Category Archives: Politics

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Peace in our time?

So the telly deal is done. One of the biggest sticking points in the unholy European rugby war has been resolved. Sky and BT will share the rights to the new, improved “European Rugby Champions Cup.”

It’s been an unnecessarily painful birth. The single most important issue has always been money, and who controls it. We always knew the answer, of course: television. And now the disagreement between Sky and BT is resolved, we have a way forward.

So if the answer was so simple and obvious, why has it taken so long to get to this point? It’s been over two years now since the English and French clubs served notice of their intention to abandon the old European Cup.

It’s important to note at this point that England and France are the countries where the money comes from: that’s where the majority of the chimney pots (and satellite dishes) are located. As I said last week, us Welsh are just spectators at this rugby feast, and we’re not the ones picking up the tab.

The French and English clubs are calling the tune, as they always have done throughout this long and drawn-out process. Now, finally, they’ve got what they want. A fairer share of tournament money and representation.

The important point is that it is now rugby clubs, and not unions, who are in control. But were all the unions digging their heels in? No. It was just the Irish (IRFU) and Welsh (WRU) governing bodies who were, as late as January this year, still clinging to the old order. They’ve failed in their attempt to retain control of the professional game in Europe. It’s quite clear that they’ve annoyed the hell out of their negotiating partners in England into the bargain. “It’s time for the egos and blazers to get out of the way, and leave the business to real businessmen,” has been the clear message from the other side of Offa’s Dyke.

Why would the IRFU and WRU be opposed to the new deal? Well, for the Irish it’s quite clear. They’ve brought very little to the table in terms of TV money and have enjoyed more than their fair share of the proceeds of European rugby. The WRU take the money from TV deals, and pass it straight on to the Welsh regions, who then use it to pay the players they’ve developed and supplied to “Team Wales.” Incidentally, the WRU still declare this money (several million pounds a year) as revenue on their balance sheet, even though it’s questionable as to what they’ve contributed to the generation of that revenue.

“So what?” you might ask. Surely the deal is done, and we can go back to watching the battles on the pitch? Not quite. There’s still the significant matter of the lack of any agreement between the WRU and the regions (RRW) over participation in competitions and the supply of players to Team Wales. That’s quite a big obstacle to get over, especially when the regions are on record as having little or no confidence in Roger Lewis, the WRU CEO and his colleagues.

There is also another challenge hoving into view: the spectre of former WRU CEO David Moffett, who has returned to Wales to mount a challenge to the WRU Chairman David Pickering. Moffett’s aim is to reform the WRU and replace the current board and executive with people who might be able to do a better job of doing a deal with the regions. He’s also very keen on semi-pro and community rugby in Wales getting their fair share of the cash which is sitting the WRU’s coffers. Nobody can argue with that noble aim. Good luck to him.

Whatever you might think of Moffett and his record when he was in the job, he has managed to provoke much-needed debate on the way in which the WRU operates, and the behaviour of the people who run it.

It is quite clear to many of those who have been party to the discussions (if you can call them that) between the WRU and RRW, that a solution to this Welsh problem would be reached very quickly if we could get rid of the egos, vested interests and incompetence at the top of the WRU. If Moffett succeeds in securing that change, then we will have a lot to thank him for.

This crisis is not just about the WRU. During the course of the last few months, the mainstream media in Wales have failed to hold the WRU to account. Of course, the Western Mail have no obligation to provide a balanced view of the issues, but their journalists could at least make an effort to practise their trade competently. Instead, the self-styled “National Newspaper of Wales” has resorted to regurgitating WRU press releases and speculating as to which Team Wales player will be next to sign a central contract with the WRU.  This is not journalism by any stretch of the imagination. It is public relations. The Western Mail now relies upon access to Team Wales in order to fill its pages in print and online. It doesn’t matter how superficial the story is, as long as people click on it, the paper will creep along with a tiny trickle of advertising revenue, staving off the inevitable for a little longer.

BBC Wales, on the other hand, has quite clear obligations, which it has totally failed to meet in its treatment of the crisis in Welsh rugby. We know very well that the BBC and WRU are business partners;  parties to the TV deal which sustains them both. If it wasn’t for the access to “Team Wales” that this partnership affords BBC Wales, there would be hardly anything left of the corporation in Wales. Look at ITV Wales if you want to know what a rugby-less BBC Wales might look like. The WRU are fond of the BBC because they are a free and unquestioning PR department who will say (or more often, not say) whatever the WRU tell them to.

In the absence of proper media analysis and journalism in the mainstream, it has fallen to the likes of Gwladrugby.com and others on social media, as well as the London press, to hold the WRU to account. Whenever this unedifying episode does finally end, we will be left wondering whether the problems in Welsh rugby would’ve been sorted out a lot more quickly if our national media had demonstrated a bit of backbone and basic journalistic skills.

David Moffett, the Chief Executive of the Welsh Rugby Union

“Moffesto” launched: former CEO lays out his agenda for change

Today former WRU CEO David Moffett has launched the manifesto which forms part of his bid to gain a place on the WRU board.  Moffett chose the Castle Hotel in Neath as the location for the official launch of his campaign. That choice isn’t a coincidence: the Castle Hotel is where the WRU was founded in March 1881.

Entitled, “One Wales – Building a sustainable future together”, the detailed document describes his vision to re-unite Welsh rugby.

Moffett says it’s time for change in Welsh rugby as the game in Wales faces a number of difficult decisions:

“Welsh Rugby stands at the crossroads and needs to decide which path it wants to take for the future. Under the current regime the idea of ONE WALES is as far from reality as is possible. The clubs are so removed from the WRU that they have become increasingly insular in outlook.

For the first time in Welsh Rugby history a candidate for election to the position of Chairman is releasing a comprehensive Manifesto, on which Welsh Rugby can decide.

With the release of my Manifesto the choices are very, very clear.

Either continue with the current dictatorial, undemocratic approach which has disenfranchised the community game or adopt a system which owes much to the past when the clubs had more say in the way the WRU is run.

The latter path is my vision for Welsh Rugby; the former has no place in a democratic union of clubs.

My Manifesto sets out what I would like to achieve in the next 3 years:

  1. The resurrection of the Community Game
  2. A partnership to secure and grow the Professional and Semi-Professional Games
  3. The restructuring of the Governance of the WRU
  4. A complete review of the financial performance of the WRU

I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but I am fully prepared to take on board additional suggestions and constructive feedback to build on my initial proposals.

Playing my part

If the clubs endorse my Manifesto and believe that my strategic plan is what Welsh rugby needs, I intend to do everything I can to represent them as the WRU’s first independent chairman.

There is a better way of doing things, not just for the national team, but also for every aspect and tier of Welsh rugby. Welsh clubs are special; they have been overlooked for too long and it’s time for change.”

There are a number of key recommendations in the manifesto which Moffett says are necessary in order to realise his vision for change:

“The following summarises the key important recommendations I believe will provide Welsh Rugby with the strongest platform for sustainable growth. These points will be outlined in more detail in the pages that follow.

  • ‘Local solutions for local problems’ within the Community Game – a radical change in the relationship between the WRU and its member clubs
  • Replacement of the district representation system with five Regional Rugby Boards
  • Devolution of power back to the clubs
  • £1.5M immediately available to fund club Infrastructure grants, to be administered by the Regional Rugby Boards
  • An additional £2M to be made available to supplement Government funding in the crucial area of increasing participation
  • New 4G pitches prioritised for mini, junior, schools & youth rugby in every region
  • WRU Ambassadors to sponsor new advisory groups to design radical new approaches for age-grade rugby, Rugby 7s, women’s rugby, match officials and medical support
  • Support for Premiership and Championship clubs to identify & implement the key reforms, appropriate competition structures and financial support that they need
  • New Combined Player Contracts to be negotiated on a basis that benefits the WRU, the professional teams and the players. A unique opportunity exists to set a new benchmark in the increasingly difficult world market for players & coaches.
  • Five-year rolling franchise deals for professional teams
  • Expansion of the number of professional teams to be formally considered
  • Chairman’s Special Advisory Group to be set up to recommend a new approach for the Welsh language across Welsh Rugby
  • Reform of the WRU Board, including the appointment of an Independent Chairman, and the commitment to set a target number of Board positions to be held by women by 2020
  • Immediate external review of the financial position of the WRU
  • Sale of Millennium Stadium naming rights
  • Reduction in non-essential Board and Executive costs
  • Accountability at all levels of Welsh Rugby.”

You can read the document in full here:

One Wales – a Manifesto for Welsh Rugby by David Moffett

Rotten

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

There are great deal of people in Wales who believe our institutions are run by a cosy little clique of self-serving men and women who get all the best jobs, creaming off our hard-earned money.

They may have a point. This morning, in a committee room at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay, the National Assembly (the people we voted for who are supposed to take responsibility for running things in our country properly and accountably) decided to wash their hands of any involvement in the current crisis in Welsh rugby.

Is it their business, you may well ask. Yes it is. The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) is in receipt of a great deal of public money, as these figures show. The Assembly Committee for Communities, Equality and Local Government is responsible for sport in Wales. As the governing body of what many regard as our national sport, the WRU falls right in the middle of the Committee’s remit. So, definitely the Assembly’s business.

A bit of background for those who aren’t up to speed on this. Earlier this year, the National Assembly held a debate on the current crisis in Welsh rugby and this led to the Assembly Committee responsible for sport in Wales writing to the WRU and Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) asking them to explain their sides of the story.

The WRU and RRW both responded, along with a number of other parties, among them a group of fans representing Gwladrugby.com. All the submissions to the Committee can be seen here (PDF reader needed).

Today, that committee met to consider the responses it had received, and to decide whether they would make any further inquiry work into the Welsh rugby matter.

It must’ve been a cracking meeting. Here’s what these solid guardians of our democracy had to say on the matter:

“The Committee considered the correspondence received. The Committee agreed not to undertake any inquiry work on this matter and will release a statement shortly providing more detail about its decision.”

Wow. That must’ve been quite a meeting.

Given the amount of correspondence received on the matter, along with the huge gulf between the WRU position and that of RRW and the other groups represented in submissions to the Committee, it is astonishing that the Committee could decide that this issue was not worth pursuing.

Meanwhile, up in Cathays Park, the Welsh Government had also been hard at work responding to concerns regarding the current dispute between WRU and RRW. The Welsh Sports Minister must’ve spent all of 5 minutes coming up with this, er, “concise” response to a question from Bethan Jenkins AM on the matter:

“I have had conversations with the Chief Exec of WRU and 2 of the regions. I listened to their views and we discussed the current situation.” said the Sports Minister John Griffiths AM in his decidedly-less-than-comprehensive reply.

“I made clear the [Welsh Government's] view that they must resolve their differences as soon as possible in the interests of the game,” he concluded.

We have a phrase for this in the cynical, weary world of Gwladrugby: “Magic Table.” Essentially it refers to any empty platitudes which call on the various parties to “just get around the table.”  The fact is, they have been getting around a lot of tables, and none of it has worked, in spite of what the WRU spin in the mainstream media might have you believe.

All of this makes you wonder what reasons the Assembly Committee might have for trying to brush the issue under the carpet.

First of all, let’s have a look at the people who sit on this committee. For starters, there’s Leighton Andrews AM. Here he is with a couple of his mates.

gravy train

We’re all in this together

Back in November the Welsh Government trumpeted its new “City Regions” based around Cardiff and Swansea. Guess who was made chairman of the South East Region? Yes, it was Roger Lewis. Mind you, he’s always wanted his own region, so he must be really chuffed with that.

You might also remember the glorious day back in 2011, when Roger Lewis (you know, Roger Lewis, the CEO of the WRU) helped out his chums at the Senedd once again in the successful “Yes” campaign.  If you don’t remember it, here’s a photo to help you:

roger and leighton

Jobs for the boyos

OK, before you say it, I know there’s more than one member of the committee. But because Welsh Labour are in power in Cardiff Bay, they make up the majority of the members. And by the way, Welsh Labour are led by the guy holding the big silver plate in the photo up there.

Perhaps these titbits of information might have something to do with the committee’s puny response today. Or perhaps they don’t.

Food for thought.

15011_1_other_wallpapers_protest_peaceful_protesters_with_flowers

Welsh rugby crisis: fans state their case to the National Assembly

Back in January, the National Assembly held a debate about the current crisis in Welsh rugby. Following the debate, the Chair of the National Assembly Committee responsible for Welsh sport wrote to the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and Regional Rugby Wales (RRW), asking them to respond to a number of concerns which had been raised during the debate.

The WRU and RRW have responded already. Now it’s time for the fans’ response. Today we have sent this letter to the Chair of the Committee.

RE: The Welsh Rugby Union and Regional Rugby Wales

We have seen the reply sent by the WRU to your recent letter seeking information about the crisis affecting Welsh rugby. We note that the WRU stated that its intention was to give you some background to allow you to take ‘a fully formed view’ of the situation, and we would share that very proper concern.

Therefore we, the undersigned who have come together through the gwladrugby.com website, believe that, as concerned followers of the sport that we love, we should take the opportunity to also place our views concerning the reply on record, and in your hands. We have also taken the liberty of grouping our response under a series of headings.

‘The good of Welsh Rugby’

In any document emanating from the WRU, or in the frequent interviews that they give to the media, there is regular reference to ‘working for the good of the game’ or ‘working for the good of rugby in Wales’. Indeed the statements are chanted like some kind of mantra. This begs the question – how does one define ‘rugby in Wales’?  To Mr Roger Lewis it has a single, defined meaning – it means ‘working for the good of ‘Team Wales’. His entire focus is built around the need to project the national team as a brand and to promote it. It is our contention that there are other ways of ‘working for the good of rugby in Wales’ and they range from the people who give up their free time on a Sunday morning to run junior squads, those who turn up to support their local team on a Saturday in bad weather, to the backers of the professional teams who have to put their hands in their pockets from time to time.

The concern is exacerbated by the fact that recent statistics have shown that, while the income from the international matches have gone up, the number attending them have actually gone down! So the formula is to take more and more from fewer, more affluent spectators and corporate clients – a sustainable model we wonder? However this rich breadth of activity that we depict is not a part of his perception as it does not contribute, in his view, to the greater good of Team Wales. We suggest, therefore, that you should be wary of Mr Lewis’s frequent and gushing references to the WRU taking steps for ‘the good of Welsh rugby’ – those steps may actually be at variance with the ‘good of Welsh rugby’ in its proper context.

The WRU’s approach to “negotiations”

Throughout the response from the WRU words such as ‘negotiation’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘discussion’ occur regularly – indeed they, or their derivatives, occur more than 12 times. However the rhetoric is not necessarily matched by what is seen by many as the reality of the situation. A ‘Participation Agreement’ would suggest that it is agreeable to both partners.

Equally any extension of such an agreement would presuppose debate, discussion and agreement. The suggested readiness to negotiate does not reconcile easily with the statement of one regional CEO at a recent meeting with the WRU, who stated that the regional representatives were told that the Participation Agreement document was on the table for agreement only and not discussion. This is, in our view, a curious form of negotiation.

As stated the PA was not agreed on the last day of the year and the WRU suggest that 6 months of potential negotiation were lost – a curious form of negotiation. The WRU suggestion at the time was that it was all over, however seven days later a new, and very lengthy, document suddenly appeared.

Governance versus Control

The WRU’s view of its role and status bears some examination in terms of its implications. The need for appropriate governance arises from developments in the business world which necessitate better controls in businesses, particularly in businesses where ownership is disparate, as is the case with WRU.

Those in charge at the WRU were respected in the sphere of amateur rugby where they had great experience in the field. However the world of rugby changed radically with the emergence of the professional game that operates in a demanding business environment. But has the WRU changed?  The change in the status of the game clearly emphasized the need for a different relationship to be developed – and quickly.

However at the WRU the same people are still there on the new Board of Directors. Yet they have moved rapidly towards a new definition of relationships – the new perception is not one of governance, but of control. The WRU, it would appear, wants complete commercial control of the game in Wales. Here we enter a completely different context as the control position proposed is considerably more than simply governance of the sport. Here the personalities involved become key to the value and indeed the validity of the proposed change.

The current Directors of the WRU are a Chairman who, it is claimed, has extensive business experience, two National representatives – one with business experience and the other a respected former player who has had involvement in business and public bodies, the other directors – the majority – are representatives of the clubs at District level and many have been there since the amateur days. It is now intended that they, through their officers, should have complete commercial control of the game as well.

In contrast the regions are led by business men who have wide, successful experience in business – within Wales – and who have put their own money into the game that they love. Surely this is also acting ‘in the best interest of Welsh rugby’ – something apparently prized by the WRU? The directors of the WRU were eminently suited to the governance of the game in its amateur era, however they have little or no business experience of the type that can decide strategy with big contracts.

Fitness for purpose

The WRU is a private association. It has a business arm to deal with necessary business that forms a part of its activity brief. We take the view that, given the WRU’s size, income, assets and market value, there would be a completely different group of directors with a markedly different skill-set. In a world where there is the ownership of a massive stadium with its mortgage to manage and TV contracts involving millions of pounds to negotiate, is it not unreasonable to question the fitness for purpose of the present board of the WRU?

There is a dearth of appropriate experience in the business field which severely limits the Directors’ contribution in many situations and, at the same time, enlarges the power vacuum to be filled by officers. Perhaps the greatest indictment of the WRU is that it didn’t change when the game changed.

As a result of the inertia that accompanied the failure of the WRU to recognise the change in the climate of the operation that followed professionalisation, there is no representative of the professional game in Wales at Board level. Thus there is no representative at board level of the organisations that employ over 600 professionals working in rugby, and manage the academies that are key to the future and produce the stream of players needed by Team Wales. In the circumstances it is ludicrous that the WRU wants to control their activities without even allowing them a voice. The WRU will point no doubt to the panel set up to deal with the professional game, but will neglect to observe that they have also effectively emasculated it.

While the WRU is a private company and a business, it also performs a public function, given its permeating role in Welsh society.  It is perhaps best viewed as a quasi-public body.  As such, the decisions taken by its board should be subject to greater scrutiny and accountability in the same way that public bodies are.

In our view it is the duty and function of government bodies and, if appropriate, the judiciary, to provide such scrutiny.  We fail to see how the current board could possibly stand up to the even the slightest scrutiny: the board is wholly deficient in terms of appropriate qualifications and business experience.  Such deficiencies are manifest in the board’s abject failure to prevent its CEO from pursuing the single-minded assault on the regions – the issue which sits at the heart of the current crisis.

Central Contracts 

Much is made by the WRU of central contracts as though it is a single concept. Manifestly it is not, as there are as many different types of central contract arrangements as there are organisations that use them. It is not a single identifiable concept, but a handy term that is used as a short hand description of a variety of styles of operation.

The implementation of central contracts requires proper planning and the agreement of all involved in order to be effectively implemented. It will only work if it involves the whole squad of international players and will be a disaster if it only applies to a favoured few. When all that is agreed and there is adequate funding to bring it into operation, then the arrangement becomes one of the various forms of viable operation. However without those pre-conditions there is no situation in which it will be either acceptable or effective. The present proposal – to offer it to a limited number of players – screams out for answers to some key questions –

  • Will the centrally contracted players be given precedence in selection to justify the expense?
  • What will happen if a centrally contracted player has a loss of form? Will he still be selected anyway?
  • Is the WRU actually bidding against its own regions for players?
  • Where is the money coming from?
  • What message does the arrangement send out to the current rugby internationals of Wales? Does it tell them that they may be good enough to play for their country, but not good enough to be considered worthy of a central contract?
  • Where will they play their ‘club’ rugby if an agreement is not concluded with the regions for them to be loaned back to regions in Wales – will they have to be loaned out to England or France?

When a new situation leaves you with more questions than answers, you do not have a policy or a strategy – you have a knee jerk reaction that is designed to capture media attention and a clear sign that those responsible may be making it up as they go along. There is a major concern for the sport in all this – many have legitimate fears that the proposal is divisive within the playing squad and that is bad news – especially for Team Wales.

Conclusion

At the moment what we need is cool appraisal of what ‘is best for Welsh rugby’ – defined in the widest sense and we would respectfully suggest that such concern is not limited to the WRU. What we do not need now is reckless brinkmanship and the use of the media to spin biased points of view to the public. I am sure that the irony of the occasion was not lost on you, when the CEO of the WRU stated that the WRU was not negotiating through the media and actually stated it in an interview the radio! We also do not need an attempt to starve the regions into submission by denying them the money due to them by contract. Sadly, it was a tactic that we know only too well in Wales – it was much loved by the colliery owners who wanted to starve their workers into submission.

The relationship between the game of rugby and the people of Wales is unique. The relationship changed, in some ways, with the advent of the professional game. The current actions of the WRU will further distance the game from the people of Wales and that should be a matter of concern for yourselves at the Assembly.

We have seen it as important that you should know that there are two sides to this debate and we believe that it is important to make you aware of that fact for another reason.  It may have been brought to your notice already that the only evidence in the media that there is any coherence in the regions’ contentions, and that there is a different point of view to that of Mr Lewis, comes from the media outside Wales – a fact that, in our view, deserves to be properly noted and pointed out to you. In a country that prides itself on its democracy, it is less than acceptable that its people are dependent on the media in England for a fair case to be made. The media inside Wales, in all its guises, only seems to report what they are told by the WRU and we find that both sad and regrettable on the one hand and a palpable lack of an even handed approach on the other.

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

The sum total of desperation

A statement was recently released by the WRU purporting to outline its philosophy and success with debt. I’m no accountant but I do have an MBA which makes me very good at spotting a bullshitter.

Here is their statement in full:-

WRU Bulletin to clubs – bank debt

The Welsh Rugby Union, in response to questions from its member clubs, has decided to address recent comment about its debt management policies since 2006, suggesting they are hindering re-investment into the game. This is not the case as this note clearly outlines.

Through negotiation with the bank since 2006 the WRU has:

- reduced its interest rates by 58% from 6.5% to 4.1%

– kept its cash repayments at exactly the same levels
- achieved a course to become debt free by 2021
– boosted reinvestment into rugby by 86% from £11.8m to £22m a year

The negotiated drop in interest rates has, between 2006 and 2013, reduced the interest costs by £1.8m which is now available to plough back into Welsh rugby year on year.

By sound financial management and ensuring compliance with the banking terms, the WRU wishes to avoid the conditions of repayment of the original £10m loan being met.

Since 2006 the WRU has carried out two successful renegotiations with Barclays Bank plc which have allowed the governing body to make its banking arrangement far more flexible and to reduce its interest costs. The overall bank debt stood at just below £19.5m in 2013 down from its 2006 level of £39.1m.

It is important to note that the fundamental priority of the WRU is not to become debt free but to manage its loans in an efficient and flexible manner to drive down its interest costs to promote further re-investment in the game.

If the WRU were to seek to renegotiate its current debt structure the interest rate of 4.1% would probably rise meaning that money currently invested in the game would be paid in interest instead each year and the term of the arrangement would reduce.

In simple terms the current debt repayment structure is a valuable business asset in that it helps us invest more money into the game year on year.

The successful bank negotiations mean that the vastly improved loan terms have been achieved without a penny increase in the annual cash repayments since 2006.

One core reason why the banks now have renewed confidence in the WRU is that since 2006 our turnover has gone up by 32% from £46.1m to £61m.

The increased turnover and revised banking arrangements have helped the reinvestment into the game since 2006 rise 102% into the Regional game, 50% into the Premiership Division and 48% into the community game. The revised banking arrangements have very much aided the re-investment and not hindered it.

In figures those increases are:

- from £8.3m to £16.8m for the Regions
– from £0.8m to £1.2m for the Premiership
– and from £2.7m to £4.0m for the community game

The WRU wants to put on record its gratitude to Barclays Bank for the confidence it shows in the governing body and continued support.

ENDS

So, do they want to be debt free or not? They think they are some kind of financial wizard ‘negotiating’ with Barclays Bank but have only managed to do this twice in 8 years!

The genius of the maths is the reduction in interest rates. The WRU think moving interest from 6.5% to 4.1% is a 58% reduction. I may have an MBA but my 12 year old will put them right on this, it’s actually 37%.

This begs the question, are they competent enough to manage a business turning over £61 million? Or are they being smart, thinking they can kid every one with their bluster?

So the WRU don’t know if they want to be debt free or not, don’t know how to calculate simple percentages and can only manage bank negotiations every four years. And why do they still think they are “investing” £16.8 million in the regional game when > more than 10 million is just broadcasting money which is passed straight through to the regions.

Either, the WRU are fools OR they think we are. Unfortunately I think it’s both.

baecaerdydd

Welsh rugby crisis: National Assembly asks for WRU statement

A couple of weeks ago I reported with some weary cynicism on the debate in the National Assembly relating to the current crisis in Welsh rugby.  I didn’t have much hope that anything useful would come out of it. But it looks like I might have been wrong. On Monday, the Assembly Committee responsible for sport in Wales wrote to Roger Lewis and David Pickering at the WRU, asking them for a written statement explaining the WRU’s position on the issues. The transcript of the letter is below.

We await the WRU’s response with interest.

Mr Roger Lewis
Group Chief Executive
Welsh Rugby Union

Mr David Pickering
Chairman, Board of Directors
Welsh Rugby Union

27 January 2014
Dear Mr Lewis
I am writing on behalf of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee to express the Committee’s concerns about the recently reported difficulties in relation to the participation agreement between the WRU and the four regions beyond June 2014, and the possible implications of this for the game, both at a professional and national level and more widely at a club and community level.

Sport in Wales is a matter which falls within the remit of the Committee and, on this basis, I would like to invite you to submit a written statement setting out the WRU’s position with regard to:

- the issues that, in your view, have instigated the current dispute about the participation agreement;
– any action that is needed in order to ensure that such a situation does not occur again in the future;
– any views or concerns that you have about the governance and funding arrangements for rugby in Wales, and whether any improvements need to be made to ensure the game’s sustainability in the longer term.

You will wish to be aware that I will be writing in similar terms to Regional Rugby Wales as well as all WRU District Secretaries, as the Committee is keen to take the views of the clubs. The Committee will consider the responses before deciding whether to take any further action.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Yours sincerely

Christine Chapman AC / AM Cadeirydd / Chair
Cc. Mr John Williams, Head of Group Communications, Welsh Rugby Union