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.
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:
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.