The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) released their 2022 Annual Report last week and achieved the seemingly desired outcome of making themselves look as out-of-touch as is humanly possible.
Surely no honest and well functioning National Governing Body can reflect on the last 12 months as a success for Welsh rugby as the problems mount up across the international, professional and grassroots levels in the country.
Yet throughout this report the self-back slapping is astonishing. “The total number of registered players in the community game has gone through the 50,000 mark for the first time since digital records began”, claims the report, yet every week of the season so far we have seen teams right up to the second tier Championship failing to put 15 men on the field.
Stories are beginning to filter out about clubs being denied Union support to merge and create real community hubs for their local areas as the WRU seems desperate to cling on to the good old days where every village has a club, failing to acknowledge that society has changed massively and the community game must evolve with it.
“The Group aims to ensure the success of the (senior national) teams by recruiting a world class coaching and medical teams to provide the best possible support to its international players, securing additional preparation time for the team and extensive investment in training facilities, to ensure these teams have the best possible environment in which to train”, yet where’s the mention of the professional clubs?
Players for the national team do not grow on trees, they are produced overwhelmingly by Cardiff, Dragons, Ospreys or Scarlets, but to do that they need the budget to identify, develop and ready young talent. That means sufficient staffing and good facilities at age grade and Academy level, and then a senior squad at the clubs that is capable of competing and driving up the quality of the players.
If the professional clubs continue to plod along with no medium term security and a budget not even close to comparable with hemisphere rivals then the number and quality of players produced for the national team will become fewer, impacting results and ultimately revenue, with the national team contributing 72% of the Union’s income.
Then just to cement how out-of-touch the governance of the WRU is, the executive cost the £1.3m last year, more than is awarded in total funding to the Premiership teams, with chairman Rob Butcher receiving £73,000 for a role that he is not qualified to do. Nice work if you can get it!
The onus now has to be on the community clubs to begin to drive change through, but there’s also an emphasis on the Professional Rugby Board to help put that change on the table and make the case for it, with some of the best and brightest business minds around that table who can lead Welsh rugby into a new area.
Doing individual interviews with WalesOnline and briefing supporters is Q&A is all well and good, but the time to break cover with a joined up plan to reform the governance of the Union was probably a few months ago if everyone is totally honest, so it is actually overdue by now.
There’s so much more in the Annual Report that a forensic accountant could question, from the figures conveniently showing the Parkgate Hotel as breaking even on the Union’s balance sheet, to the costs associated with the upkeep and maintenance of the Principality Stadium and National Training Centre at The Vale.
Going forward there has to be question marks over a forecasted drop in income across the next three years despite the amount of events hosted in the Stadium, as well as the never ending amount of international rugby Wales will play. Perhaps having a lawyer with no commercial experience as your Head of Commercial isn’t the best appointment?
In the end the conclusion is the same, the PRB needs to lay out a plan towards overhauling the governance of the WRU and get the community game behind that to drive the change through. Until that happens Welsh rugby will continue on it’s current trajectory towards collapse.
If the the WRU want a sucessful Team Wales, which then produces the WRU Income; why is it that everyone but them realises that, after costs, resource the Pro 4 teams adequately and then dish out the remainder to the community game. They seem blinkered in not knowing what the correct priorities are for the game not only prospering, but simply surviving. Do they have sinsiter motives or just simply no fucking idea?