Mike Umaga last night gave a heartfelt account of the circumstances surrounding his departure from National One side Coventry and spoke of the ‘intolerable treatment’ to which he felt his family have been subjected.
The 40-year-old yesterday resigned as head coach at Butts Park — a position he had held for more than two years — a fortnight after he had been suspended as the club investigated ‘serious allegations’ made against him.
Although a gagging order had initially ensured his silence, Umaga last week moved to distance himself from the case of Apoua Stewart — Coventry’s Samoan full back who was recently banned for two years after testing positive for ephedrine.
That led to a deterioration in an already strained relationship with new owner Andrew Green and culminated in yesterday’s decision to step down.
And, having invited The Birmingham Post and the Coventry Telegraph to a meeting with representatives of his solicitors, the former Rotherham threequarter revealed the toll that the disciplinary action had taken on him and his wife Michelle — who had also left her job at the rugby club.
"We just do not need this stress," Umaga said. "We need to get on with our lives even if it means we are a no income, no car family.
"The last couple of weeks have been really draining and we don’t know how long it might have carried on.
"This inactivity has been frustrating. Waking up in the morning and not having somewhere to be when all of your days have been spent doing things to do with rugby has been pretty hard to fathom."
His sentiments were echoed by his wife who expressed her sadness at the way events had unfolded: "It is very frustrating," she said.
"I feel annoyed and let down that it has come to this, it was never our intention. We moved our whole family here and wanted a make a real success of it but that won’t happen now."
Umaga, who was a Samoan international in his playing days, also voiced his belief that he was never wanted by Green once the businessman took over control of the rugby club a few days before the season started.
He said: "Over the two-and-a-half years we really have expended a lot of time and energy with the club and we were going somewhere with it. But after September it was made clear that our future was not with Coventry.
"You would have to have been pretty thick not to have seen the writing on the wall — it was there in large letters every time I turned up at work."
That suspicion appeared to have been confirmed earlier this month when a statement was issued announcing the coach’s suspension from duty.
There was much conjecture about the nature of the ‘serious allegations’ and many assumed he had been involved in supplying Stewart with an illegal substance.
Having sought to clarify his position last Thursday — when he denied any involvement in Stewart’s case — Umaga yesterday disclosed the three charges he claimed had been made against him.
The first related to his drink driving conviction in April 2006. Umaga was accused of failing to discuss the implications of his motoring ban with a director of the club though it is his contention that the matter was brought to the attention of Keith Fairbrother, Coventry’s owner at the time.
He was also accused of failing to declare a conflict of interest having received housing allowance from the club for renting out his city centre flat to a player.
Again he maintains officials knew this and that he has even helped out by providing accommodation at short notice.
Finally he was being investigated for his handling of an incident that happened in the Butts Park bar between a spectator and a member of his backroom staff. Given the internal inquiry into this matter is ongoing he declined to provide further details.
"These allegations relate to events that occurred before the new owner took charge," he said. "All the incidents and events were known about or dealt with by the previous owner and management.
"I have been completely frank with the club during their investigation and I am totally confident about defending myself.
"However, I feel I have no option but to resign to protect my family and myself from any more stress. The reasons for my resignation relate to the intolerable treatment my family and I have faced over the last few weeks."
Green refused to comment but said that a statement regarding Umaga’s situation would be released today.
He did, however, reveal that Coventry had lodged an appeal against Stewart’s ban and added: "This appeal is based around strong new mitigating evidence that the club has unearthed during its investigation in to the incident.