come through and are ready as soon as possible, similar to players like Macs Page who was Wales U20s and then Llandovery and finishing the season with his Scarlets debut.”

How challenging is it to operate within the current rugby landscape?

JD: “There continue to be big challenges in our game across the globe – we’re seeing reports in Australia and similar examples in England and we are no different in Wales. We have major headwinds to deal with.

“Everyone is working hard to overcome those challenges, but the reality is, we, like everyone else, will have to look at every cost line and every revenue line and still may have to make more tough decisions on costs.

“Our number one priority and duty as a leadership team at this club is to ensure our continued existence, that’s always been the case. We have been around for 152 years and everyone here is working hard to ensure we are here for another 152.”

What’s the latest on Season Memberships?

JD: “We had strong hopes on the season memberships and we are tracking as expected, which is positive for us. The feedback we’ve had is that the price freeze and direct debit option are appreciated in these difficult times. In terms of timescales, the end of June is the end of early bird prices, so we are expecting more sales building to the end of this month.

“Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be announcing some exclusive season membership benefits, with partner discounts in some recognisable local attractions and food and beverage offerings for season member holders plus more exclusive season member events in the shop in partnership with Castore.”

What happens at Parc y Scarlets this summer?

“The stadium never really sleeps. We have a wonderful facility but the key is it is working 365 days not just when we have games. We’ve had women’s football internationals, school proms, parties, testimonial diners and sports days. That diversity of activity makes it really exciting as a business and allows us to maximise on a number of fronts. Rugby will be back in early July, with pre-season in the first few weeks when all the fitness is done and then rugby will be phased in.

“We have three pre-season fixtures secured, which are to be announced, one on August 31 and then two the following weekends (one away at Leicester) before we get to our first URC game away to Benetton. Our first home game of the season is a Welsh derby against Cardiff on Saturday, September 28 (kick off 5.15pm) which will be exciting.”

How vital is the work of the Scarlets Community Foundation?

JD: “The work that has been done by a small team led by Paul Fisher has been excellent, they have been really active and the Foundation is going from strength-to-strength delivering rugby inclusion events for social benefit which have engaged with more than 20,000 young people this season.

“The team are engaging with around 1,000 young people in primary schools every month which is staggering and on top of that there’s Fit Fed Fun camps as well as disability, deaf and wheelchair rugby community events. We have just agreed a partnership to fund two more hub officers and we will be announcing details on that very soon.

“This is part of our responsibility to our community and has great benefits; we see how important the community is to us and also how important we are to the community. You only have to be in the Supporters Village on a match day and see how many people and groups are part of our activities there to appreciate how vital this work is to our club.”

What does it mean to be a Scarlet next season?

JD: “We need to be tight as a group. Both those working inside Scarlets and all our stakeholders, partners and supporters. I appreciate that to have real cohesion with our stakeholders and supporters we must engage more, and ultimately we have to show that grit and determination to improve and the determination to succeed in everything we do.

“Every moment, every day. That must be our attitude. That then will be a representation of what it is to be a Scarlet that we can all be proud of. If we can take that forward into this next chapter in the same way every Scarlet before us has done for over 150 years, then who knows what the outcome will be? We can look each other in the eyes and be proud that we have represented the club in the way it should be.

“It will be my hope we all – player, staff, coach, fan, sponsor, partner – go forward together and hopefully have a little fun along the way.”