In a first for Welsh rugby, Llandarcy Park (Ospreys) Ltd., the holding company of Ospreys Rugby, has appointed a woman to the board in the capacity of non-executive director. Neath-born Debra Williams is the first woman to have a director’s role in Welsh rugby and is among the first in Britain.

Commenting on her appointment, Ms Williams, formerly the managing director of Confused.com and a director at Tesco Compare, said that she believed her commercial experience along with her record for generating growth would enable her to contribute to the efforts to make Ospreys a sustainable business.

Echoing these sentiments, Ospreys chairman Geoff Atherton has welcomed Ms Williams’ appointment and has said that she brings with her undoubted commercial expertise and will be able to offer both tactical and strategic advice to the board. She is also a long time rugby fan and used to watch Neath play as a child with her father.

Ospreys, formerly known as Neath-Swansea Ospreys, was formed from the merger of the Neath and Swansea RFCs following the regional restructuring of Welsh rugby that started in 2003. But, despite being the most successful of the Welsh sides since the restructuring, Ospreys has been encountering problems.

On the face of it, Ms Williams’ commercial acumen looks to be sorely needed, as debt appears to be increasing. Just a couple of years ago, Ospreys was on top of the world – the side won the Magners League championship in 2010 with a world class squad of players but the situation has gone downhill since then.

Star players like Jerry Collins, James Hook and Gavin Henson left for new pastures and were not replaced. Results began to suffer and, not surprisingly, the crowds began to fall away. With financial issues dogging the club, overseas player recruitment was off the agenda and the development of home grown talent became the order of the day. By mid 2012, the club’s position was such that it was threatened with a wind-up order as a result of unpaid taxes.

According to accounts submitted by Llandarcy Park (Ospreys) Ltd. to Companies House for the year up to 31 May 2012, the company had cash at bank of £78,778, down from just over £340,000 in 2011 and had a net worth of minus £3,282,210. Ospreys Rugby Ltd.’s net worth has been sliding since 2008 and stands at minus £4,753,703. These figures indicate that something needs to be done, and urgently, to put Ospreys back on track.

Ms. Williams’ credentials suggest that she could be just the person for the job. In 2006 she was named Welsh Woman of the Year for Innovation and in February 2007 was named by the Queen as one of the UK’s top 200 businesswomen. As managing director at Confused.com she helped generate profits of £36 million and now brings 20 years’ experience in the business and commercial sector to her new role.

She joins the board along with Richard Tyrone Davies who also becomes a non-executive director. At present Mr Davies is Chief Financial Officer of the Creditsafe Group where he handles strategic financial development and direction. He has been with Creditsafe since 2008, prior to which he was European Chief Financial Officer with the American company Infonxx. Like Ms Williams, he brings considerable financial and commercial expertise to the board and will have an advisory role.

Eddard Blake. I am a PR consultant for Canterbury of New Zealand. Working on boosting the participation of women in the game of rugby has become a core focus for the brand. That is why I thought it would be good to report on this story.