First things first.
Our chairman, Gareth Davies, will leave us after our Annual General Meeting next month and I know many throughout Welsh Rugby, across both the community and professional game, will join me in officially thanking him for his hard work and dedication over the last six years.
When I joined the Welsh Rugby Union, as Group Finance Director, in 2007 we were a different place. The regional game was barely four years old, there was one Six Nations Grand Slam glimmering in around 30 years of darkness, save for titles won in ’88 and ’94, we were burdened by too much debt and our national stadium was still very much an asset that needed to be fully realised.
Without recounting thirteen years of ups and downs, achievements and set-backs, progress and struggles I think it is more than fair to say that the last half dozen years under Gareth’s stewardship have seen a continuation of the steady upward curve in terms of the trajectory of Welsh Rugby both at a community and professional level.
Gareth leaves us in good shape, there is much hard work still to do, but I firmly believe history will recall him as one of the Union’s finest figureheads and leaders.
Speaking of leadership I must also take this opportunity to formally thank Martyn Phillips for his unwavering service to our game. My transition to taking over as Group Chief Executive on a day to day basis will near completion this week, although Martyn will be on hand for the next month or so to attend various meetings with Board and committees, keeping existing commitments with World Rugby, for example. He’s also committed to remain a very valuable resource to Welsh Rugby thereafter if required which is extremely good of him.
Martyn has defined the strategy for Welsh Rugby, from top to bottom, during his tenure and I fully intend to pick up where he leaves off. I see, in my first actions as Interim Group Chief Executive, a responsibility to provide stability and continuity in changing times for us all in these turbulent times.
There are changes imminent at Board level, with a new Chair now inevitable, and as we welcome Ieuan Evans following his recent election we also hear from John Manders, who was also elected to the Council a couple of months ago, below. With these changes in mind, I intend that the executive team at the WRU will watch, listen understand and absorb over the next few weeks, alongside delivering the stability so required..
We are delighted to announce today a new seven-year partnership with Macron, who become the new technical clothing supplier to our national and pathway teams.
There is more detail on this in the Update below, but suffice to say that this new partnership whilst overall welcome is one that will directly benefit the community game with the provision of kit to community teams in significant numbers starting in the 2021/22 season.
From a commercial point of view this partnership was key to secure in obviously difficult times. Another is the international game. With the Autumn Nations Cup announcement last week, it will be a frustration to everyone that we have not yet been able to announce venues for these fixtures or our rescheduled Six Nations clash with Scotland, but, I assure you, this frustration is felt by no one more so than us. It’s hugely positive news to have confirmed these fixtures will be played and, as we have stated, we hope to play our home matches at a London venue if crowds are permitted. This is to maximise much needed revenue whilst Principality Stadium is out of use as the Dragon’s Heart Hospital.
We also have more positive news on the stadium front with the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board confirming this week that they will begin decommissioning the hospital in readiness to hand it back in October. Our ground staff are of course chomping at the bit to begin the process of returning our playing surface to its former glories and our 2021 Six Nations home matches are now guaranteed to return to Wales – hopefully with crowds!
I leave you with a firm congratulations to Ieuan Evans on winning the election to the WRU Council, a position he will take up after the AGM next month, and I would also like to welcome Tim Moss to the WRU’s Executive Board. Tim qualified as a chartered accountant with KPMG and is a Durham University graduate. He steps up from his role as Group Financial Controller to the position of interim Group Finance Director.
And finally a note of, I hope, reassurance: I am acutely aware that I take over the role of Group CEO at a time when our business and our game is under huge stress and strain; we fully acknowledge the reality of the current situation We have a plan to get us through this which may require some tough decisions but I recognise it is also now my role to enable progress and facilitate dynamic achievement. This way, when times improve – and they will – we will be in the very best position to rise once again and ideally bring everyone with us.
I am extremely honoured to take on the role of guiding our national sport out of this current crisis and I have been humbled by the number supportive messages I have personally received both within and without Wales. I will be the fourth GCEO of the WRU and I will pick up where my distinguished predecessors left off. I will embrace the challenge and I look forward to working with the next Chair of the WRU to ensure that we can all continue to be the very best that we can be, together.
Interim WRU Group CEO
MACRON NEW TECHNICAL SPONSOR OF THE WELSH RUGBY UNION
The Welsh Rugby Union today announced a new high profile seven-year partnership with the sporting goods manufacturer Macron.
Macron becomes the WRU’s official technical partner and will supply bespoke matchday kit as well as full training, travel and leisure wear, including accessories, to its senior men’s, women’s and pathway teams from October. Macron will further make a huge investment into Welsh rugby’s community game by providing £6m worth of kits over the duration of the deal.
The new Wales matchday kit will be worn for the first time against France in a warm-up match in Paris on 24th October, and go on to feature in the rescheduled Guinness Six Nations 2020 match against Scotland on 31st October and the new-look Autumn Nations Cup in November and December.
The new Wales home and alternate jerseys, which will continue to carry front of shirt sponsor Isuzu, are set to be unveiled early in October (Date TBC) as Wayne Pivac’s side head into camp ahead of a busy autumn schedule.
“We are proud to announce this prestigious agreement,” said Macron CEO Gianluca Pavanello.–“The Welsh Rugby Union has a rich history in world rugby and is a Union that boasts incredible accolades – but, more importantly, plays a fundamental role in Welsh culture and society. Partnerships with the Scarlets and Cardiff Blues have given us an appreciation of the love that Welsh fans have for the sport. That same love and passion grows even stronger every time the national team enters the field. We at Macron will offer the Welsh Rugby Union our technical competence, creative ability and a bit of Italian flair to develop their match day kit, their clothing lines as well as a merchandising collection that will be unique to this great nation and one that we hope will capture the hearts of players and fans alike.”
The WRU and Italian based sportswear producers seek to forge a unique relationship that will significantly benefit the community game and will see Macron supply £6m worth of kit over the course of the partnership across the 300 community clubs throughout Wales. The first kits will be available in time for the 2021-22 season, with both parties currently working on the distribution network. This will include the provision of significant credit amounts for Macron products to member clubs.
Further details will be provided later in 2020 but, in short, £1m in credit will be available across the community game each season for the remaining six years of the Macron partnership, from 2021.
“We have agreed a unique and progressive partnership with Macron to not only supply team and leisure wear to our national squad, but to also provide an invaluable offer to our community game in their second season with us and beyond,” said WRU CEO Steve Phillips. “Macron understand the importance of the community game in Wales and, together, we are determined to ensure that this end of the game also reaps the benefits of this new commercial alliance.
“Macron is a widely respected and highly regarded multi-sport kit manufacturer who are about to celebrate their 50th year in the business and already work with a host of top teams around the globe.
“From a base that includes Scottish Rugby and Italian rugby as well as the Scarlets and Cardiff Blues with a further three clubs in the Guinness Pro14 and three teams in the Top14 and English Premiership alike they are a company with pedigree looking to expand in world sport and we are very much looking forward to continuing our own growth alongside them over the next seven years.
“Under Armour and Welsh rugby grew significantly together in the last 12 years and we would like to thank UA and their employees all around the world for all the support during a genuinely fantastic partnership.
“But now we look forward to an exciting new partnership with Macron, which comes with a huge amount of potential benefit for both the international and community game.”
All the technical garments the team will wear in the upcoming season are the result of research and development by Macron’s designers and will all be characterised by the icon of the Italian brand: the Macron Hero.
The logo represents the human body and takes inspiration from the tip of the spear, by definition a statement of dynamism and speed. The Macron Hero symbolizes even more effectively the joy at the end of the challenge, the achievement of a target, effort, passion and determination. The Macron philosophy: “Work hard. Play harder.”
Macron has long since become a leader in the world of international rugby. As regarding Federations and national teams, Macron is the technical sponsor of Italy, Scotland, Portugal, Canada and Germany, while at a club level in UK the list includes: Newcastle Falcons, Northampton Saints, Glasgow Warriors, Edinburgh Rugby, and of course the Welsh teams Scarlets and Cardiff Blues. In France: Section Paloise, LOU Rugby, Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque. Macron is also the technical sponsor of the Guinness Pro14 referees.
NB: we are able to confirm that, due to health and safety considerations and ongoing social distancing requirements given the CXovid-19 pandemic, the next Annual General Meeting of the WRU will be held virtually, on a weekday evening in the last week of October. The date will be finalised and further information regarding arrangements for virtual access will follow soon.
Ieuan Evans MBE has been elected as a National Council Member of the Welsh Rugby Union by member clubs, winning a three-way vote against incumbent Gareth Davies and Nigel Davies.
Evans’ tenure will begin after the close of the next Annual General Meeting in October, a gathering which will now also be the last act as WRU chairman for Davies – who leaves after serving two terms on the Council and Board concurrently, amounting to six years at the helm of Welsh rugby.
“It’s a huge honour to be chosen by member clubs to represent them on the WRU Council and I will be doing everything I can to reward the faith they have shown in me,” said the former Carmarthen Quins, Llanelli, Bath, Wales and British & Irish Lions wing Evans, who has forged a distinguished ambassadorial and media career since his retirement from playing.
“The community game is essential to the general health and welfare of our national sport and it is on these foundations that we should build our future.
“Whilst we must constantly challenge, evaluate and review I would also like to thank Gareth for his dedication during his tenure on the council and his service to Welsh rugby over many years.”
At its meeting following the AGM the 19-strong WRU Council will elect or re-elect four of its members – including one of the National Council Members – to join the WRU Board.
The Board will then elect a new chair.
The WRU Board has 12 members in total and also includes the WRU CEO and two appointed, non-executive directors and the chair of the Professional Rugby Board (PRB).
Read more here:
Back in the game
The Welsh Rugby Union has teamed up with School of Hard Knocks to help you get ‘Back in the Game’ and into employment. The SOHK charity has a team of experts who will deliver a series of free, intensive courses, run online over five days. The course is suitable for anyone connected with Welsh rugby who has been made redundant due to the covid pandemic – male or female players, coaches, referees, volunteers or parents of players. This course could give members of the rugby family the boost they need to bounce back into the job market.
More info here:
MANDERS TWO MONTHS IN
John Manders has the freshest eyes in the board room after winning election to the Welsh Rugby Union’s National Council just over two months ago.
So, what is it really like to walk along the corridors of power at WRU HQ, albeit virtually?
Manders’ fresh eyes have been opened whilst embracing everything his new role has to offer and joining work on a new Community Rugby Strategy, in particular, has put him straight at the heart of matters from the outset.
“This new strategy will be hugely positive for the community game,” he said.
“The consultation process has been exhaustive and Geraint John and his team should be commended for the work and consultation process thus far and we will continue to evolve the strategy in consultation with member clubs, which is hugely important.
Read more here:
EDWARDS ANSWERS CALL TO LEAD WALES WOMEN
Darren Edwards has been confirmed as interim Lead Coach for Wales Women’s rescheduled Six Nations match against Scotland (weekend of Saturday 31 October).
The Wales Sevens men’s head coach who has previously coached Bath, Dragons and Wales U20, will be assisted by Chris Horsman, Geraint Lewis and Gareth Wyatt in preparing the squad for this match one year out from the next Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
A 35-strong squad has been named which includes one uncapped player in forward Laura Bleehen…
Find out more here:
RUGBY ON HOLD IN CAERPHILLY COUNTY
It is heartening to see the enjoyment within the community game as clubs and teams continue to return to training within the current guidelines.
We took the decision to suspend all training in Caerphilly County Borough in line with our safety-first approach following the Welsh Government decision to introduce a local lockdown. Whilst we acknowledge that schools and some sports facilities remain open, we do not want rugby to play a part in community transmission, and our priority here is player welfare and public health.
We will continue to review our Return to Community Rugby measures in place throughout Wales and the situation regarding Caerphilly on a regular basis – and indeed any other areas where a local lockdown may come into force.
We thank volunteers throughout Wales for all their hard work so far in this process – for putting the necessary processes and procedures in place to allow the return to training – and for their understanding where any additional suspension of activity is required.
TURNBULL STEPPING UP
Cardiff Blues back row man Josh Turnbull is preparing for life after playing by working his way up the coaching ladder.
Having had previous experience helping the Scarlets Academy and U18s, Cardiff Blues U18s and home town club Newcastle Emlyn, the Wales international is stepping into a forwards role at Premiership side Carmarthen Quins next season.
“I’ve been involved in coaching for eight years now. It all started when I was at the Scarlets and it has progressed from there,” said the 32-year-old Turnbull.
Read on here:
MOURNING ONE OF OUR OWN – MIKE GIBBONS
Welsh rugby is mourning the loss of one of its many great community figureheads, the former Taffs Well RFC secretary and Chairman, Mike Gibbons.
Mike lost his short battle against cancer at the weekend and will be sorely missed both at the club he served for half a century, and at Principality Stadium, where he worked initially as a Tour Guide, then as manager of the Tours and finally as part of the Security Staff.
His infectious smile, boundless enthusiasm for all things rugby and engaging personality made him the perfect ambassador for both the game he loved and the stadium.
Tens of thousands of visitors to the home of Welsh rugby over the past 30 years benefitted from his knowledge and passion for everything to do with our national sport.
More about Mike here: