It’s been clear for some time that many of our community rugby clubs are struggling to survive and blame a lack of support from the WRU for their plight. Fifty one of them felt sufficiently strongly to put their names to a call for an Extraordinary General Meeting of the WRU, expressing their lack of confidence in the governing body.
Not every club in Wales is struggling to survive, of course. Many of them are in rude health. Take Cefn Cribwr RFC, for example.
Just this week they opened their new clubhouse. It cost quite a lot of money to build, but luckily the WRU and other bodies were able to step in and fund the project to the tune of £90,000.
This is great news for Cefn Cribwr, and their President, Mr Roger Lewis. Here he is with his friend Carwyn Jones and the coach of the Welsh rugby team, Warren Gatland, at the opening of the new clubhouse.
In case you didn’t know, Carwyn Jones is the First Minister of the Welsh Government. He’s also a member of the National Assembly for Wales, who are supposed to be responsible for making sure things are run properly in our country.
The National Assembly committee responsible for sport in Wales recently decided that it wasn’t worth their while carrying out an investigation into the running of Welsh rugby. I recently decided that wasn’t a particularly good decision. It might have had something to do with Cefn Cribwr’s new clubhouse.
At this point it’s probably worth explaining a little bit more about where the money for Cefn Cribwr’s new clubhouse has come from.
There’s this thing called the Millennium Stadium Charitable Trust (MSCT). Its purpose is to give grants to “inspiring projects throughout Wales.” The MSCT gets its money from a levy from every ticket sold at the Millennium Stadium. The MSCT isn’t controlled by the WRU but the Union like to include the money distributed by MSCT in the total handed out to Welsh rugby from central funds.
The MSCT have put £20,000 towards the Cefn Cribwr Clubhouse project.
But, according to the MSCT’s own website, they are only supposed to award a maximum of £2500 to “local” projects and £7500 to “regional” projects.
Now, considering Roger Lewis himself refers to Cefn Cribwr as a “village”, that would tend to suggest that the new clubhouse isn’t a “regional” project. It’s probably fair to say it’s a “local” project. So by the MSCT’s rules, it should only have been allowed to receive a maximum of £2500.
But it’s received eight times that amount.
According to the most recent published accounts for MSCT, their total annual grant spend was £236,000. So by that measure, Cefn Cribwr RFC received between 8 and 9% of the total amount MSCT dished out in a year. Considering it’s only in Division 5 South Central, Cefn seems to be punching well above its weight.
A further £50,000 of the funding comes in the form of a loan from the WRU. According to the WRU accounts, that loan is due to be repaid to the WRU at the end of June. Let’s hope Cefn Cribwr are able to find some inventory to cover the bill.
Of course, this probably has nothing to do with the fact that the club president is also the CEO of the WRU, but you’d be forgiven for thinking there might be a link. Mr Lewis himself seems to be very proud of the link between his club and the governing body.
Back in January this year, Mr Lewis took part in a debate about Welsh rugby on BBC Wales. He said he didn’t understand why people thought there was a crisis in Welsh rugby. There may not be a crisis from his point of view, either as CEO of the WRU or President of Cefn Cribwr, but out in the real world of Welsh rugby there are many clubs who haven’t been as lucky as Cefn Cribwr. These clubs are faced with the real prospect of going out of business due to lack of support from their Union.
The forthcoming EGM gives those clubs a chance to hold Roger Lewis and the WRU to account. If they don’t take that chance, then the community game in Wales faces oblivion.