The Curious Incident of the Lapdogs in the Night-time

The continued media silence in Wales over the Alastair Eykyn story about the WRU’s undermining of Alun-Wyn Jones’ status with the Ospreys and ongoing ‘harassment’ of a RRW employee on an ‘almost daily’ basis would, in ordinary circumstances, be one of the most curious developments in an extremely curious affair. However, when it comes to the Western Mail and BBC Wales, it seems less like the curious incident of the dog in the night time and more like the curious incident of the lapdog.

The first time I had a decidedly ominous feeling about the rigour and fullness of Welsh media coverage of the dispute came last year when, in the coverage of a RRW press conference criticising the frustration of the PRGB, regional ire was directed at Westgate Street. “I sum it up with the words power, control, divide, conquer, wipe-out,” said Peter Thomas. “That is the agenda for certain people across the way.”

Now, the first inkling for consumers of Welsh media that these incendiary sentiments existed would have occurred on the twelfth of never. These remarks were simply unreported, despite the fact that these were easily the most headline-friendly comments in the whole press conference. They were reported in the Guardian and were found nestled in an unedited youtube clip of the press conference available on regional websites but, ultimately, the Welsh media declined to report them, let alone lead with them.

Of course, one instance can be attributed to editorial prerogative as to what is newsworthy or journalistic incompetence, with the latter in no short supply in the Welsh media. However, since then, a pattern of omission has emerged which means that it is no longer feasible to construe missing the power-control-divide-conquer-wipeout story as the isolated missing of an open goal.

Thomas was at it again in the Rugby Paper from the 5th January, in which he ventured the opinion that: “There is a desire within the regions to work with the WRU but there is no appetite from the regions to work with Roger Lewis. We have no confidence in him.”

Again, perhaps the most headline-friendly and incendiary comment of the entire affair went unreported. In light of this, perhaps it was unsurprising that the Welsh media would also decline to publish the other claims in the report, namely that the WRU has been conspiring to centrally contract Welsh players and play them in England.

But hey, perhaps they didn’t get the Rugby Paper delivered that week. And perhaps it’s a co-incidence that renowned Welsh rugby expert and intellectual giant Jeff Probyn was invited to air his views on Radio Wales a day after espousing pro-WRU sentiments in that very same edition of the Rugby Paper.

Unfortunately, it seems that the reticence epidemic is spreading. The WRU declined to invite any members of the press to their pre-6N squad naming today, preferring to retreat behind the inviolability of an email to the media corps.

Given the furious criticism the regions received from luminaries of the Welsh media (such as Andy Howell, the man who looks like Alexander Pope but doesn’t write like Alexander Pope) for having the temerity not to include their superstar players in a pre-Christmas joint press conference, the decision of the WRU to soft-sell the upcoming Six Nations with a letter from the table of the Politburo will surely attract the most frightful savaging in the Welsh media. Right?

Or, ‘food for thought?’ as per the parlance of Welsh media’s most fearless little lapdog.

7 thoughts on “The Curious Incident of the Lapdogs in the Night-time”

  1. PS No-one believes your propaganda and attempt to scaremonger by comparing central contracts to a totalitarian state (at least I hope for their sake they bloody don’t!). Apart from anything else the truth is out there in New Zealand, Ireland and Australia where central contracts work by keeping players fresh for international duty and on the whole playing in the country of their nationality. It wouldn’t really matter who was running the WRU as it’s only wages and the number of games that need considering. Therefore these wouldn’t change or at least would have to be good enough to keep players in Wales and fresh to play.
    By the way I’m a Cardiff supporter, but believe what happened to Bridgend and Ponty was a disgrace and I know that four regions are not sustainable in their current guises.

  2. Oh purleeeese! Comparing central contracts to Stalinist USSR?! And you still can’t see that you are biased?! But thanks for telling me it’s professional rugby because I clearly hadn’t considered that nugget of information!!
    I hapen to agree with Dr Gwyn Jones and believe that we cannot sustain our star players’ wages and so central contracts is the only way to pay em and keep em in Wales.
    I also think that regions ARE the way forward, but NOT super clubs. Only supporters of the four super clubs we currently have believe that this is the best business model or fair. I happen to believe the fairest model would produce the best business. We should not have two west Wales’ or two east Wales’ regions. But we all know Sacrlets supporters especially (yes I have your number) are only interested in the survival of the Scaaaarletts.

  3. Only supporters of the Ospreys, Llanelli, Cardiff or Newport would try to pretend that the model of four “regions” as it presently exists is fair. The writer of this article clearly has an agenda as he is worried about his club…or rather “region” disappearing. Are you willing to tell me which region you support? Or are you projecting your own desire to control onto your view of the media?

    1. @Glyndwrthe2nd – “Fair”? What on earth has “fair” got to do with anything? The pre-“regions” situation was not going to support professional rugby being played to a high level in Wales. So something had to be done. Something was done, and it has at least partially succeeded. Look at the Grand Slams.

      This is not pissing about down the park with your mates, it is professional sport. It is business; ruthless, unforgiving. It is about winning, and the Devil take the hindmost.

      This is why, in the areas in which the regional reorganisation did not fully succeed (sustainable finances within the pro game in Wales), something needs to change now. Both RRW and Roger Lewis know that. The difference between them is in how they want to see it change.

      Lewis wants control; central contracts, WRU ownership of teams etc. Very tidy, nobody able to challenge central decisions. Kind of like in Stalin’s USSR.

      The regions and RRW want to be more independent; to be able to maximise their businesses’ incomes to the best of their ability; not to be chained to and bankrupted by poor centralised decision-making; to compete internationally on at least as even a playing field as possible; and to grow and develop the success of the game in Wales.

      Which way do you think might work best?

      Perhaps you’re sceptical of the regions’ claim that they really do want to work together with the WRU for the benefit of the game as a whole? Well, it is actually in their best interest to do so. If the game as a whole is healthier, and Team Wales is more successful, there will be a larger potential market, greater demand, and a better going rate for their products; it is not a zero-sum situation.

      Consider also that no matter how good the current management of the WRU might be, with centralised control you are only one bad hiring decision away from a disaster. The more independent the regions are, the less damage one set of bad management can do. Why put all your eggs in one basket?

      Perhaps you’re still gutted that the club you support, which has a long and proud history, is basically not represented by the “regions”, and you think that that is not fair and that any solution must include your club at the top level. Well, the supporters of every other club with a similar history might feel the same way, and it is not possible for all of them to be involved at that level; there is just not enough money coming into the game to support that. You could only keep everything “fair” by dropping the top level down a bit. Quite a lot, in fact. To the point that there’d be no Welsh clubs capable of competing in worthwhile international competition. So unless you can persuade rugby to go amateur again (and good luck with that), we have to accept a smaller number of top-level teams.

      So, what do you want? Which model do you think will bring it? Do you really believe that the Welsh media failing to report impartially will improve its chances?

    2. I’ll leave TaI to comment on his own allegiances. But for what it’s worth I don’t have allegiance to a region or a club but a general interest in the long-term health of Welsh rugby as a whole.

      Either way the article is about the quality and objectivity of rugby journalism in Wales, and cites several clear examples where there has been an opportunity to report but that opportunity has, for some reason, not been taken.

      It seems odd, and questionable, that the British press have picked up and investigated angles yet the Welsh media seem unable, or unwilling to do the same. It’s hardly as though the topics referenced in the article aren’t “newsworthy”, is it?

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