Violin Section

Fiddling while Rome burns: WRU proposing more changes to league structure

A couple of weeks ago, the WRU sent this letter outlining more planned changes to the structure of the middle and lower leagues in Wales.

There are several problems with the proposal:

  • They need an extra 24 refs for the new Div 1 and 2 – these will be drawn from Level 2 refs currently reffing Youth/2nd team rugby
  • Teams currently in Div 6 will play teams from current Div 3/4 next season. These means a lot of mismatches and dilution of quality of the games
  • Has this been agreed by the WRU Head of Rugby and Head of Refs? If it hasn’t, what does that say about the way the WRU is behaving?

This will undoubtedly lead to a lot of smaller clubs getting pissed off with having beatings dished out to them by much better teams on a regular basis. Many of these clubs and their players may just give up. This doesn’t seem to be a very sensible approach for the WRU to be adopting at a time when they need to bolster their support at grassroots level instead of alienating it.

To all Referee Society Secretaries and P.B. Executive

Following on from last Friday nights Parent Body meeting where we discussed next years league and fee structures I have listed below a number of bullet points for further discussion with your members, which we discussed at the meeting.

  1. As stated on Friday, next season (2014-15) we have a potential increase of games from 126 this season to 155 next season
  2. The number of officials at Level 3 will increase from approx. 150 to 180 in order to service the increase
  3. The lowest league proposed for next season is Division 3 which will be regionalised
  4. Divisions 1 & 2 will become 4 divisions within each. Currently these are 1E & W and 2E & W.
  5. There will be obvious dilution in the quality of games within these two leagues
  6. A third division being created in North Wales will add extra cost. When you consider it costs the department approximately 200/230 pounds to send a referee to NW or vice versa to SW.
  7. We will need an extra 24 referees to referee at Div 1 & 2 next season
  8. Our development pathway will be eroded in as much as Level 2 referees will now move straight from Youth/Second team rugby to Division 3
  9. If the fee structure were to stay the same (up to Dev 3 which will be the lowest league next season) there is a potential budget increase of £41880.00. This will be in match fees only. This does not account for mileage which is somewhat of an uncontrollable
  10. With the proposal that I have put forward which I believe is a fair and responsible one we will still have an increase of £21110.00
  11. There will be an obvious number of mismatches next season when Div 6 teams come up against teams from Div 3 / Div 4

Just to put you in the picture for those who are not familiar with next year’s league structure and how it will look I have outlined below.

Season 2014/15

Premiership – no structural change

Championship – no structural change

Division 1 – 4 leagues of 12 clubs, which will consist of the current 24 clubs in Division 1 plus the 24 clubs in Division 2 (league based on geography)

Division 2 – 4 leagues of 12 clubs, which will consist of the current 48 clubs from Division 3 (League based on geography)

Division 3 – There will be 13 Divisions consisting of the 48 clubs from Division 4, the 60 clubs from Division 5 and the 39 clubs from Division 6 (the 147 clubs will be assigned a league dependant on geography)

Division 1 N – 12 clubs

Division 2 N – 10 clubs

Division 3 N – 10 clubs

I hope the above gives you a bit more of an insight into the challenges that lie ahead and as always if there are any queries please do not hesitate to call me. As stated I have to factor in the dilution of the system and quality of the rugby that will be played in certain leagues next season.

I look forward to your response in early February as outlined in the meeting. By then we can hopefully work together and move this amended structure forward.

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A Question of Trust

There’s been plenty of debate about the BBC Wales ScrumV Special which aired on 19th January. I wrote about my impressions of the recording and subsequent broadcast here.

However there hasn’t been a response from the BBC. A group of us who were at the recording have written a letter of complaint to the BBC Trust and the BBC Complaints Department. The contents of that letter are reproduced below.

We write to you with concerns over the recent ScrumV programme on the 19th January on BBC Wales having been audience members and subsequently viewers of the show.

We appreciate that this may generally sit with the BBC Complaints department and have copied them in on this correspondence so they may also respond accordingly but as there are question marks over several issues such as editorial content and commercial relationships, we thought it best to address the issue to yourselves also. 

The show was sold to us as a ‘Question Time’ warts and all format, intentionally shot over a short period to get some answers from the panel and an honest viewpoint of the current situation in Welsh rugby with plenty of interaction, discussion and questions from a varied audience of regional, club and international supporters of all ages and genders.

Many of us did a great deal of preparation in anticipation of a ground-breaking show in respect of rugby in Wales and we were hugely disappointed to instead listen to the panel discuss pre-planned topics with a handful of opinions from the audience rather than questions and no opportunities to put any questions forward to the panel. The production team had specifically asked us to provide questions prior to the recording. None of these questions were used.

We were led to believe that the programme would be in the Question Time style. Before the recording started we were encouraged to put our hands up during the show if we had any questions or wanted to express our opinions. We were also encouraged to make our feelings known through applause or boos so the show would accurately reflect the audience’s mood.

In respect of the format of the show we left the studio disenchanted and frustrated having prepared and taken time out of our weekends to travel from all over Wales. We appreciate that the set-up of the show is entirely the BBC’s prerogative, but we feel we were invited to the show under false pretences. We were led to expect an interactive programme but it was nothing of the sort.

Our frustration turned to anger when we watched the recording later that day. We had not expected much having been there, but as the very least we thought we’d left the studio safe in the knowledge that whilst we weren’t able to direct questions at the panel or voice our concerns or approval, we did express our feelings through the applause, laughter and boos. However, it transpired that this wasn’t reflected in the final edit.

Several of the comments made by Roger Lewis were followed by jeering and various comments were made by us in the audience. However, the audience reaction only came across once during the broadcast version of the show, which made the debate seem much more amicable and considerably less confrontational than it was. Even some of the more confrontational comments from the panel and host were edited out, for example when Gareth Lewis pushed Roger Lewis for an answer as to whether the WRU had looked to set up new regions.

There were several further examples of this with what appeared to be the one common theme that the show was edited in order to be favourable to the WRU and Roger Lewis. For those of us in the studio there was no question that there was a very clear discontent with the WRU from the majority of the audience which did not come across in the final edit.

The whole WRU/RRW/Welsh Rugby debate has been poorly reported by BBC Wales and ScrumV, after being very late arriving at the party the impartiality has been questionable on simply too many occasions. You only have to look at the way the impasse is being reported by both local and national newspapers such as The Times, The Guardian, The Rugby Paper and Evening Post to see a balanced unbiased view on the topic; indeed Paul Rees’ article in the Guardian on the ScrumV programme in question (he was a panellist on the programme but was given limited opportunity to speak) speaks volumes on the standard and impartiality of the show and reporting of the topic.

This raises many questions over not only the individual show but also whether BBC Wales is profoundly compromised by their commercial relationship with the WRU and/or its employees. The indisputable difference between the unedited and edited version can’t be masqueraded as coincidence or poor editing so there appears to be something untoward. We know that the WRU were accompanied by their legal representatives when they attended the recording and we are concerned that the presence of these representatives may have adversely affected the balance of the programme which went to air.

We anticipate that BBC Wales Complaints will be well versed in respect of responding to this issue as they will no doubt already have had complaints on the matter. We expect that the BBC Trust will be able to delve a little deeper than the likely response from BBC Wales Complaints (having to edit the show as it overran, giving the panel sufficient airtime or whatever stock answers are generally given) and give us a meaningful response.

The public generally look to the BBC for unbiased and objective news and content and BBC Wales and ScrumV’s recent actions and coverage have brought into question whether the BBC is acting correctly in their role as a public service broadcaster and we implore you to fully investigate this. We feel that we have very real and legitimate concerns and we would be reassured to know that this issue is being treated seriously and would welcome any feedback you could give us and if you require any further information from us we are more than happy to assist.