Wales v England

Wales v England

The WRU Move From Sweet Talk To Stark Talk As They Tell Clubs . . . Back The Plans Or Starve

By David Parsons

John Manders has told the rank-and-file clubs across Wales not to worry about their future funding providing they back the Welsh Rugby Union’s governance proposals at next Sunday’s EGM in Port Talbot.

Manders is chairman of the union’s Community Game Board and is responsible for the £10.4m ring-fenced budget that is invested in the running of the community game in Wales.

But Manders, chairman of Old Illtydians RFC in Cardiff and also a director on the main board of the WRU, is concerned that if the changes being promoted by the WRU don’t reach the required 75% threshold that things could change quickly and drastically.

“I’ve been touring the country with Ieuan Evans (WRU chairman) and Nigel Walker (interim CEO) talking to all our member clubs about what we feel is required to restore confidence in the union in these difficult times,” said Manders.

“As chair of the community game, it is my responsibility to fight for every penny and more that I can get to help the clubs grow the game. My worry is that if the vote fails, then sponsors will walk away, new ones may not be found to replace them and the overall financial position of the WRU could be put in jeopardy.

“Time after time I’ve heard on our tour that the core grant from the WRU helps to keep clubs afloat. Even if it doesn’t keep pace with inflation, at least it is a constant in a hard economic climate.

“Three key sponsors have put the WRU, for want of a better explanation, on probation and will be watching like hawks what happens on Sunday, 26 March. If they were to walk away, who knows what might happen?”

Evans and Walker have consistently explained to the clubs that the loss of the Principality, Admiral and Vodaphone could strip £10m out of the union’s purse strings. They have also warned of the possibility of the Welsh Government withdrawing its financial support and Sport Wales stemming funds.

The EGM is al being played out against the background of the claims of sexism and misogyny that arose out of the BBC Wales investigation into claims made against the WRU by the former head of women’s rugby, Charlotte Wathan.

A special Taskforce was immediately set-up by Evans to investigate the claims and their work, under former judge Dame Anne Rafferty as chair, has begun. Only last week, the 74-times capped England World Cup winning flanker Maggie Alphonsi was announced as being one of two independent panelists to join Dame Rafferty, along with Quentin Smith, a former Premiership Rugby chair and a director of England Rugby 2015 Ltd.

The single proposal being put forward by the WRU board of directors at Sunday’s meeting would clear the way for an independent chairman to take over from Evans, for the number of Independent Non-Executive Directors to rise to four and for there to be a move towards 42% of the board members to be female.

“The reality is we haven’t got enough money to do all the things we want to do – women’s rugby, mixed ability rugby and the general growth of our game,” said Manders.

“We have a turnover of £94m, but this business needs to grow to being a £120m pa company. To do that we need to find the expertise and diversity needed for our main board.

“We will always fight for more money to go to the grassroots from the CGB, but our slice of the cake can’t go lower than the £10.4m we currently receive – and I won’t let it!”

When former chair Rob Butcher proposed changes to the articles of association at last year’s AGM five months ago to introduce an independent chair, he gained a 66% share of the vote. Now Manders is warning that unless the necessary 9% shortfall is made up this time around there could be far reaching consequences.

“The WRU as we currently know it could be changed forever. The financial implications could be dire, the Welsh Government could intervene in our administration and our image around the world could receive irreparable damage,” added Manders.

“We need to make the changes that are required to not only modernise our business, but also give us the tools we need to drive it forward. Then we can all share in the benefits.”

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