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Owen Robins Leaves The Debate With Familiar Blast . . . Welsh Rugby Is Broken

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Former Pontypridd wing Owen Robins is bowing out. Having been one of the most strident and passionate voices within Welsh rugby on social media for years – as well as one of the most regularly abused – this article, he says, is his final contribution to the ongoing debate about how the sport should be organised in Wales. After this, no more.

It is December 2023 and has Welsh rugby ever been in a worse place?

We have just had very damaging reports on Welsh rugby culture, there are major player welfare legal actions, and below team Wales, we have an unintegrated, non-inclusive and unloved structure at almost every level.

Welsh Rugby has lost its soul and the only way forward now is to create inclusive, integrated regional rugby for all.

The journey Welsh rugby decided to take was only ever going to end in the place we have now – I called it the End Game in my previous blogs.

How did this happen ?

The Great Welsh Regional Rugby Lie is the answer – Welsh rugby has created an unviable, non-inclusive and unworkable structure of pretend regions, that has impacted every level of the game.

We have created the following as just a few examples of the non-inclusive and unintegrated issues:

1. Valleys & North Wales excluded or alienated from structure as no pro team based in Valleys / North.

2. Elite Development Clubs to replace WRU clubs as feeders to pretend regions.

3. WRU School Districts with same names of some pretend regions.

4. Certain WRU clubs given special status by pretend regions.

5. Claims by some that we are almost operating a cartel by blocking other WRU clubs from pro rugby.

6. Structural issues at top leads to issues with affinity & identity at all levels of game.

7. This disjointed system has created huge reduction in crowds supporting our great Welsh rugby clubs.

8. A broken bond between Wales and its WRU clubs.

The WRU states we have regional rugby but just because you say it, that does not make it the truth.

The fact is that we have a structure in place, one which has faltered and failed for the past 20 years, based on a concept of “regions” that simply do not exist.

WRU “Region” – Scarlets (Location = South of M4)

At present, Llanelli RFC no longer exists. Some claim it is the Scarlets, whilst others claim the Scarlets represent West Wales.

How we have created a structure where one of the greatest rugby clubs in Welsh rugby history has ceased to exist is beyond belief, but that is what we have done.

WRU “Region” – Ospreys (Location = South of M4)

It could be argued that this is the one true region in Welsh rugby. However, the team plays out of the Swansea City FC ground (Swansea.com Stadium) and comes under West Wales in terms of location. Swansea is less that 10 miles from Llanelli.

WRU “Region” – Cardiff (Location = South of M4)

At present, Cardiff RFC still exists but some claim it is the Rags, whilst others claim Cardiff RFC is the region. Others claim Cardiff is the “Blues”.

Cardiff is just one WRU club in a Union. How we have created a structure like this is beyond belief.

WRU “Region” – Dragons (Location = South of M4)

The Dragons promotes itself as Gwent rugby. However, the team plays out of Newport, promotes Newport and wears Newport colours.

The Newport County Football Club also plays out of the same ground. Many say the team is Newport, whilst others claim it does not represent Newport – it’s an unintegrated mess.

North Wales & Valleys Rugby – The Missing Regions (location = North of M4)

“They Killed Valleys Rugby” is a chapter and quote from the coach, Lynn Howells, that summed up what happened to rugby in Valleys.

“In my view, David Moffett had no consideration what happened to rugby in the Valleys , which were among the traditional hotbeds of Welsh rugby,” claims Howells.

“He gave no thought to communities. You only have to look at Pontypridd. It has been part of the hotbed of rugby, but people from the Glamorgan valleys have nothing to support.”

Former Wales and World Cup winning coach Graham Henry stated the following about the creation of a so-called regional structure in Welsh rugby.

“How one of the franchise teams was not based in Pontypridd has always been a mystery to me.

“That enormous passion for the game in Wales seemed to me to have its backbone in the Valleys, and Pontypridd lead that.”

Current Wales coach, Warren Gatland has stated the following about what Welsh rugby needs to do – “the Dragons take in Pontypridd and the Valleys while setting up a new side in north Wales”.

The Valleys are still a core, viable rugby region with North Wales offering a huge opportunity to grow the game as Connacht have done in Ireland.

Welsh rugby needs the Valleys and North Wales to engage with pro rugby.

We need unity, inclusion, reform and regions that all WRU clubs can identify and have affinity with.

Our great historic WRU clubs can then feed into their inclusive regions that they support and are part of.

Rugby hurts. The badge matters. As Munster have shown, the bond between fans and team is vital.

New Zealand and Ireland are great examples of inclusive, integrated regional structures that work. All we have to do is copy and paste in Welsh.

This Pontypridd RFC 2023 press release says it all. Mark Rhydderch-Roberts warned on the folly of elite leagues and of seeking to shrink great clubs such as Pontypridd RFC.

“It is clear that for the last 20 years or so the WRU have been labouring under the catastrophically damaging misapprehension that somehow, the professional game can exist in a bubble almost completely disconnected operationally and culturally from the semi pro game, the community game, and schools and universities.

“This is not a new phenomenon and has been evident for over 20 years, compounded by a refusal to ever admit hugely damaging structural mistakes have been made.”

The End Game is now over. The WRU has created a structure that divides, is non-inclusive, lacks affinity and has broken our national game.

I hope, one day, this blog can be updated with a new future for Welsh rugby, but for me now – this is the end.

This is now a record of my stand and a record of how we have destroyed a national sport.

This is my final blog.

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5 thoughts on “Owen Robins Leaves The Debate With Familiar Blast . . . Welsh Rugby Is Broken

  1. It’s clear that Mr Robins cares deeply about this topic but sadly he’s not in the real world on this the structure he hates created a national team to be proud of after decades of terrible performances. His belief that the Valleys revolves around Pontypridd is upsetting for those of us who are from the Valleys but not Ponty fans. PRFC had 15 minutes of fame in the 1990s and somehow think that makes them as important as say Munster, Toulouse, Cardiff or Leicester. A little bit of realism goes a long way. Sorry to say it but I won’t be sad to see the back of Mr Robins from social media platforms. He has fuelled toxic debates and paints himself as the victim whenever he’s proved to be dishonest or is insulting people. There is plenty wrong with rugby in Wales but Mr Robins has not been a good spokesperson for those opposed to the current set up. The debate deserves better. Hopefully we will now get a more grown up discourse.

  2. As a Welsh exile living in Cornwall and in my eighties I can trace rugby history in Wales over many transitions. I recently attended matches in Neath and Pontypool, both venues I played at in the late 50,s, to watch my grandson for Cardiff Met. It saddened me to see what these former great clubs had been reduced to. Club rugby should be the structure in Wales which would bring spectators back to the game.

  3. I agree, ever since Moffatt’s brainwave to form Regional rugby it has been a farce. Apart from the early days with the numerous foreign players, it has been unsuccessful and poorly supported. Supporters of their local clubs have no affinity and what was the heartbeat of their local community has been ripped out from under their feet. It’s a complete and utter mess. Unless the WRU realise that, realise that the local supporter is the bedrock of Welsh rugby, and what Welsh rugby was and always will be built on. They are their bread and butter. So unless the sort something to try and get back to that, Regional Rugby will never succeed and will always fail. Such a shame as the supporters are out there..

  4. hopefully the new WRU will look at our regional rugby like a new company boss would look at 4 failing distribution centres…. and ask the following questions

    1) are we covering all of Wales – our catchment areas… well of course NOT

    2) are our centres in the best places or a bit of a dogs dinner …. err well 3 are based in our 3 cities bar one.

    3) are there better places our centres could be based … well London is untapped … so is Heads of Valleys and North Wales

    4) is one of our regions in the wrong place when we look at population and growing investments opportunities… You bet there is

    5) and finally are the regional centres being run professionally in terms of managing a £5 million funding grant each year… plus do they have outstanding debt that could cause their company to collapse

    …. I think you ill find that one does and ticks all the boxes in points 1-5

    well why hasn’t been done anything about it …………….err well the natives are very aggressive and we are afraid to do anything
    …. OH I SEE

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