George Skivington’s arrival as new Gloucester head coach has been shrouded in controversy after London Irish said they were ‘considering all options’ regarding his appointment, writes Ollie Young.
As reported in last week’s Indy, Skivington, who was operating as Irish’s forwards coach, had long-been linked with the vacant top job at Kingsholm and was officially announced last Saturday evening as this paper went to press.
In their initial statement, Cherry and Whites chief executive officer Lance Bradley said: “George has a great reputation within the game, and is one of the new generation of highly talented young English coaches. He was our clear first choice among the many who applied for the position.
“He has signed a long-term contract and we look forward to working with him to deliver the vision we have for our club.”
The former England Saxon also expressed his delight at the move. He added: “I’m absolutely delighted to be joining Gloucester. I’ve been very impressed with everyone I’ve met so far and the vision they have for the club.
“What I particularly liked was how far-reaching the vision is, building from the academy, through the first team, and across the whole club. I can’t wait to play my part in it.”
However, the Exiles immediately released a lengthy statement of their own in reaction to their Premiership counterparts.
“To say we are disappointed with Gloucester’s announcement is an understatement because George is well liked and respected at Hazelwood,” said Brian Facer, Irish’s chief executive.
“It is understandable that we would not want to lose him, especially so close to the resumption of play after the lockdown. We also know that he is an ambitious young man who would relish the opportunity of being the head coach of a club someday.
“However, the protocols are clear that a club must be approached in writing when there are more than six months remaining on the relevant contract, regardless of whether it is a player or coach.
“George is under contract with London Irish until June 2021 and has not served us with the required notice period, nor have the terms of his contract been breached.
“More importantly, at no point have we received any proactive communication whatsoever from Gloucester. We therefore believe that Gloucester have breached the Premiership Rugby Code of Conduct regarding inducement and approaches to a contracted player, member of coaching staff and other contracted person.
“This is a most serious issue so, accordingly, we are reserving our rights to consider all our options under the Premiership Rugby governance protocols and other avenues of redress.”
Gloucester countered that statement by refuting a number of Irish’s claims.
“Gloucester Rugby openly advertised its head coach role in the usual way,” it read. “George Skivington was the stand out candidate following that process. We understood that George was not restricted contractually from joining the club. The club, nevertheless, directly and straightforwardly sought clarification of London Irish’s position.
“That clarification has not been forthcoming. We are therefore surprised and disappointed by both the contents of statement from London Irish, and the forum in which it was released, not least in view of the proactive efforts made by us during the course of this week.
“Gloucester will continue to seek to engage with London Irish, through the appropriate channels. We urge London Irish to do the same.”
If it is discovered that the Cherry and Whites have breached Premiership protocols, potential sanctions include fines and point deductions. Elsewhere, at Kingsholm, the club also announced that they wouldn’t be replacing David Humphreys in the director of rugby role. Instead, they have promoted former player Alex Brown from commercial director to a chief operating officer role which will focus on rugby-related issues such as recruitment. Gloucester top brass Bradley added: “Alex has been a huge part of Gloucester Rugby for many years, and has done outstandingly well since being appointed commercial director last year. His latest promotion is not only thoroughly well deserved but now means that we have the leadership team in place to drive standards and take our club to where we all want it to be – challenging for trophies.”