WRU governance changes have to lead to change of Chair

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As Nigel Walker takes interim charge of the Welsh Rugby Union following the too little, too late “resignation” of Steve Phillips, there is a number of pressing concerns on his desk.

The focus for many will be finalising the deal between the WRU and the pro clubs in order to give them a clear indication of their financial future and allow players to sign new contracts, as well as new signings to be made, with the hope being that we can be at least somewhat competitive in the United Rugby Championship and European competition next season.

With the upcoming attempts to bring about governance changes though, there seems to me to be a case for a short-term deal to be put in place for the next two-to-three years – the length of most contracts that will finally be handed out – to provide some immediate direction and give the WRU a bit of breathing space to implement changes on Westgate Street.

That is the key for the future of all Welsh rugby, as Walker & co now need to ensure that the work is done to properly explain the proposals to the community clubs ahead of an EGM in March where they will be voted on.

The range of governance changes needed are vast, from the splitting of the professional and amateur games, the gender splits on the respective boards, and ensuring there is the necessary experience and quality on them to guide Welsh rugby forwards.

It all starts with appointing an independent Chair to the current board though, putting someone in place with that experience and quality worthy of a £100m business, not just a former Wales and British & Irish Lions winger who has shown over the last week that he is not competent enough to hold the role.

Ieuan Evans has massively dropped the ball on his first serious test as Chair in his refusal to remove Steve Phillips as CEO, overseeing some very poor and frankly insulting press releases from the WRU, and reportedly meeting the pro teams for the first time since taking up his position just to accuse them of opportunism over their calls for governance change at the Union on the back of the revelations.

Once the community clubs vote through the governance changes, which if that isn’t achieved would be the end of Welsh rugby as we know it, then Evans must immediately step down in order for a high quality Chair to be appointed.

At that point the real work begins of overhauling the current board begins, eventually leading to the governance split between the professional and community games, ensuring both can thrive as rugby, business and society continues to rapidly change in this modern, post-covid world.

The last week has been an embarrassing shambles for the Welsh Rugby Union, and unfortunately it’s taken victims of sexism and misogyny to speak out for a chance of change being properly implemented, but it will hopefully reward their bravery if the culture on Westgate Street is permanently changed for the better and the WRU becomes a proud and effective Welsh institution.

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