Category Archives: Rugby

Something to hide?

In a letter to all clubs on 4 April this year, WRU Chairman David Pickering wrote:

“We have just completed a governance review of the constitutional structure of the WRU which was started in August 2012 and headed by the eminent High Court judge, Sir Robert Owen. The findings of that review have already been placed before the WRU Board and some of the main points will therefore be put before you shortly by your district directors”.

So, assuming that this is true, the WRU Board saw this completed report 5 months ago.  

In fact, it is true, since the WRU themselves said so on 19 April:

“The WRU can confirm that we have held a review and there are several interesting changes we are considering before the next AGM.”

It includes a commitment to put many of these findings in the public domain before this autumn’s forthcoming AGM, with votes to be held on the implementation of some of the recommendations.

In his candidacy letter, sent to all clubs last week and published on our front page earlier today, Pickering wrote:

“I have asked Sir Robert Owen to produce his report on Governance changes for the WRU. Several key members of the Union have helped to produce this report, which is necessary to advance and modernise our game. This report will be sent to all clubs for consultation and opinion as soon as possible, to ensure all clubs can participate in future reform for the benefit of the game.”

That doesn’t sound as though its findings are going to be voted on anytime soon, and begs a number of questions.

Was Sir Robert Owen’s report put, in full, before the WRU Board?  If so, who has seen it?  Was it the full Board? Was it accepted by the Board?  The BBC reported last April that

“The findings of Sir Robert’s review are understood to have been placed before the WRU board and have been agreed in principle, but not yet formally endorsed”.

Has the report been formally endorsed since then?  If so, have District Directors presented “some of the main points” to their district members?  If not, why not?

The other reading of this, of course, is that the report was not subsequently formally accepted by Board members.  The references in last week’s letter to “…several key members of the Union (who) have helped to produce this report” and to Pickering’s apparently recent request that Sir Robert Owen should produce his report (which, let’s remember, Pickering himself said had already been completed and put before the Board in April) suggests that perhaps it was not accepted.  Was Sir Robert Owen sent away to look at it again with the assistance (cough) of a few “key members of the Union”?  Is it significant that that last phrase refers to key members of the Union, not key members of the Union Board?

Welsh rugby is in a mess.  Forty percent of the community clubs are revolting over a league restructure imposed from the top, there is still no Participation Agreement in place for the professional tier two weeks before the start of the season, an EGM was called a couple of months ago at which a motion of no-confidence in the current WRU Board was debated, and one of the two National Appointed Directors on the Board has publicly stated that the WRU is “not held in high regard, it is held in low esteem overseas… it is distressing we have this reputation… we need to restore common purpose, trust and unity”.  That was Gerald Davies.

There’s an AGM in the next few weeks at which the two National Appointed Director posts are up for grabs.  Gerald Davies has stood down.  The other – Chairman of the WRU for the past 12 years David Pickering – is seeking re-election.

Given this calamitous state of affairs, it would seem to be obvious that member clubs need to see the report of Sir Robert Owen’s review before the AGM.

In an excellent analysis of the governance issue, Gwlader PhilBB noted

“…the £60m turnover WRU has taken two years to write its review, so far, whereas the £10.5bn turnover Co-Op Group took about 4 months”.

A cynic could almost conclude that the WRU Board – and its Chairman – don’t want member clubs to see the review’s findings.