The four regions are facing changing times. Pic: WRU.

Is Welsh Regional Rugby Now Heading Down The Right Path?

The future of regional rugby in Wales is back on the agenda this summer after the Welsh Rugby Union’s interventions at both the Newport Gwent Dragons and the Cardiff Blues. Owen Robins outlines a model he believes could re-connect all fans and clubs with the four regions.

 

The WRU Unity Pathway is a long term rugby development model that aspires to offer the game of rugby union in a unified way, so that all clubs and fans involved have the opportunity to develop, grow, identify and bond with our professional and national game.

The WRU have created pathways for players in Welsh rugby but have not created pathways for their member clubs. With the movement towards WRU owned regions, rugby in Wales is moving at a very fast pace of change. Recent developments include WRU purchase of Newport Gwent Dragons, potential WRU control of Cardiff Blues and increased WRU player ownership through dual and central contracted players.

This has raised some very important questions for Welsh rugby

Q – The owners of the WRU are the districts and clubs of the Union. With WRU ownership of regions these districts and clubs now become owners of their regions. As owners of WRU regions, how do the districts and clubs become integrated into their WRU owned regions?

Q – Are the districts, clubs and their regions “together as one” now – Success directly linked?

Q – What name do the districts and clubs call their WRU owned regions?

Q – Do WRU owned regions need to purchase their grounds & where should they play?

The WRU has made it very clear:

WRU wants regional rugby, not “super” clubs pretending to be regions.

We need to reform the current system so that the 9 WRU Districts and their clubs are integrated into their new WRU regions. With clubs and districts as owners and partners, working in collaboration with their regions, a viable structure can be obtained. This integrated approach creates an opportunity for all clubs of the union to support pro rugby and would create local community support, identity, affinity and real bond between clubs and their regions. Player pathway systems would feed into their district and club owned WRU regions. Player pathway players are to be linked to home clubs when not representing their clubs at their regions.

In countries such as Ireland and NZ this structure works well as clubs are stakeholders and partners of their regional provinces and regions. These real regions create, encourage and develop affinity and unity.

With district and club owned WRU regions we can move forward with sponsorship and business investment as supporters of the system and thus avoiding benefactor owners who can walk away.

Rugby is our national sport – We are a Union for all and not the select few.

PATHWAY TO UNITY – WRU OWNED REGIONS

1) WRU commissions a survey and works with the 9 WRU districts, in order to establish their preferred regional boundaries and their regional name. Clubs on boundaries can move between regions with agreement of WRU. Discussions are to include potential creation of regional boards or replacement / merging of districts to align with their regions. As districts and clubs are now owners of their regions then this should be a positive and proactive process of change. The findings must be transparent and open for fans to see.

The 9 Districts of the WRU are

  • District A – Gwent • District B – Cardiff • District C – Valleys • District D – Mid Glamorgan • District E – Swansea • District F – Swansea Valley • District G – West Glamorgan • District H – West Wales • District J – North Wales

Proposed WRU owned Regions

Option 1

Gwent (District A) – Current WRU owned region Valleys (District C / D / G) South Wales (District B / D / G) West Wales (District E / F / G / H)

RGC North Wales (District J) – Development region

Welsh Exiles / London Welsh – Development region.

Option 2

East Wales (District A) – Current WRU owned region South Wales (District C / D / G) West Wales (District E / F / G / H) North Wales (District J) – Current WRU owned region

WRU reviews the findings and creates a unified and integrated structure that all clubs and fans can now support.

2) New reformed districts / regional boards to confirm a percentage of games at selected grounds around region. School, college, supporter group structures to be integrated into district / regional boards. Pathway players to be allocated to their home clubs when not playing representative rugby for their integrated regions.

3) Operating structure, business plans, governance, commercial strategy, branding and funding streams to be established with WRU guidance and agreement. Franchise system of operating the new WRU owned regions to be considered.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Is Welsh Regional Rugby Now Heading Down The Right Path?

  1. And, as ever with this kind of drivel, not one sentence on how to pay for it.

    This is a childlike analysis of a professional sport, written by a man pumped full of entitlement and completely empty on any financial acumen.

    First rule of business, Robins: money. Where is the money in your analysis? Do you want your “member owned” Regions to mean that those members cover any financial losses? This is what happens in New Zealand, after all.

    If that’s what you want, you can bet your bottom Kiwi dollar that NO club would ever want to be part of your set up.

  2. Owen has a very odd perception of “Unity” – the kind which continues to fracture support bases and turn fans away from the structure, in favour of his own ideas about what he prefers to see in Professional Rugby. Unsure about the clubs “owning” the WRU – although that’s perhaps why the game is in such a mess at the moment because amateur people, involved in amateur clubs, with amateur ideas are telling the Professional game how to do it’s job. “Tail wagging the dog syndrome.” I’m interested in how all this is to be funded too. Labour has the slogan “For the many not the few” – Does he believe that this is genuinely in that bracket? Have the “many” stayed away for so long simply because of a name issue? I could go on. Apart from these and a lot more issues, this is a well thought out, well-structured, thought provoking article.

    Now, I’ve a beanstalk to climb, perhaps I could get some of those magic beans Jack was given as well. They’ll come in useful.

  3. A very interesting read. It does seem with the retirement of benefactors like Tony Brown and Peter Thomas that we are moving towards another model. Lots of talk of New Zealand doing the rounds in clubhouses. We will certainly need to embrace more fans and sponsors if only to offset the loss of benefactor money. Gareth Davies and Martyn Phillips seem to have a plan. We just don’t know about it yet! All change in Newport next season and I am excited over the Dragons. Haven’t felt like that for a few years now. Hope we find a way to get valleys fans engaged with professional rugby again.

  4. How on earth can this man be taken seriously when he’s openly stated he will never watch any regional side play at the Arms Park?

    Option 1 is debunked by the fact it includes a Valleys region which doesn’t currently have any stadia capable of pro rugby and offers no explanation of how this, or any of the regions would be paid for.

    Option 2 has a South Wales region which would have to be based at the Arms Park which the author has stated he’ll never go to, directly contradicting his statement that the ideas will allow Welsh rugby to move forward in a ‘unified way’. Oh, and there’s still nothing on how this would be paid for.

    What this is is a hypothetical Owenins personal dreamworld which is completely financially unviable, and not worth even publishing, let alone reading.

    While Welsh rugby should be focused on re-organising the WRU and moving far away from an archaic district system, there are clearly done still stuck in the 1970s and think they should have the power.

    Get with the times Owen, hasn’t been around since 1996.

  5. Hi Owen. How much money is each WRU member club going to contribute to the running of their region? Thanks in advance

  6. Q – Why is Dai-Sport now the mouthpiece of the bitter and financially illiterate?

    Q – Who cares about districts?

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