Welcome to the Altrad Kingsholm Stadium. Gloucester Rugby are led out by captain Sergio Parisse in the big West Country derby against Bath. New major shareholder Mohed Altrad has just spoken to fellow super-rich chairman Bruce Craig. The TV cameras pan across the packed Shed, with Altrad Group advertising lining the pitch-side. Director of Rugby, Phillippe Saint-Andre takes his seat in the main stand alongside Head Coach Johan Ackermann. The ‘improbable’ Gloucester Rugby under Mohed Altrad is a much changed place.
While this maybe more reality now, than fans could ever have imagined, the rumours and leaks to media have eventuated, and it is no ‘alternate fact’. Fans are having to adapt to the new atmosphere and environment that is holding court at Kingsholm
Rumours Become Reality
There is visibly some tension between Saint-Andre and Ackermann, even half way through the 2016/17 season. Ackermann was appointed by previous DoR David Humphreys, who was jettisoned after the final home game against Exeter, back in May. Former Kingsholm favourite Saint-Andre (PSA) became Altrad’s pick and is still trying to convince some fans he deserves his position–despite his positive history.
The same goes for scrum coach Trevor Woodman, who remained in post alongside fellow interim coaches Jonny Bell and Tim Taylor. Players and administrators have had to ‘roll with the changes’ you might say. Despite the revolution in ownership, this coaching set-up is extremely evolutionary in terms of Gloucester’s recent history.
The cycle of whole coaching teams leaving and new groups overhauling the squad is broken. Not all the progress made under Humphreys and sacked coach Laurie Fisher has been lost. The ‘Cherry and Whites’ had a large surge in 16/17 to reach the Champions Cup but narrowly missed out [qualifying for the Challenge Cup instead].
Not achieving the major results thus far, PSA and Ackermann know they cannot afford to slip up this year. The reality is that aside from management changes, the goals must be clear for players and owners.
Back to Rumours and Assumptions
Right now this might still seem a long way off for Gloucester supporters, due to the delayed approval from European Professional Club Rugby governing bodies. Every time a major announcement is promised, such as this from the Telegraph on the March 20, the proposed date passes without incident.
A head coach is likely to be named before Altrad’s involvement is confirmed. As outlined, this could cause problems for an interim coaching team selected by two different owners. There may be no investment at all. This constantly evolving saga may not be resolved until the summer. All assumptions could be proved wrong, or altered by censure from the EPCR ruling.
Rumours and assumptions aside, this may be a good thing. It must also see the organisation hold its focus. It is clear that Gloucester have tasks in front of them that must take priority on the field–for now, they continue to fight in the Challenge Cup and sit in eighth place on the Aviva Premiership ladder.
All other things apart, Mohed Altrad has; and will, influence the ongoing proceedings at Kingsholm. For most, the rugby–now, more than ever–needs to take priority over rumours.
New LWOR Poll Question:
“Main photo credit”