James Davies-Yandle: Ospreys co-owner looks forward to emulate past success

By Gareth GriffithsBBC Sport Wales
James Davies-Yandle played hockey for Wales at the 2002 Commonwealth Games
James Davies-Yandle played hockey for Wales at the 2002 Commonwealth Games

Ospreys co-owner James Davies-Yandle says he is embarking on a long-term 10-year project and believes the region can return to their title-winning past.

Ospreys were taken over in May 2020 by Asian-based Y11 Sports & Media company with Davies-Yandle and business partner Donald Tang joining as new directors.

The company became an Ospreys' major shareholder of 75.1 per cent describing it as a "multi-million pound deal".

They have taken over a struggling region who previously were the standard bearers of Welsh domestic professional rugby, dominating the Wales squad and winning four league titles.

"Ospreys need to be the best version of themselves on and off the pitch and if we can perform at our top level I firmly believe silverware can return," said Davies-Yandle.

"Bringing back the times of when we were winning the silverware is one of the main goals.

"We have started to make changes with Toby Booth and Brock James coming into the coaching team.

"Mike Ruddock is overseeing crucial player pathway and development and we are hopeful on unearthing the next generation on the pitch.

"We're on the start line and have started on the right track."

Davies-Yandle is now based in Thailand but was born in the Ospreys region - in Pontarddulais - and admits his background played a part in the deal.

"I'm from and passionate about the area, I love the Ospreys brand and my dad played for Swansea," he said.

"I feel at home here. It was an easy fit for me, I am Welsh through and through.

"We looked at some other opportunities within rugby but this was the best one by far.

"The investment is 70/30 per cent in terms of business and passion, that's a good balance.

"The ones that lose all their money are those that proceed with a pure passion buy.

"There's a saying in America that if you're a billionaire and you want to be a millionaire, buy a sports franchise."

There might be questions why new investors would be interested in Welsh regional rugby given the financial uncertainty, especially in the Covid-19 world.

The four regions have been given a £20m loan divided up between them to help survive the next season.

Ospreys won their last league title in 2012
Ospreys won their last league title in 2012

"We were aware of the current market conditions, but we invested during Covid, not before, and wanted to show our long-term intent," he said.

"Finances are always going to be difficult through this global pandemic but we have been able to structure a model where we see a way through.

"Our vision is to be self-sustaining and enable Ospreys to become more global.

"We have a lot of interests in different markets and can diversify outside the traditional rugby related revenues."

Davies-Yandle outlined Tang's role in the project.

"Donald's background is in private equity," he said.

"He has his own private investment fund and portfolio of investments ranging from manufacturing of Adidas Ultra boots to private schools in China.

"We have worked together for more than three years. He is very engaged but shy with regards to being in the front office. He will be heavily involved behind the scenes."

Davies-Yandle insists the pair are in it for the long haul.

"Is this a two-year and flip it? No it's not. It's a 10-year plan," he said.

"Do plans change over 10 years? Yes, they do, they're flexible, they have pandemics that put us back six months.

"Weaknesses need to be ironed out, this isn't an overnight thing.

"There are many areas that need improving which also means opportunity and growth.

"Everybody will start to see change happening at the Ospreys, change for the better."

Davies-Yandle says there will be sensible investment rather than splashing the cash on new star signings straightaway.

"We want to build the foundations first," he said.

"Homegrown players are going to be our future and the Ospreys spine.

"We will probably see some stars names in the future but it's not our priority to splash the cash.

"It's our priority to sustain the organisation and grow rugby within our region. That's where the talent is going to come from, not from outside."

Davies-Yandle says he believes the region's long-term playing future remains staging games at the Liberty Stadium which is owned by Swansea City.

He also admitted he would like to see the four South African Super Rugby sides join the league in an expanded Pro16 format, something currently being discussed.

"For the fan and broadcasters, it would be great to see the Natal Sharks play Ospreys or the Blue Bulls v Leinster because it adds to the game in all aspects," he added.

Davies-Yandle believes rugby will also benefit from the new influence of CVC, a private equity company that now has a stake in the Pro14 and Premiership and is in negotiations with the Six Nations.

"We did due diligence, not just around the Ospreys but around the game," he said.

"We feel rugby union is under-valued and behind the curve in terms of professional sport and fan experience.

"That builds momentum when you are starting at looking at investment and an opportunity.

"That coincided with CVC, a private equity group coming into the game and their impact will be massive.

"They have an astute vision of where they want to get to and will demand that. So I want to see their impact and influence across the game."

James Davies-Yandle was a student at Loughborough University
James Davies-Yandle was a student at Loughborough University

Davies-Yandle also believes a new global calendar has to be agreed to align the international and club game so sides like Ospreys can have their top players available more regularly.

"It is difficult," he said.

"Football doesn't have that problem, fans pack stadiums to see stars and broadcasters pay billions because they are on the pitch.

"From our perspective, is change going to be forced? I hope so.

"The calendar needs to change. It is the future of the game, that's how important it is.

"I would love to sync the club and international game. All fans want to see our best players on the pitch.

"The status quo needs to change. That is up to the hierarchy above me. I have voiced my opinion and we are one team within a big rugby universe.

"Let's hope it does change."

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