Regional Rugby Wales, the organisation which represents the four Welsh regions, the Scarlets, the Ospreys, Newport Gwent Dragons and Cardiff Blues has issued the following joint statement in response to recent communication from the WRU.
Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) calls on the Chief Executive of the WRU, as the leader of the Executive of Welsh rugby’s governing body, not to stall the rightful purpose and direction of the agreed and democratic PRGB (Professional Regional Game Board).
RRW urges the WRU not to side-track discussions or detract from the recommendations of the WRU’s own independent report undertaken by PWC and completed in October 2012.
The Regions would question why the PRGB has not been taken forward by the WRU and request that it is formally submitted to arbitration to see where the fault lies in this process.
The Regions would question why the WRU is now seemingly ignoring its own independent report and the proper process of the Professional Regional Game Board (PRGB) that it signed up to, to take things forward - choosing instead to revert to an historical debate on central contracts.
The Regions would equally question why that at the formal monthly meeting of the Management Board the Tuesday prior to Judgement Day no mention was made of the letter of invitation to a WRU ‘Summit’ on central contracts. No mention was made at the double-header event when the four Regions were with the WRU Chief Executive at the Millennium Stadium. The invitation was instead issued by press release.
RRW deplores the seemingly cynical way that a talented young home-grown Welsh international has been placed into the centre of high profile public debate as part of a public statement by the WRU to highlight issues in Welsh rugby.
The Regions worked in a spirit of unity and purpose and with clear trust, good will and openness during the process of the PWC report and the subsequent establishment of PRGB; sharing sensitive financial information with the sole desire to improve the state of the game in Wales, something all four regions passionately support and believe in.
The findings of the independent report made it clear there was no one bullet solution; including disregarding central contracts as an initiative which would not address the key fundamental issues facing Welsh rugby as a whole.
Central contracts for individual players is a knee-jerk reaction – it will not help nurture the whole game in Wales including community rugby and the important role that our clubs play in helping develop young talent for Wales.
The Regions confidence in the scrutiny and process of the independent PWC report, the PRGB and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) remains unchanged.
The Regions summarise and outline their position as follows:
“It is clear from PWC that a clear strategy is required for Welsh Rugby if it is to survive and prosper.
“All of us in Welsh Rugby need that strategy, so we can determine our own respective progression and work together with best effect for the benefit of Welsh Rugby.
“This is what we have been saying for years. The WRU has chosen to ignore our pleas for rationale debate and the WRU Chief Executive has been prepared to oversee the decline of Welsh rugby outside the international tier.
“The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the WRU and Four Regions in November 2012 agreed democratic representation on a newly established PRGB with an independent chairman with a casting vote.
“After the first meeting of the PRGB; the WRU have withdrawn from negotiations and made an alternative offer to continue with the existing management board with a non-voting chairman and to rename it PRGB.
“This creates a false impression that something has changed. We do not want to be part of something that is not transparent or democratic.
“We are now only happy to rely upon the judgement of the voting independent chairman at the head of PRGB, to act logically in assisting the parties to move forward.
“We have confidence in the WRU’s choice of Chairman of the PRGB, as we are confident he will act with logic and integrity for the benefit of Welsh rugby. We were very happy with how he chaired the first meeting and the support and advice he has provided outside that meeting.
“We note that the request at the first and only meeting of the PRGB on December 17th 2012 the independent chairman of the PRGB requested that Roger Lewis and his WRU executives to put forward a clear strategy to take the game forward in Wales. This has never been produced.
“For the WRU to conduct itself in this way in the public domain, under the leadership of the Chief Executive, is in our view, not acceptable for a governing body which is ultimately responsible for the state of Welsh rugby and which sets the standards for and leads the promotion of our game across the world.
“The Professional game in Wales is in decline. We need solid, democratic action to halt that. Continuing to reduce bank debt, investing in hospitality boxes and other capital scheme are strategic choices made by the WRU, which may or may not be the best use of resources; and we are not in a position to judge.
“However, it is all about strategic choice. We continue to uphold the PWC report that clearly states: “greater collaboration is required between the WRU and the Regions, as currently the structure is not viable.”
“We do not believe that this should just be about control of the “elite” game in Wales. PWC recommended better collaboration on how finances are used for the protection and development of Welsh rugby including the international game, professional game, premiership and community game.
“It would seem the voices and pleas for help from the grassroots of Welsh rugby are not being heard as the WRU’s preoccupation continues with the elite headline tier of the game.
“We share the Welsh rugby public’s frustration and dismay about the state of Welsh rugby and the way that these discussions are being played out in the media.
“We want to act with a sense of maturity, purpose and unity and ensure that Welsh rugby does survive and prosper.”
In light of the Region’s position, RRW would challenge the WRU and ask a series of fundamental questions to be answered for transparency and purpose:
- Why is the WRU Executive now not comfortable with having an independent chairman with voting rights to preside over the PRGB?
- When will the WRU put forward its strategy for the future of the game in Wales to the PRGB members as requested at the first meeting of the Board?
- Does the WRU consider it is acting with integrity as it seeks to play out its position in the public arena first without reference or discussions with the Four Regions and an opportunity to discuss privately?
- Why are the WRU focusing primarily on central contracts when its own independent report highlighted this was not the solution for Welsh rugby?
- Have the statements that have been issued been fully supported and endorsed by the Board of the WRU?