So, another day, another visit to the giggling bizzaroworld which is Welsh rugby. Today, Roger Lewis, Chief Executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, appeared on the channel he used to run. His aim, it would appear, was to secure the higher moral ground as a man of honour, of integrity and of dignity.
“With respect, we have not been playing this out in the public domain. The Welsh Rugby Union has kept its counsel, we’ve retained our dignity and only now this week are we discussing these matters with yourselves,” he said.
“We’ve not been issuing press releases. We’ve not been going to the press discussing these matters.
“We have always wanted to have our negotiations behind closed doors but we are where we are, and we now have to look to the future.”
And he is, of course, quite right. While Regional Rugby Wales have released some statements and taken advantage of high-profile derby games over Christmas to push their case, the Honourable Roger has resisted the temptation to get involved in a slanging match.
For instance, this is Roger not writing to all 320 member clubs on January 4th this year in response to RRWs decision not to sign a new Partnership Agreement which would have meant the same terms for 2018 as 2009 . In this non-communication, he does not criticise the Regions business model, nor does he rather weirdly suggest that they should “improve their structures and commercial synergies to build support and stability.”
He has form for this sort of non-intervention, of course. On 11th December 2013 the WRU did not issue a statement after a meeting with RRW ended without the signing of a new Participation Agreement.
Nor did Roger Lewis tell BBC Wales, on 18th November 2013, that he expected that RRW and the WRU would sign a new deal before Christmas.
On 24th October 2013 the WRU emphatically did not announce that it had offered to employ ‘leading Welsh players’ who are out of contract at the end of the 2013/14 season.
And those who thought they’d stumbled upon an extensive interview given by Roger Lewis to Scrum V on October 6th last year were mistaken . They’d actually tuned in to Rob Brydon’s new comedy vehicle “The Secret Life of Uncle Bryn Mitty”.
Uncle Bryn talked about negotiations between the WRU and RRW and warned of an uncertain future for the regions. In fact, he went as far as to suggest that, should the regions refuse to agree to roll on the then existing Partnership Agreement,
“They would not be playing in Rabo [Pro12]. They’d not be receiving the monies off the Welsh Rugby Union, they would not have insurance off the Welsh Rugby Union for their players and they would not have any referees.” Good job that these aren’t the words of Roger Lewis, isn’t it?
This dearly held principle of conducting negotiations behind closed doors and not playing this out in the media goes back a long way. On 31st March 2013 the WRU issued a wide-ranging statement, disclosing private information and private conversations, and making direct criticism of the regions, specifically in connection with George North’s transfer from the Llanelli Scarlets.
The November before that, in 2012, he gave his solemn word to The Independent that, “We are where we are largely through past managerial incompetence at regional level,” before going on to add in the very same sentence, ”I’ve kept my counsel on this until now. Why? Because a year ago, when we saw the regions heading towards the rocks, we commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to produce a detailed report.”
A fair bit of keeping his own counsel has been going on for quite a while. Glad we cleared that one up.
So, either the man in charge of Welsh rugby is deranged, or he’s a compulsive liar who thinks that he’s dealing with a bunch of idiots with the memories of some particularly forgetful goldfish.
Can we really do no better than this? It’s time for him to go.