Logan exits as Ulster seek to discover a bright new dawn
The IRFU have said they will seek to ensure their recruitment process to replace outgoing Ulster CEO Shane Logan will "assure smooth succession".
The long-mooted announcement that Logan will be walking away from Kingspan Stadium came yesterday afternoon after a tumultuous season on and off the field.
The embattled CEO became a divisive figure among the province's fanbase in a campaign played under a cloud due to the high-profile court case involving Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, while both director of rugby Les Kiss and head coach Jono Gibbes would also leave their roles in Belfast.
Logan will be in position until August and has, according to the statement, agreed to "continue the day-to-day running of the business until his departure".
Having been in the role for eight years, he admitted that ultimately a failure to secure any silverware during his time at the helm will be his biggest disappointment. "I am very grateful to have had the privilege of being Chief Executive of Ulster Rugby since 2010," he said. "We have been able to build a fine stadium, repay our debts, deliver consistent profit and strong commercial growth. This is now allowing us to invest in our clubs, schools and very significantly in our Academy.
"In terms of win ratios, the senior Ulster team has become more competitive but I am as disappointed as anybody not to have landed that elusive trophy.
"There have been some significant challenges in recent years. I hope that the unity with which everyone in Ulster faced these will endure for generations. I wish everyone in Ulster the very best for the future."
Despite his unpopularity with a sizeable proportion of the fanbase, Logan's counterpart at the IRFU Philip Browne was keen to highlight the financial acumen Logan displayed during his tenure with the province operating in profit for seven of his eight years.
"Having strong, financially secure provinces is vital to Irish Rugby, and Shane has worked with teams, managers, sponsors, government and other sports effectively over eight years at Ulster Rugby," he said. "We thank Shane for his dedication to Ulster Rugby and are sorry to see him go, but wish him all the very best for the future," he added.
All eyes will now be on who Browne and his IRFU cohorts decide upon to take Ulster forward with Logan one of only two men to have ever filled the role in the professional era.
Mike Reid was the first to take up the position in the summer of 1997, overseeing a period when Ulster won the European Cup in 1999 and the Celtic League in 2006.
He walked away from the role to be replaced by Logan in 2010 and it has been a case of status quo ever since.
At a time of much change elsewhere around Kingspan Stadium, it will be seen as vitally important that the appointment made is the correct one.
Essentially a business position, there is naturally no guarantee that the preferred candidate has any substantial rugby playing experience, but two high profile names have already been linked to the role.
Philip Rainey, Ulster’s once-capped former Irish full-back who famously kicked his province to a Ravenhill victory over Australia in 1984, is seen as an early front-runner.
He has been CEO for Simple Power Ltd and previously held the same position at Glover Site Investigations.
Despite some doubts over whether the position would be of interest, Gordon Hamilton is another name that is thought to have already come up in conversations.
The former flanker is fondly remembered for his try scoring exploits in the 1991 World Cup quarter-final but has forged a successful career at the head of a shipping business and was Chairman of the IRFU’s Professional Game Board before stepping down in the autumn of 2016.
Whoever is to take over, the outside infrastructure required for success is at least mostly in place with Paul Terrington, Chair of the Ulster Rugby Management Committee, believing Logan’s vital role in establishing the club’s financial stability should be seen as his lasting legacy.
“On behalf of Ulster Rugby I want to thank Shane Logan for his commitment to the club over the past eight years,” he said.
“Shane has made a significant contribution in terms of placing Ulster Rugby on a secure financial footing.
“The redevelopment of Kingspan Stadium and training facilities will be a lasting legacy.
“His great work with rugby clubs all over Ulster’s nine counties is also acknowledged.”
One area of concern for many fans last season though was the province’s handling of the fall-out from the high profile rape case involving two of their players.
Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson were both cleared of all charges following a nine-week trial in Belfast Crown Court, although neither was able to play while legal proceedings were ongoing last season. After the verdict, and following an internal review by the IRFU and Ulster, the players had their contracts revoked.
While the fall-out was often unseemly on both sides, after the decision to end the careers of the players in Ireland was taken, many voiced their opposition to the move while at the next home game a number of “Logan Out” banners and flags were confiscated by the on-duty stewards.
Jackson yesterday confirmed he will be playing his rugby in France next season with Top 14 outfit Perpignan, while Olding had previously signed on the dotted line with Brive.
“Paddy Jackson, in the tradition of Irish 10s, knows how to bring his individual qualities to benefit the collective,” said Christian Lanta, Sporting Director of Perpignan on the move for Jackson.
“He’s a proven kicker, a talented playmaker, Paddy can bring his international experience to the team.”
It remains a point of contention for many in Ulster though, especially given the failure to secure a replacement amid ongoing discussions with the IRFU.
Joey Carbery was seen as the most likely option but any interest the Irish international had in moving north quickly dissipated whenever Munster came into the picture.
An attempt to bring Elton Jantjies to Kingspan failed when the IRFU refused to sanction a deal for the Springbok.
While youngster Johnny McPhillips performed well at the end of last season, the absence of an experienced out-half only serves to exacerbate the frustrations felt by supporters.
Logan himself was critical of the IRFU’s stance when it came to the jettisoning of Ruan Pienaar at the end of 2016/17.
Pienaar was not granted a contract extension by Dublin after seven stellar years at the province and instead had to sign for Montpellier in France.
Having never wanted to leave Northern Ireland, the mercurial scrum-half’s family have already returned to Belfast with Pienaar believed to be weighing up the option of retiring in one year’s time to become involved again in the Ulster set-up.