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You Fund 16 Clubs And What Do You Get? Another Day Older And Deeper In Debt . . .

The debates rumble on over what the structure of Welsh rugby should be directly below the regions. Robin Davey says the severing of four clubs from the Principality Premiership will be brutal, bloody and fatal for some.

The new season is only just over a week away and for once it’s not regional rugby or the national team that’s making all the headlines, it’s much more the level below.

For the advent of the new Celtic Cup competition, and the sudden realisation that new rules governing the Principality Premiership could mean some clubs being wiped out, have dominated everything else.

Though it’s been known for some time that the Premiership will be reduced from 16 to 12 clubs in the season after this with reduced funding as well, suddenly there’s a sense of near panic abroad.

For there is little doubt that some famous clubs, though nowhere near the standing they once were since the arrival of regional rugby, could face a real struggle for survival under the new rules. For a few their very existence could be in jeopardy.

Swansea and Neath are just two clubs that have voiced real concern about their future. Swansea, in particular, have based their side around young emerging players and as such they may struggle in the Premiership when the final weeks of the season becomes a real dogfight.

If they and other famous great clubs like them are caught in the four-team relegation trap and drop down into the Championship with even less funding, there are real fears they might even cease to exist.

While accepting the Welsh Rugby Union are concerned the gap between regional rugby and the Premiership is too great and something needs to be done about closing it, the possible demise of some once great clubs surely can’t be for the good of the game.

Yet studies have shown insufficient players are coming through the system to the very top, though some dispute that, and something had to be done about it.

That has turned out to be the new Celtic Cup competition involving the four Welsh regions and the four Irish provinces played over seven weeks during the early part of the season.

That has led many to question where all the players are going to come from given the various demands made upon the system.

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There is only so big a cake and with the national set-up, regional rugby, the Premiership – even in a reduced form – and then the level or levels below, there could be nothing left.

It’s a real issue, and the reduced Premiership and the introduction of the Celtic Cup competition are the latest attempts to try to solve the problem.

Money is, as ever, at the heart of the problem and no matter what steps the governing body take to try to eradicate it they will never fully succeed.

For even at the lowest levels some players will be paid, some sponsors will hand out money to clubs in return for international tickets, for example, no matter how such a practice is outlawed.

At Premiership levels some are better off than others. Merthyr, for example, have enjoyed the benefit of being backed by wealthy businessman Stan Thomas while Newport have received compensation from the WRU after they bought them out of Rodney Parade while taking over the Dragons.

Other clubs are really struggling and are fearful for their future. It seems certain here will be some major casualties by the end of the season.


RUGBY has lost two experienced men of Gwent this week, both clubmen to their very boots.

Mal Beynon and Ken Braddock have departed the scene, both of them a real loss to the game.

WRU president Denis Gethin has paid tribute to Mal Beynon, who served District A faithfully on the Union for many years and was chairman of the regulatory committee.

He would often leave his Brynmawr home early in the morning to try to avoid the traffic on his way to Cardiff for a WRU meeting, not arriving back until late at night. He was also known to have the odd run-in with former chief executive Roger Lewis.

May Beynon. Pic: WRU.

He was a loyal Brynmawr RFC man who worked tirelessly for the club and, indeed, for all District A clubs.

Braddock was a member of the marvellous Newbridge back row of the sixties when the club were in their pomp –  teaming up with brothers Denis and Arthur Hughes to form a dynamic breakaway unit.

Braddock won five Welsh caps, making his debut against Australia in 1967, a real hardworking, grafting type of wing forward who should have won more caps.

A police officer, he moved to Staffordshire many years ago, but never lost his Gwent and Welsh roots.


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