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Plotting The Right Way Forward For Welsh Rugby

Plotting The Right Way Forward For Welsh Rugby

After another disappointing weekend for Welsh clubs in the Heineken Cup, I thought it appropriate to underline the commitment of the Welsh Rugby Union to reassess the structure of the professional game in Wales.

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In fact, the Working Party that was set-up at the start of the season to examine all avenues for the future development and enhancement of the professional game in Wales is already meeting on a weekly basis.

No stone will be left unturned, and no viable option discounted, as we search for the best way forward for the national sport of Wales. We must adapt to the ever changing face of professional rugby union if we are to remain a competitive and credible force on the international and club stages.

Last season, the rank and file of the WRU vetoed a move to bring the Welsh Premier Division down from nine clubs to six. The biggest challenge we now face is to present to the membership a positive plan for the future of the game in Wales at professional, semi-professional and ‘community’ levels so that each section can move forward.

It is our hope and ambition to present a powerful case for change to the WRU membership no later than the end of January, 2003. To that end, the Working Party has already held discussions with our broadcast partners, other interested commercial parties and our legal advisers.

As you will all know, this is not a straight forward issue. We are acutely aware that this may be our last opportunity to get things right and create a structure that supports the national cause and gives our best players the chance to compete on equal terms with the best players in the world.

As with last season’s debate, there are many different views. We must pick the right one for the game as a whole in Wales – and we must have it in place in time for next season.

Representatives of the Working Party are planning to meet as a matter of urgency those people who have invested heavily in many of our existing Premier Clubs. We very much want to keep them in the game if they wish to continue their involvement.

What would be folly is to announce proposals that are not fully thought through with all concerned. We will also be taking soundings from the professionals at the clubs, both on and off the field.

We will look at a way forward with our current clubs, consider regional or provincial rugby and ensure that we thoroughly investigate all possible options before offering up to the membership the best route to take.

What the Working Party will be seeking to achieve is a structure which concentrates the money and talent in Welsh rugby, so our teams can be successful in the Celtic and European Competitions, and our international sides can achieve sustainable success at Test level.

These are times of rapid change in professional sport. What we need in Welsh rugby is positive change. Once the recommendations of the Working Party have been completed, and revealed to the Board of Management and the WRU General Committee, they will be taken around Wales and explained to the clubs.

The implications of what we are trying to achieve will have a direct impact on all levels of our game. Everyone involved in Welsh rugby has a role to play in this process and I hope everyone realises that we are all in this together.

We still have an opportunity to improve our lot. We must grasp it with both hands.


22 OCTOBER, 2002

Chairman, WRU General Committee.

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