The WRU and representatives from all four of the Welsh regions (Blues, Dragons, Ospreys, Scarlets) have formed the Professional Regional Game Board (PRGB) following an independent review of the regional game in the principality.
Accountants PwC produced a review that was commissioned by the WRU with the consent of the regions in December 2011. PwC produced a detailed financial report of the last three years and included financial projections for the next three to five years. What the review concluded was the worst kept secret in international rugby, Wales are in a poor situation financially.
What the review also concluded is that the WRU need to take more care of their money and form tighter partnerships with the regions in order for the ‘business’ to work effectively. This is something that WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis accepts, saying in a recent statement: “The PwC report confirmed to all of us in uncompromising detail that we have to act differently.”
In a way credit needs to be given to Lewis and his board of directors for not burying their heads in the sand and actually addressing the issue, even if they did have to lose half the international squad to French clubs first.
The new board will be made up of four representatives from the WRU, four representatives from the regions and Mr. Justice Wyn Williams who will be the independent chairman of the board.
The obvious role of the board is to achieve excellence and sustainability at International and regional level in Wales. It will do so through the achievement of 8 objectives:
- To underpin, support and maximise performance of the national teams.
- To improve the overall financial management of the regions.
- To help retain senior Welsh internationals playing in Wales where appropriate.
- To develop Welsh international players.
- To achieve four regions which can effectively compete at the top level of European rugby within five years.
- To support the Principality Premiership.
- To ensure the continued support and development of the community game.
- To ensure the continued sustainability of the Millennium Stadium.
A few of these points seem like wasted ink for example ‘To develop Welsh international players,’ if this wasn’t the basic goal of the WRU then Wales are in more trouble than we thought.
Although, I do like the fact they will be providing help to retain the senior internationals. What I hope this means is that financial support will be provided to the regions to keep their big players, stopping the mass exodus to France.
Do I think the new board will work? Possibly, but it will take a lot of time. You can’t build a successful business on a foundation of debt, and the WRU still owes £13 million to the construction of the Millennium Stadium which will take another 3 years to pay off, based on how the debt has been handled so far.
Now the PRGB is in place, it doesn’t mean that the WRU will find more money instantly – that won’t happen until the debts are paid. Therefore if I’m right and more funding will be given to regions to keep big players, then somewhere else will have to suffer cuts, perhaps the Premiership teams? But the objectives say the Premiership will receive support, so now we arrive at another debate.
However, I hope the board is effective, because British and Northern Hemisphere rugby needs a good Wales team in order to retain its flair.
By Matthew Southcombe