The Declan Kidney transcript: Every word of his London Irish update
After days of media speculation arising on the back of payday being missed last Friday, London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney hosted a media briefing on Thursday to shed light on what has been happening at the Gallagher Premiership club. The Exiles are fifth on the table and looking to clinch what would be their highest finish in over a decade.
However, all the talk heading into Saturday’s final-round home clash versus Exeter has been about off-field matters – the non-payment of wages, the status of takeover talks with American investors and the possibility that this weekend’s game might not go ahead.
Rather than remain silent and allow the speculation to dominate, Kidney decided to honour his media commitments heading into the Exeter game by hosting a Zoom call that attracted the biggest attendance they have had this season with more than 20 people in the call. Here is a Q&A on how it all unfolded, starting with a two-and-a-half-minute introduction from Kidney before he took questions from the floor:
Declan Kidney: Thanks for joining us I don’t have any great statement but I will just tell you what I know because obviously, we have been in the news during the week. There are obviously very sensitive negotiations going on at the moment between the owners and the respective buyers. Because payday has ended up in the middle of all that, that has highlighted something.
I can inform you that no employee here – players, staff – have been paid as of yet, okay, but we have been given a lot of assurances from the prospective new ownership that will happen over the coming days. So, a bit like player negotiations, because of the sensitivities of them, it is very difficult to talk about them.
I wouldn’t know a whole lot about them anyway because it is between the owner and the prospective owners. But where I can answer it, I will definitely answer it. If I can’t answer it, I will just say I can’t answer that one. Some of us know each other a long time now and if it comes to a probing question where I think, look we are not going to get anywhere I will just say next. I have too much respect for people on this call to have a foolish press conference.
You could start off with a joke that I never knew a fifth, sixth, seventh-place match would create such a media interest, but things are too serious to go down that line, so let’s have it that I will answer all the questions I can. If I can’t I will say I can’t and if it gets to the stage where we are not going anywhere, I’ll just say ‘next’ and if we get to three ‘nexts’, for the sake of everybody’s sanity we will just call it at that. Is that okay with people?
We will get the best return out of it like that. I have to say something on behalf of Bill (Pulling) and comms. I know there has been frustration that there wasn’t comms going out since this all kicked off at the start of the week but because the comms would have to be signed off by ownership and prospective owners, it has been very difficult to come up with a working that just doesn’t ask a thousand more questions.
That is why nothing has come out to date. I am here basically because we have a match on Saturday, we are looking forward to playing Exeter and that is why we are here for the press conference but I will answer questions as best I can.
Media: Appreciate your candour, Declan, and get where you are coming from. What can you say about where you are today, is there 100 per cent confirmation the match goes ahead?
Kidney: Preparations are in full swing, all the off-field stuff, staff, sales, everything is going ahead. In our training schedule, we were training Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Today is our down day. Training has taken place fully and we have the captain’s run tomorrow for what we know will be a very tough match against the European semi-finalists. There is a lot of emotion floating around in end-of-season games. This one probably is even heightened even more.
We are fully aware of Exeter’s players who are leaving, they will be looking to give them a good send-off. They will be looking to bounce back from their Heineken semi-final last Sunday. But for us then too, it’s just as pivotal and it shows how much the team means to the players and the coaches and the physios, everyone. The on-field staff, the off-field staff have been absolutely magnificent in the way they have worked through all this.
We are not the first company to have delayed payments but we can only control what we can control and we worked steadfastly towards that. All those preparations have gone ahead. I saw some headlines yesterday but as far as we are concerned, we are ploughing ahead toward the match on Saturday.
Let's make this fixture one to remember, #ExileNation…
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— London Irish (@londonirish) April 11, 2023
Media 1: Are you worried about the longer-term situation or not?
Kidney: The season started with conversations like this, obviously there is concerns around it but they are not within our control. I’d be a believer in working with what you can control and what happens there happens.
Media 1: You said the prospective owners have been in talks. Has anything they said given you confidence that this is, like you say, part of extended negotiations?
Kidney: Yeah, we have got a lot of verbal assurances that things are working towards a positive conclusion.
Media 1: On the game, in an ideal world it would have been a game where you would have needed to win to get into the top four, but equally from where you were at the start of the December to where you are now you must be very pleased with the season as a whole?
Kidney: Look, there were frustrations before Christmas. As you can see, we have lost 10 games but we have seven losing bonus points. We have been knocking on the door. When we started picking up positive results that didn’t surprise me and then the quality of people working here on and off the field and I can’t speak highly enough of them. That is why I am here today, to represent them because they really put the team first.
We are not a massive organisation. We had the misfortune, we don’t lean on it, of moving into a fantastic venue in Brentford during a pandemic so it has been difficult to build things up. We are even playing on Saturday after a coronation and there are already 10,000 tickets sold. We are working towards that – that is the bit that is in our control.
Media 2: Where are the players mentally? Have you got a job to do to get them ready to play with all this stuff swirling around?
Kidney: Positions like mine come up with stock phrases and I don’t want that to come across like this. I can’t speak highly enough of the quality of players I work with just in terms of their application and their positiveness. I know we are a professional team, but these lads are way more than about money. They are working away all week and I haven’t actually had to pick them up. Not alone the players but also the coaching staff, the physios, the whole organisation of 130 people – how they have gone about their work, you wouldn’t actually notice any difference in the way people are approaching this match.
We sit in a position [fifth in the Premiership] that we haven’t been in for over 10 years and we are trying to finish as high up the table as we can. And so the improvements that these players have made to the team over the last couple of years, this isn’t one match to us. This is a really important match to us so as such I don’t have to pick them up, they are doing that just because of the quality of people they are.
Media 2: You could forgive people for feeling a sense of foreboding because of what has gone on earlier this season with other clubs [Worcester and Wasps]?
Kidney: Absolutely. You wouldn’t be human if there wasn’t different things going on through your mind but again, I can’t reiterate strongly or highly enough how good everyone is working towards the match on Saturday.
Media 3: The progress you have made over the last few seasons has been superb. Is there a feeling that you don’t want that to go to waste, that you are possibly on the cusp of making even further breakthroughs?
Kidney: We said we would take the approach of winning the moment and that is what we tried to do and the table would look after itself by the end of the year, so we are going to stick to that and work towards that on Saturday.
Media 3: A fifth-place finish would be a sign of great progress.
Kidney: Yeah, and Europe [the Champions Cup seedings] will look after itself. You can be lucky or unlucky with the way they pan out. You just want to concentrate on the competition that you are in and if you can do that and finish as high as you can, then that is the confidence that you bring into the following season.
Media 3: Have you ever been in this situation in your coaching career where there has been this kind of state of flux in the background?
Kidney: Never. Never. No. It’s a new thing, thankfully. You can draw too many comparisons between us and other teams as well then too and it would be wrong to do that. No, it’s unfortunate but we entrust in the owners and the prospective owners that they will come to a positive resolution for everyone involved here.
Media 3: How have you taken it in yourself to keep everyone’s mindset on the job in hand, kept everyone coming in with a smile on their faces when there is that uncertainty in the background?
Kidney: They are 100 per cent doing that. That is the type of people that work here. They are the salt of the air, they are just fantastic people to work with. No matter how long I stay on here I couldn’t get it across as to how good a people they are. Nobody is looking for their hand to be held. Everybody is getting on with the job.
Media 4: You talk very passionately about the relationship with the players and how committed they are, is there any way things can change in the next day or two? You saw how things escalated with Wales during the Six Nations. In terms of your communications with the senior players’ group, you are totally confident or can you see in any way things changing before the match?
Kidney: Look, when you ask for totalities in life, it’s an impossibility. So I think we know that and that is the answer to the question. All I can say is what has happened to date and what I know. I can’t guess the future but I can say for certain the quality of people that are here is so strong. We are the professional arm of a club that is 124 years old. We know our responsibilities and I can’t speak highly enough of them to date as to what we have done. Everybody has conducted themselves properly and I believe 100 per cent that is what will happen between now and the game on Saturday.
Media 4: I think the RPA are maybe speaking to the group today. Just to clear up if there is any doubt around insurance, an issue that came up at the other clubs, is everything as you understand in place for the game to go ahead even with this uncertainty of non-payment?
Kidney: Yes, it is.
Media 4: It is a difficult position to be in, you would have expected that the current owner [Mick Crossan] would have paid salaries up to now?
Kidney: I’d say we are going into an area we don’t want to enter. I’m avoiding saying ‘next’ so far.
Media 4: It’s just at the minute the new buyer hasn’t got the club and the existing owners have a responsibility to you as a group.
RugbyPass: You said you can only speak about what you know, that you can’t speculate, what do you know? There has been so much speculation in the media. Can you tell us from the horse’s mouth literally what the situation has been the past week in terms of the chronology and where you are now?
Kidney: Payday was last Friday, okay. We have not received payment yet, players and staff. We have been working towards the game going ahead on Saturday. All insurances are paid up to date, okay, and we are looking forward to the game on Saturday.
RugbyPass: There were similar headlines about this at the end of March given the situation (of delayed wages). What is your feeling that it has happened again at the end of April? There would have been an expectation that the March situation would have been cleared up and it wouldn’t be repeated now.
Kidney: I saw some inaccurate comments at the end of March and that is probably as much as I can say on that right now.
RugbyPass: Inaccurate comments – the likes of what? Could you shed light?
Kidney: That is not for me to say, I’m afraid. We are on the ‘next’ line again.
RugbyPass: In terms of looking forward, you have got to finish this season and plan for next season, there are contracts at stake, how difficult has that been to get all that organised?
Kidney: No, we have been ploughing ahead with that. It has obviously become more difficult over the last four, five days but until that (news) broke everything was working full steam ahead for next season.
RugbyPass: You said you have never been in a situation like this, what has it been like for you personally to guide the club through this?
Kidney: It is nothing to do with me personally. It’s just so a privilege to work with the 130 people I am working with and I feel really blessed and privileged to be able to come to work with them every day.
Media 5: You talk about controlling the controllables, fans always like to say goodbyes to players moving on at the end of the season so is there a likelihood there will be more of an announcement before Saturday?
Kidney: We are working towards getting that announced or doing it at the game on Saturday because that needs to be recognised. We have had some fantastic servants, no different from any other club, but I don’t want to talk too much about that without giving it away. There are personal things involved, but there were more salary cap issues around it this year.
Media 5: If you have a message for fans, what would it be?
Kidney: The message would be our support base has been fantastic. Since we have been here (2018), they have been down in Cornish Pirates, up in Newcastle. They have been the length and breadth of the country. We have managed to get some good European matches over the while. We have gone through covid. Like I said, we are the professional branch of a club that is 124 years old. It’s our duty to keep the flag flying here and that is what we are doing.
Media 6: Have you been given a confirmed day when can expect that (missing) payment?
Media 6: Do you have a further idea of a timeline as to when this takeover will take place?
Kidney: Don’t have a date, no.
Media 6: In terms of the verbal assurances, has that convinced you the club is in good hands?
Kidney: We have been given those assurances. I am doing my best on this one not to say ‘next’. I think the next question is your choice. I’m doing my best.
Media 7: Have the players assured you that even if they are not paid by kick-off time they will play the game free of charge?
Kidney: Yes… There has been absolutely no indication from the players that pay is the issue.
Media 7: So, they will play whether they are paid or not ahead of kick-off?
Media 8: You said too man wrong comparisons have been drawn between your situation and the other clubs that have struggled financially, could you elaborate on that and provide some details why you are confident you are not heading down the same route?
Kidney: I am not sure they were my exact words. I just think that every case is different. That is the better explanation.
Media 9: Can you elaborate as much as you can on the assurances when you don’t have a date when players and staff will be paid?
Kidney: Representatives of the prospective purchasers have come in and spoken to us and assured us that things will be in place and that there is a positive future ahead for us.
Media 9: But no sense of a timeline?
Kidney: Not at this point. I don’t have one so there is no point in doing a guess really. Right, okay? Just before Bill comes in (to finish the call), I just want to appreciate everyone. I took the call out of respect for you guys as well too. Thanks very much, I understand we all have a job to do and you need to get stuff out, but you know what I can and can’t talk about. That is why I made sure we did this, so thanks for your help.
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So I’m assuming England centrally contract the women as there’s no money in the women’s game? Time they did the same in the men’sGo to comments
RTS a big husk to make the RWC. I would go with Blackadder and Jackbson, Ioane, Dalton, Cane, Ardie.Go to comments