Logan to put Ulster on top of the world
Shane Logan, the man entrusted with taking rugby in Ulster to new levels, speaks matter-of-factly about achieving goals which at first glance appear improbable.
Not only as good as Irish rivals, Munster and Leinster, on and off the pitch, but better. Not only Ireland’s best, but a wholly successful, professional set-up blazing a trail for the best and biggest of the English and French clubs to follow.
To do that, he concedes, “you have to be right up there at world’s best.”
“World’s best” is a term he includes a lot, though he does not use such words cheaply or loosely.
Having worked and proved himself at, or close to, the top of several very high economic scaffolds — previous roles having included General Manager of Harland & Wolff and Head of Coca Cola for Central Russia — Logan has shown that he has a head for such heights.
“The ultimate destination is that all parts of the game are world’s best,” he says, though he is far too shrewd to commit himself to time frames which not only might restrict him, but could come back to haunt him.
“How long that takes, I’m not sure. I need to take three to six months to understand the start point,” he says.
“I’m reasonably clear what the end point is, but I need to understand the start point in order to be more definitive as to how long it’s going to take to get there.
“I need to break it down and look at all the bits. I need to break it down to position in Europe and the Celtic League and then to keep moving forward.”
Logan talks in terms of devising a programme as to “when we win the Heineken Cup and start to dominate Europe in the way Munster have.”
“I can’t give you a time line yet as to when we’ll be able to do that,” he admits.
The Manchester University Law graduate is astute in refusing to box himself in. He doesn’t need to be reminded that as things now stand, Munster and Leinster generate much greater sums than Ulster by virtue of bigger attendances, greater merchandising opportunities and their success-related ability to attract sponsorship.
But he sees a glass more than half full. And his goal isn’t parity with the big southern pair, but superiority over them.
“I think already we have a number of very encouraging building blocks in place,” Logan enthuses. “We have a strong playing squad, we have more good quality younger players coming through and we have a stronger — through getting more experience and getting results — coaching staff. So some of the ingredients are in place.
“But I would be foolish to say we’re going to win the Heineken Cup in three years. All I can say is that that is our destination and more.
“We have to keep putting in place more and more of the ingredients that are going to yield that ultimate result.
“Whether that’s three years, five years or seven years I don’t know at this point because I’m not clear enough as to what the base is.
“I’m clear where we’re going and I’m clear that we’re absolutely driven to being the best.
“I’m also clear that things can go wrong, because sometimes in pursuit of something new you’re doing things differently in trying to get what you needed. Clearly it can’t always be a smooth journey.
“There may be times when it’s a case of one step forward and two — maybe even three — back.”
Logan has made spreading the net a primary objective in the hope of widening the fan base and increasing the numbers involved and interested in rugby, befitting “a side now in Europe’s top 12”.
“The quality of the overall product has to improve,” he says. “All parts have to move forward together to achieve one common vision, that being world’s best.”