When you try and explain the situation of Welsh rugby to those outside of Wales, you’re often met with blank looks. Hell, when you try and explain it to those in Wales, you still get blank looks!
Nothing in Welsh rugby is ever simple. With the knack of holding grudges, of personal agendas, of cutting noses off to spite their faces Welsh rugby often sees people working at their worst. The flip side of that is that Welsh rugby can also bring the very best out in people. The camaraderie, the sense of community and the sheer passion that Welsh people can provide and generate in rugby is something that is to be truly celebrated.
The WRU is charged with nurturing, developing, sustaining and promoting the game throughout Wales. When it comes to the international stage you would have to say that they do a good job. The facilities, the staff, the marketing – you name it, the WRU provides it and Team Wales in recent times has seen huge benefits. When it comes to Team Wales on the face of it, the WRU have got it spot on.
What too often this disguises however, with main stream Welsh media more than happy to turn a blind eye, is that the situation from the international stage downwards in Wales is suffering from a slow building malaise. Slow building but one that is most definitely gathering steam.
It isn’t, by and large, the Welsh press where you see these reports on the state of Welsh rugby outside of Team Wales. Instead you have to look at the papers produced in England in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Rugby Paper to get anywhere near a true idea on what state Welsh rugby is really in.
And the question has to be asked; just why does main stream Welsh media ignore the stories at the heart of Welsh rugby, or is it purely down to laziness?
Grassroots and club rugby in Wales is struggling. From volunteers to referees to player numbers; in a lot of places it’s falling. And there’s not even a murmur from the WRU as to what they are going to do about it.
Jump up to the regional level and things aren’t much better. Crowds at two out of the four regions are dwindling. What was until this season the realistic loss of players playing in Wales, is now fast becoming a torrent. It is no longer the older Welsh players leaving, it is the younger ones, and that is cause for a massive concern.
The financial situation in Welsh rugby, with the regions operating at a loss as well as the Welsh Premiership is also something that the WRU is failing to address.
The PRGB was set up before Christmas with Roger Lewis, chief executive of the WRU hailing it a landmark in the history of Welsh rugby. Two months down the line and it is close to being packed in, with no true agenda agreed, and if rumours have even a grain of truth to them, that meetings haven’t gone ahead in the first place, and not from the lack of effort from the four regions.
Yet again, apart from small pieces in the local papers, this is hardly commented upon. The Ospreys and Dragons have publicly spoken out about how the dire situation of rugby in Wales needs speaking about. The WRU response was to say that it had just been nine weeks since it was set up – indeed nine weeks which has seen them do absolutely nothing.
It was reported a few days ago that the RFU are upping the funding it gives to the English Premiership clubs and why? To reward them for the work and investment they do to produce and provide players for England.
What wouldn’t the regions give especially the Ospreys and Scarlets who are currently missing 20+ players each on international commitments, to be as equally rewarded? The WRU currently has the regions over a barrel in terms of the compensation they are providing them for the access to their players.
If you compare the two the RFU have for an 8 year period committed £102 million for payment of international players. The WRU’s figure for the same period is set at £54 million.
What cares do the WRU have that the regions have to somehow find extra funds to pay for extra players to cover such a loss of players during the international period? Judging by the lack of action from the WRU it’s nothing.
People will ask that perhaps the WRU just doesn’t have the money to give to the regions? A valid point perhaps until you read the news that they have put in another, larger, bid to purchase the Cardiff Arms Park with plans to redevelop it. If the money isn’t there to help support the regional and domestic game in Wales, how all of a sudden is it there for this side project?
Others will argue that it is the regions’ fault that they are in this dire financial position in the first place. There is no denying the regions have squandered money, and badly, in poor decision making, in poor marketing and even downright stupidity. What is being forgotten however that the majority of the money being squandered was that of the benefactors themselves and there is still the main fact that without the said benefactors there would be no domestic rugby in Wales.
For all the regions’ failings, they through their academies and hard work are providing the platform of players for Team Wales’ success. A success that they are in no terms duly rewarded for.
With all of these problems facing Welsh rugby, with no action being taken, the question simply has to be asked; just what on earth is Roger Lewis doing? Instead of answering the difficult questions, instead of looking to fix Welsh rugby, we have Mr Lewis parading around a rugby pitch with a victorious Welsh rugby team instead.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again; there is more to rugby in Wales than just Team Wales, and if Roger Lewis can’t see it then maybe it’s time to bring in someone who can.