Mark Evans is a fairly distinctive particular person, having utilized for the roles of each Wales coach and WRU chief government. “And not getting either!” he says, with a chortle.
It was again within the spring of 2004 that the Cardiff-raised Evans – who had coached at Saracens and Harlequins – discovered himself in an obvious two-horse race with Llanelli’s Gareth Jenkins to succeed the departing Steve Hansen. You can learn extra about that right here.
For a couple of quick days, it regarded as if he may get the job, having impressed the WRU high brass throughout his interview, with Union insiders describing him as an “outstanding” candidate. But, in the long run, it was Mike Ruddock who got here up on the rails and the remaining is historical past.
Since then, Evans has twice utilized for the job of WRU chief government, together with the latest time there was a emptiness, following Martyn Phillips’ exit in 2020. But he didn’t even get an interview, which appears considerably shocking given his intensive expertise in sports activities administration.
So how does he mirror on these various episodes? Firstly, being in a contest for the Wales job which ended with Ruddock’s shock appointment.
“It was surreal, it must be said. I applied, I wanted the job, I thought I was a credible candidate and I got close. I gave it my best shot, the WRU made a decision and I was fine with that. It’s like when you’re a player, you get picked or you don’t get picked and that’s just the way it is. You’ve got to move on.
“Looking back, I would say I would not have been a very good coaching appointment, I will be honest. I don’t think it would have worked very well at all. I probably wasn’t experienced enough as a coach and I was already veering towards the commercial, chief executive kind of role, which I was doing as well.
“In my head, I had already started to move away from coaching. It wasn’t the only thing I was interested in and I don’t think you can do it with that kind of mindset really. I think you’ve got to be pretty full on to do the job. The other one, well you never know, do you?”
Indeed you don’t. Evans definitely is aware of a factor or two about operating sporting organisations, having been chief government of Harlequins after which taking over the identical function Down Under in each codes of rugby with Melbourne Storm, Western Force and Global Rapid Rugby, in addition to serving as chairman of the UK’s Netball Super League.
But he fell on the first hurdle when making use of for the WRU job, which was finally crammed by the governing physique’s monetary director Steve Phillips.
“I certainly applied, but I didn’t get an interview. Nothing happened, which was a shame. It all got a bit confusing actually, if I’m honest. I’m not quite sure what happened to the process. But there we are. It’s all about timing and who is making the call. You don’t spend too much time worrying about the jobs you don’t get,” says Evans.
“I have applied a couple of times for that role, but I have never been interviewed. It’s like all these jobs. You have a dart at some, you get some and you don’t get others and that’s just the way it goes. We will never know. Maybe I dodged a bullet!”
Which brings us neatly on to the present turmoil in Welsh rugby, with just about Evans’ first phrase throughout our chat being “carnage”, as he mirrored on the scenario within the nation the place he grew up. So what does he make of all of it, amid the furore over the discuss of presumably slicing one of many 4 areas following the report by Oakwell into the funds of the sport?
“The first thing I would say is I don’t have access to any of the numbers, other than those that are in the public domain, which are not particularly detailed,” he mentioned.
“And I don’t want to be seen as some bloke from England who left a long time ago and is now throwing rocks or saying I’ve got all the answers.
“But I suppose my take on this whole thing is that small countries don’t have the luxury of making big mistakes because they don’t have much margin for error and Wales rugby has made more than a few over a number of years. I don’t have the detail to know how critical things are, but we appear to have come to something of a tipping point.
“The question everyone in Welsh rugby has to ask themselves is how much money do we generate, how many teams does that support and can we access any other capital, either loan, equity or private. If you can’t get any more funding, you are probably going to have to restructure and cut your cloth according to your revenues.
“I want to make it clear, I am not taking a view on three, four, five or 83 teams. That’s not my point. What I am saying is if you are not financially sustainable, it will lead to a crisis in the long run. Sports organisations can only run a structure that they can finance. It’s as simple as that. People jumping up and down, either in the media or on the terraces, doesn’t change that.
“You see it in all sports. ‘Oh, the board aren’t ambitious’. I hate that so much. It usually comes from the fans. What that basically means is ‘Why aren’t you losing more money?’
“It’s all very well saying pump more money in. People always say this. Invest. Ok. Well, paying players higher wages is not investment. That’s a cost. There is no return on that. They are the same players, they are just being paid more money. It hasn’t produced a player. Investment in pathways produces players, investment in facilities can produce revenue.
“It’s easy to play what’s your perfect structure. You can say we’ll have this number of teams, we’ll put loads of money into development, we’ll upgrade all the stadia, we’ll have low ticket prices, we’ll keep driving the revenues and get better broadcast deals and higher attendances. The hard bit is how you do it and how do you fund how you do it?
“I know people will say look at the Grand Slams, yeah absolutely. But in the long run you’ve got to find a way to be competitive with the resources you have got.
“The number of teams doesn’t come down to finance entirely. The other big variable is how many players of a certain level are your development systems producing.”
While he was born in Essex, Evans spent his early life in Wales. His household moved to Cardiff when he was a child and he went on to attend St Peter’s junior faculty and Lady Mary High School, earlier than heading off to Christ College, Brecon.
As a teen, he would stand on the north enclosure on the previous Arms Park watching Wales within the nice days of the Nineteen Seventies. So, as he appears to be like on from his dwelling in Hertfordshire, does it sadden him to see the present state of the sport on this nation?
“It makes me very sad, but it doesn’t help, does it, me being sad? We can spend a lot of time and waste a lot of energy looking at how did we get here. Well, does it really matter how we got here, we are here. If you lose your way on the journey, there’s not a lot of point spending time agonising over where you took the wrong turning. No, the question is how do we get back on the road.
“Welsh people could spend a long, long time arguing how we got here, but it’s pretty much a waste of time because we are here. You should be spending your time trying to work out ways in which we can get out of it and what does that involve.”
Evans continued: “If you look at the advantages and disadvantages Welsh rugby has got, there are a lot of things you can’t do very much about and they are not great. It’s a small country with not many people, it’s not a particularly well off area, so there’s not a lot of very high incomes and there’s not many large corporate organisations. And we are very close to England which has a much larger market and much higher revenues.
“None of those things you can change, so there’s no point bleating on about it. You are not going to change Wales into Luxembourg overnight financially. You are not going to suddenly cut us off at Offa’s Dyke and float us into the Atlantic, so you can’t get to Bristol. You can’t control these things, they just are and they have consequences.
“So what do you do? Well, you need to concentrate on a few things. You need to keep working hard on your player pathways because one of the advantages Wales does have is that because rugby still has such cultural prominence it gets a higher proportion of the best athletic talent than other countries and they are located very close to each other.
“That’s an advantage in terms of preparation and getting clusters and hubs to work and having a playing schedule at age-groups. It’s the big area where Wales has a competitive advantage and they must make the most of it.
“What we also need is more aligned interests, so the interests of the players, the teams and the Union are aligned. Then we can all move in the same direction. We have never been able to get the kind of collective alignment in Wales that you need in any sport to be successful. We haven’t even got agreement on a salary cap, which is unbelievable. So all you are doing is injecting inflation into the wage market. It’s just extraordinary.”
He added: “You have got to change the governance, Gareth Davies was right there. It’s undoubtedly necessary. I don’t think you can come out the other side of this without it.”
And on the id of the professional sides, he says: “I just can not get worked up about whether you call them clubs, regions or franchises. I just think it’s a nonsense. They are teams aren’t they? For God’s sake.”
What the eloquent Evans does take actual coronary heart from is the appointment of media government Malcolm Wall as the brand new chair of the Professional Rugby Board, the physique that runs the professional sport in Wales.
“He was my chairman at Harlequins in my latter years there and I really enjoyed working with him. He’s extremely capable. He knows rugby, he knows corporate, he’s made some tough decisions over the years, he has done a lot of re-structuring work. So they have got a guy that is very intelligent, very experienced and understands the game.
“He’s got very good people skills, but doesn’t sugar coat it. He will tell it as it is and he will be very analytical. You have got a good man there. The great thing about him is he’s not seen as west Wales or east Wales. He’s not seen as coastline or valleys. He hasn’t got a history of siding with one faction or the other, but he’s got a hell of a track record in terms of making tough decisions, experiencing having to make radical change and he understands the sport.”
After attending St John’s College, Cambridge, Evans moved to London, spending 20 years with Saracens, as newbie participant, prototype skilled coach after which director of rugby, giving up his place as deputy head at a complete faculty.
He then spent a decade with Harlequins, as coach and chief government. He continues to maintain a detailed watch on the Premiership, so what does he make of the need of many Welsh followers to be a part of a league with the English golf equipment?
“Well, wishing won’t make it so, let’s put it that way,” he mentioned. “You never rule anything out, you always keep options open and keep the door open, but you can not base a strategy around it. Where you are may not be what you would choose if you could turn the clock back, but it’s the situation you are in. Everybody in Welsh rugby should be concentrating on what they have.”
As for the comparisons which are usually made with the Irish provinces by way of enjoying budgets, he says: “You can’t management Ireland, that is what we have now bought to cease doing. We have gotten to say these are the assets we have now bought. Two issues, how will we allocate them and the way will we enhance them. The reply isn’t just the WRU ought to pay us extra money. I’m not saying they shouldn’t, by the best way.
“But my point is we have got to get everybody on the same page and get the interests of all the different elements aligned. It’s what all the most successful sporting governing bodies in the world do. Otherwise, you are just frantically trying to find the next couple of million to keep the lights on because your structure can’t be funded.”
Now 62, Evans is back in the UK following his stint out in Perth, Australia, and working as a consultant in a number of areas, including rugby.
He concludes our chat by saying: “People look for magic bullets all the time in sport, things that will turn things round yesterday. It doesn’t work like that, it really doesn’t.
“But I think there is quite a lot you could do to align the interests within the sport that would make a difference. There’s no magic bullet, no silver bullet here. It is a range of things that support each other that make a coherent package of reform.”