Support our Nation today - please donate here
Sport

Meet the man tasked with helping the Ospreys soar again

17 Feb 2024 10 minute read
Lance Bradley

Simon Thomas

Lance Bradley is a man on a mission to usher in a successful new era for the Ospreys both on and off the field.

The former Gloucester boss has only been in position as chief executive of the Welsh region for some six weeks.

But he has already made his mark, immediately announcing plans to move the team to a new home and going out of his way to engage with fans, both in person and on social media.

Since 2005, home for the Ospreys has been the Swansea.com Stadium – formerly the Liberty Stadium – which they share with Swansea City football club.

That’s where they will take on Ulster in the BKT URC this Sunday.

New ground

But with a capacity of 21,000, the feeling is it’s just too big for them, so now the search is on for a new ground.

Just where it will be sited remains to be seen. One option would be redeveloping an existing club venue, such as Bridgend’s Brewery Field – where they hosted Cardiff Rugby in a New Year’s Day sell-out – Swansea’s St Helens or Neath’s Gnoll.

Then there would be the alternative route of a purpose-built stadium on a brand new site.

“I am completely open-minded about it,” says Bradley.

“Of course, we will take fans’ thoughts into account.

“At the moment, everybody from Swansea thinks it should be in Swansea, everybody from Neath thinks it should be in Neath and everybody in Bridgend thinks it should be in Bridgend.

“But, hopefully, we can get a bit more of a consensus than that.

“We want to talk to potential local business partners from across the area to see what they think.

“Then there’s other more practical things. It’s unlikely we will be able to run the club just on match-day income, so we need to have a facility that allows for non-match day income and that can mean conferencing, maybe some retail on the site.

“Then we need to see which option the sums add up in best.

“There is no deadline, but I expect it will be some time in March that we will be able to say.”

Capacity

In terms of size, Bradley reveals: “Initially, we are probably going to look for a capacity of about 6,000 because what I would like to do is sell out quite often.

“What we are planning is for the stadium to be constructed in a way where we can add to it.

“In terms of whether that will be all-seated or a mix of seating and standing, we are asking fans what they want.

“If we can end up with a stadium that’s got a great atmosphere and good facilities around it, probably including our training base, it makes it quite an attractive place to go.

“One of the issues we have here at the moment is nobody buys a ticket in advance because you know you can buy it on the door.

“If on the day of the game it’s raining, you might think ‘I will watch it on TV’. If you have already bought a ticket, you don’t do that, you put your coat on.

“So, if we’ve got a stadium that sells out, that increases the demand.

“When we beat Cardiff in front of a full house at the Brewery Field on New Year’s Day, the atmosphere was amazing and it made people want to go back again.

“I know our players enjoyed it and I would imagine the opposition players didn’t enjoy it very much because the crowd is right on top of you and it’s noisy – and you may recall it was a little bit wet!”

Turbulent

Bradley has come into a region that has been through a turbulent time, amid talk of mergers with the Scarlets, Cardiff and Ealing over the last few years.

So one of his immediate priorities has been to emphasise there is a definite standalone future for the team.

“It was really important for me to do that, not just for fans, but people who work here too because of what they have been through.

“I completely understand it’s been a really challenging time to be an Ospreys employee, fan or business partner. I get all that.

“That’s one of the reasons that in my first week I went out with the message that we are looking for a new stadium in this area because nothing says we are staying like putting in a new stadium.

“It was important for people in the club and the area to see that, to show we are committed.

“We are not going to be merging with anybody. We are here and we are staying in this area.”

As for on the field, Bradley is delighted by what he has seen so far and is full of praise for head coach Toby Booth.

The Ospreys have won eight of their 13 matches in all competitions this season to sit in the top half of the URC and secure a home Challenge Cup last 16 tie against Sale.

Remarkable

“I think Toby is doing a remarkable job with the resources and the injuries we have. It’s fantastic,” he said.

“We have won 86 per cent of our home games and 62 per cent of all matches.

“The team spirit is obviously good. The guys work hard for each other and the youngsters buy into that spirit and togetherness.”

Osprey’s coach Toby Booth. Photo www.inpho.ie

This is his first involvement in the URC, so what is he making of the competition?

“I genuinely think it’s a cracking league,” he says.

“To have clubs from so many different countries playing, you’ve kind of effectively got international rugby every game.

“I think it’s exciting to have Irish, Scottish, Italian, South African teams here.

“I know there are some Welsh fans that don’t share that view. I am not sure it’s the same issue in other countries. They are much more enthusiastic about the league.

“So we’ve got a bit of work to do here to make sure we demonstrate what a good competition it is.

“We are actually doing pretty well in it. We are still challenging for a play-off place and we are in the knock-out stages of the cup as well.

“So there are some pretty exciting things happening and we need to get that message across. We need to encourage local people to come and support the team.”

With that in mind, he has gone out of his way to engage with the public.

“It’s a huge part of my job because the club isn’t sustainable on crowds of 3,000,” he said.

“So it’s absolutely essential we get much better engagement with fans, local businesses and local clubs.

“I’ve had a presence on social media that’s deliberately been a bit attention-grabbing because I want to get people talking about us and I think it’s worked.

“We’ve had quite a bit of positive press coverage, while I’ve had previous sponsors asking for a chat and a lot of engagement from fans.

“But it’s actions that will really engage people, when they actually start to see things change.

“We have got plans to make sure it is an event you come to, not just a rugby game. It’s got to be an experience.”

Trophies

The Ospreys have won the URC – in its various guises – four times, a tally only bettered by Leinster, but their last triumph was back in 2012.

So does Bradley feel they can one day lift the trophy again?

“Yeah, of course, because otherwise there is no point in doing it,” he replies

“You have to aim towards that. We are not here to make up the numbers.

“I am not promising overnight success, but absolutely we have to believe we can win it. That’s what we are here for.”

Bradley hails from Plymouth in Devon, but gained an early insight into Welsh rugby.

“My stepfather Gordon was Welsh, from Tonypandy, and he was a rugby person.

“You can’t be in a house with a Welsh rugby person and not watch it and be enthused by it.

“Then when I was older and living in London, we used to go to quite a lot of games when Wales were playing at Wembley during the period when the Millennium Stadium was being built. So I had that kind of influence.”

After studying mechanical engineering at Salford University, he went to work in sales and marketing for Ford Motor Company, moving up through the industry to become managing director at Mitsubishi Motors.

Gloucester

Then came the move into rugby and five years at Gloucester, where he was chief executive up until last summer.

Now he’s at the helm of the Ospreys.

Given the challenges facing professional rugby, one wonders whether he had any doubts about returning to the sport?

“No, not at all, because the challenges are not actually that difficult,” he declares.

“Gloucester were losing a lot of money when I went there, but I had a good team and we managed to turn it around so we made a profit. That’s quite rare in the Premiership.

“Nobody wants to hear that rugby is a business. Yes, the most important thing is what happens on the pitch, that’s why we are all here, but you have to have the business to support it and you have to run that like a business.

“That’s what I did at Gloucester and that’s what I’m going to do here.

“You asked if I was put off coming back into rugby? Well, far from it, because this is really exciting here.

“Some people have said I am mad to take the job, but there are definitely reasons for optimism in Welsh rugby.

“I met with the new WRU chief executive Abi Tierney not long after I started and was hugely impressed with her and her outlook and what she plans to do.

“There was a clear understanding that we all need to work together to make Welsh rugby great again. That was hugely encouraging.”

As for his ambitions for the Ospreys, he says: “The long-term goal is to be successful on the pitch, to be challenging competitively and playing great rugby in front of full houses. That’s what I am here for.”

And is he enjoying the job so far?

“It’s really fantastic and very exciting,” he says.

“There is an air of positivity here and I am loving it.”


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dienw
Dienw
2 months ago

He’s doing a good job and the comms and connection with the Ospreys fans and the team’s on field performances led by Booth have been excellent. So well done.
For a Scarlets supporter and in sharp contrast, this is very depressing. We’re a complete shambles.

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
2 months ago

A failed region, like the rest of them. Scrap them all, a failed 20 year experiment!

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.