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Central Contracts: the differences and similarities between NZ and Welsh Rugby

There is currently a lot of interest in the differences between the NZ and Welsh Rugby structures. Having been CEO of both organisations and delivering Pro Rugby in NZ and Regional Rugby in Wales I might have some knowledge to impart of how each country works. In the table below I set out the current structure in both countries. There are obvious differences; however I do propose a structure for Wales at the end.

New Zealand

Wales

The 600 clubs (Wikipedia/IRB) are the owners of the game in NZ. The 330 clubs (WRU) are the owners of the game in Wales.
The clubs are distributed around NZ and are formally part of one of 26 Provinces. The clubs are distributed around Wales and are formally part of 9 Districts.
The clubs elect a board to their Provincial Governing body. The clubs elect a board to their District body.
The PGB’s elect members to a 9 man NZ Board, which does not include the CEO. The Districts elect 13 members to a 17 man WRU Board which includes the CEO.
The NZRU owns the 5 Super Rugby Franchises, although they have recently decided to sell shares to PGB’s and individuals. The Union still Centrally Contract all pro players and control most sources of revenue. TV, commercial etc. The SRF’s keep all gate receipts and some commercial revenue. The 4 Professional teams in Wales – referred to as Regions are privately owned. They are funded by TV Revenue which is negotiated by the Union, some additional WRU funding and additional income from gate receipts and commercial activities. They are responsible for contracting their elite squad. They provide the players for Wales at a level higher than IRB requirements.
The Union sets policy and maintains control of Inter provincial competitions at all age groups. They also provide high level support for the development of the game. They provide direct funding to PGB’s who in turn are responsible for the Provincial Teams, clubs, schools, juniors, girls and women and Maori teams. This support involves some funding and grass roots development The Union controls all aspects of the game in Wales, including development of players and all income. The Regions are barred from having any involvement in the development of the game. The Union controls all levels of club competition in Wales. They have recently introduced Central Contracts and have succeeded in signing 1 player on a contract that makes it impossible for their own Regions to compete with them.

 

There are 3 glaring difference between the 2 systems:

  1. The NZRU owns the Professional Franchises and centrally contracts all professional players.
  2. The NZRU has a much more mature and evolving approach to the ownership of the franchises.
  3. The NZRU (clubs) trust their PGB’s work in their best interests and be a fundamental part of the development of the game. This includes opportunities to raise funds.

So, what is the solution for Wales?

Once an agreement has been reached on the way forward for the pro game in Wales, it is my view that the critical next step is to address the issue of governance. This does not need a long drawn out study at huge cost. It needs to be discussed by the owners (clubs), agreed then acted upon.

This is an option that I favour, would be easy to introduce and would be easy to implement. It would approximate the NZ model whilst still recognising the history of Welsh Rugby.

The key to any governance change to ease the tension between the Pro and Community game is to give fans a reason to buy in. New history and tradition has to start somewhere. It is a matter of record that the WRU, in particular and the Regions have not evolved the Regional structure. This shows a genuine lack of leadership.

  1. Maintain ownership and control with the clubs.
  2. Disband 9 Districts and replace with 4 Rugby Provinces and 1 Development Province.
  3. Clubs in each Province would elect a Provincial Rugby Board.
  4. Each PRB would elect 2 Board members to the WRU. There would be 3 Independent board members elected at the AGM by all clubs. The CEO would not be a board member = 11 member board.
  5. Provinces given meaningful and historical names that are easy to say and remember i.e. Gwent
  6. The Pro Team represents the Province and is called say Gwent Dragons. There is no mention of any existing team in the names i.e. Newport. There should be a rep from the PRB on the pro team.
  7. The Provinces are given devolved rights such as the development of the game in their Province according to protocols set down by the Board of WRU. There would be other devolved powers operating under WRU protocols.
  8. The marketing and branding of the province is a joint initiative with WRU. Every team in the province would be encouraged to have a provincial badge on their kit.
  9. Not only would this encourage a sense of belonging but loyalty as well. The threat of football needs to be taken seriously in all this debate as more and more kids follow Swansea and Cardiff.

Many people will say they favour splitting the Pro and Community game. NZ does not do that and they are the most cohesive, well run Rugby Union in the history of the game.

These are my thoughts and I will be seeking to raise them at the forthcoming Rugby Debates on the future of Welsh Rugby.

9 thoughts on “Central Contracts: the differences and similarities between NZ and Welsh Rugby”

  1. And while each province should be called after a recognisable geographical name such as Gwent, the regional franchise name should be decided by the franchise only, and if they want to call themselves the Newport Jimmy Savilles then so be it.

  2. I agree with Moffo’s basic proposal of creating 5 regions/provinces to replace all the districts, and then to align all rugby within each region, presumably with only the Premier division remaining as an all-wales league.

    The 4 professional teams should then be established as franchises awarded by WRU to represent each province (with a development franchise for the Gogs playing in Premier for now). But apart from having a regional representative sitting on the governing board, each franchise should be given complete autonomy with no union control over operational or commercial matters.

  3. Is having four Regions, all in the South not an issue? The supporters have not been enticed in any great numbers to the Regions but turn out in vast numbers for the national team. That would suggest there are many Welsh rugby fans who are not represented by the existing Regions. Is four too many? Are they too close?

  4. I like some if your proposals, and support the need for provincial development and governance. A new modern trajectory at the right point in time post professionalism.

    However, the whole concept will be doomed to failure so long as pro egg ions remain private, with woeful business strategy, lacking creativity – and an inability to negotiate broadcast agreements et al. Sadly, we need visionaries who can see the horizon of broadcasters ruling the roost as in any major pro sport – but they will only invest where the product is highly sellable viz a vee pan European quality competition. Watch out for a new competition in the future involving South African teams – clever investors will get broadcasters to push for this.

  5. It’s at least as good as any other suggestion. I fear it is doomed on the basis that it does little to cater for the petty minded, the foolhardy or the downright ignorant. I mean ‘Gwent Dragons’? Sure it makes sense, but remember the daftness of that argument however many years ago, and who ended up winning? There we had a critical mass of market demand prepared to see their pro team die out rather than compromise over its name. That should tell you more than anything of how well common sense plays around here…

  6. Commonsense Mr moffet , but will the Regions agree to it? …NO .why ? because like the big four before them Newport , Llanelli , Cardiff and Swansea these teams think they have a right to represent Wales at the top table of Pro rugby in europe.The trouble we see now goes back a long time and what amazes me is during the 15 or so years its been going on , the Executive of the WRU has changes numerous times while its the same old faces at the regions and clubs before them that are not willing to move on to a modern game and structure.You here them talk about “our history” but what about the other great clubs that they helped knife in the back …they had great history too. The structure you propose is perfect for a country like wales but the die hard clubs …because thats what they really are “Clubs pretending to be Regions” will be dead against it because they`ll claim our history is too important , we beat the all blacks and all such nonsense that should be remembered rightly but its in the past and they need to accept that the game needs to move on.Justin E asks what about the pro clubs now ? … simple they will be playing in the welsh premiership where they should be playing and their history will always stay intact like the history of Ponypool ,Aberavon , Neath , Bridgend etc So all you so called regional fans need to smell the coffee and decide whats more important being stuck in the past or betterment for the whole of welsh rugby. Congratulations DAVID MOFFET on a very good plan looking into the future for welsh rugby.

  7. You forgot the bit about the relationship between the 5 provincial professional teams and the 5 new provinces?

    Who owns and controls the 5 pro teams (the current 4 and a northern team?)?

    What makes you think that several of the pro teams will be any more amenable to becoming a fully representative provincial team than they were 11/12 years ago?

  8. This is a purely reactive plan. Firstly, how will more money and investment be attracted into the game? Secondly, you ignore Welsh rugby history and culture (just as you did in 2003). Thirdly – and more worryingly – you ignore the unique market conditions in NZ which have enabled their changing solution to service. A country on the edge of the known world can work in isolation, but a tiny country like Wales next to two economic superpowers?

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