Today, for the first time in the 16-year history of Gwladrugby.com, I had to pull an article from the website.
The article, published last week, was one of the best-researched pieces of writing about Welsh rugby I had read in a long time, and it was very well-received by readers of this website and our followers on social media.
I didn’t write the article myself, I hasten to add. The author had put a lot of hard work and diligence into the piece, and I know he is very disappointed that it has had to be taken down.
Now I’ll move on to tell you why I felt I had to remove the article.
At lunchtime today I had a message from the author, telling me that he had been contacted by Simon Rimmer, the Welsh Rugby Union’s Corporate Communications Manager. Rimmer was complaining about two paragraphs in the article where the author had quoted Rimmer. Rimmer claims that his words were taken out of context and that he understood the interview was “off the record.”
The interview was carried out as research for the author’s university dissertation, which Rimmer was well aware of when he was interviewed. The interview was also recorded by the author, to ensure any quotations were 100% accurate.
Rimmer’s assumption that the interview was “off the record” therefore seems either naive or disingenuous.
Whatever the reason for this assumption, the fact remains that Rimmer cannot contest that the article quotes the actual words that he used. Those words don’t make comfortable reading for the WRU.
There are some other rather disturbing aspects to this case.
The article was published a week ago, on 31st May. Why did it take the WRU 7 days to decide Rimmer’s words had been quoted out of context?
Secondly, Rimmer not only objected to the author quoting him from a recorded interview, he also suggested a replacement form of words that the author could insert into the article. This is what Rimmer wanted us to publish:
“Discussions between the WRU and RRW are ongoing, regular and positive but we are not in a position at the moment to discuss the content or comment on conjecture.”
This isn’t anything like what Rimmer said in the original interview. In fact, it is almost the opposite. There can be no confusion over context here: Rimmer is quite clearly trying to change his entire message.
Having discussed this with the author this afternoon, I decided that there was no way I would accept Rimmer’s demands to substantially change the article. Instead, I decided to pull the article altogether. I felt that I could not refuse without putting the author in a very difficult position where he was likely to attract more unwanted attention from the WRU.
If it had been me who had written the article, I’d have refused to change a single word. Those of you who have read the original will agree that there is no ambiguity over the words Rimmer used.
It is a real shame that this happened. This was one of the best articles we have ever published. The analysis of the particular issues and research were far more rigorous than anything I’ve read in the mainstream media over the past year or so.
That the WRU are prepared to go to these lengths to quash debate over the current issues in Welsh rugby demonstrates that they have, in the words of Roger Lewis, “lost the airwaves.”
In acting in this bullying manner, they have merely made the situation worse for themselves. This has shone a light on the way in which our governing body works. It is not a pretty picture.