Things seemed all so rosy for Pat Lam and Connacht this time 12 months ago as they picked up the Pro12 trophy for the first time in their existence, but now the New Zealander has some strong words for the IRFU as he finishes up his time in Ireland in favour of joining Bristol for a year in the English 2nd tier.
The Irish Times today reported Lam’s criticisms of the IRFU today, as Lam raised the issue of the 'six-month' clause in his contract. It is also in the contracts of other provincial coaches, and states that they can walk away from their current job once they give six months' notice. In turn, a coach's contract can be terminated in the same manner.
Lam - who had signed to stay in charge of Connacht until June 2018 - today criticised the IRFU's refusal to change the rule, saying it is his one regret from his time with Connacht: once Lam got the Bristol offer last November, he had the option of either taking the new job or not with little to no option of re-negotiating a better contract with Connacht.
If they had listened to me, I wouldn’t be going anywhere because I wouldn’t break a contract.
The problem is all the other clubs know the Irish coaches have this in their contract, so guess what happens? November/December each year people start making contact knowing there is a clause that you can get out of the contract.
Everyone worldwide knows they have this in their contracts, but it is one area that needs to change, otherwise Ireland will continue to lose coaches.
Lam’s biggest problem with the contract is that it makes him feel as if his board are not fully backing him with such a system as they are allowing favourable coaches and players to leave if they choose, and that the board members who employ them can u-turn on their decisions.
Again I am not pointing the finger at any one, but the IRFU needs to understand the reason I felt so strongly about it is because they used to have it in New Zealand, and with Dave Rennie and Todd Blackadder, we all fought to have it removed because you either back us or you don’t.
Instead of a selection panel doing all the homework and making sure they have the right person, it gives them a little out to say “we’ll give this person a go and see, but we have an out to get rid of him. I just think do your homework, and if you have the right person, back it. I can understand the first term, but the second – they should take it out.
Lam is set to leave his Connacht post this weekend after Captain John Muldoon's wedding before beginning his new deal with Bristol which is rumoured to be worth about €750,000 a year.