Former England international Austin Healey hopes last Wednesday’s departure from Bath for Ed Griffiths will be the last time the manager works in Gallagher’s Premiership. The former Saracens CEO joined The Rec last November as a consultant but was quickly promoted to chairman and this apparently sparked a power struggle with director of rugby Stuart Hooper.
It was in December, before Griffiths took over the role of chairman from owner Bruce Craig, that Hooper was confirmed as director of rugby for the 2022/23 season with Johann van Graan as Munster’s new head coach.
The pecking order was reversed last Wednesday, with Bath’s latest shake-up promoting van Graan to head of rugby with full control of the first team and Hooper being demoted to a newly created general manager role. It was also decided that Griffiths would resign the chairmanship and leave the club.
Former England international Andy Goode was quick to react to Griffiths’ sudden departure, tweeting: “The best thing Bath announced today is that Ed Griffiths has left the building. All the better for the club and Premiership rugby in general!” This prompted a response from Craig Chalmers, the former Scotland player. “Couldn’t agree more, Goody! Good trip! Total fraud!”
Griffiths’ split became a theme later taken up by Healey, who devoted his latest UK Telegraph column to this week’s turmoil in Bath. His belief is that the rugby Premiership will be much better off not having the manager involved in the league anymore.
Healey wrote: “Bath got into such a mess six months ago that Edward Griffiths was brought in to do a review. Unfortunately, if the Royal Family were to bring Griffiths in to do a review of them, perhaps to mark the Platinum Jubilee, he would end up being crowned King. Some people have found his motives and tactics questionable. He certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, except maybe some players.
“Stuart Hooper is an example of a good person. Griffiths, on the other hand, could be conceived in my opinion as a Machiavellian figure who has treated the club as if it were an American corporation and has been tasked with a hostile takeover. In the end, the good has come… To some it is now obvious that Hooper was not the right man to be manager of rugby. He’s too early in his career and he didn’t have the experience.
“We can all agree that Bath’s performances, with the players they have, weren’t there. That’s why you have to blame the coaches. What is not in dispute is the character of Hooper. I can see why fans would want a clean break, but his character trumps it in my opinion. He is too valuable. Hooper’s role after this latest reorganization, that of CEO, is perfect.
Hooper will be excellent. Griffiths is not in the same category, in my opinion. He had gone there to do a job, but one has to wonder what the motives were for both him and the club… Ultimately, the way Griffiths treated people and undermined trust led to him being a surplus for the future. His actions and tactics may have damaged some reputations, and some of the stories coming out of The Rec will require a rebuilding of trust. Hooper is the man to do that.
“I don’t see why any other Premiership club would turn to him. [Griffiths]. You may think this is harsh, a character assassination. It is not. I just can’t stand to see good people pushed around. The simple way to put it is that I can’t remember a time when his involvement somewhere didn’t end in tears. On this occasion, with Bath, it seems that the tears belong to her. And the good people of Bath can carry the club forward.”
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