Monday, January 20, 2014

The Welsh Civil War

"The point at which a condition or situation becomes critical." That is the definition given to 'breaking point' and it is where Welsh rugby currently finds itself.

After two years of negotiating, the Welsh Rugby Union and the regions (represented by Regional Rugby Wales) can find no agreement of the future of the game. The country's national sport teeters on a precipice. The WRU and RRW are at loggerheads. A "participation agreement" between the organisations, which details the funding the regions will receive and the tournaments they compete in, remains unsigned with just a few months left of the current agreement.

Though compete may not be correct word. The Ospreys have taken four league titles since 2003 and the Scarlets reached last season's play offs, but no region has been able to seriously compete in Europe against the financial power of the English, French or Irish. Now, with money being poured into the French game at the rate of a small country's GDP, that gap is ever widening.

George North, Northampton, Saints, rugby, Wales, Aviva, Premiership 

The effect of the affluence across the Channel or over the Severn Bridge is that some of the principality's top stars have exited for the riches of the Top 14 and Aviva Premiership. The "player drain" saw internationals such as Jamie Roberts and George North move away from their home nation to ply their trade on foreign soil. That drain has slowly become a sink hole and several more high profile players are out of contract in the summer, not least the national captain Sam Warburton.

The RRW are unable to compete with the big money boys, but want to at least enter tournaments on their terms and negotiate their own destiny. They state a new European competition run by the English clubs and televised by BT Sports would increase their income by £1m each. The WRU say they are committed to the current tournament, along with their Irish cousins.

The WRU's proposed solution is central contracts, offered to the six internationals who are out of contact and yet to commit to clubs elsewhere. The RRW see this as an underhand attempt by the WRU to take more control than they would welcome and some have uttered words of distrust toward head honcho Roger Lewis. 
Sam, Warburton, Lydiate, Wales, Lions, rugby,

Talk of an Anglo-Welsh league has been rife. So too, has talk of new regions to replace the existing ones should they jump ship.

The father of regional rugby and Welsh rugby's prodigal son has again landed on a flight back from New Zealand and not without purpose. David Moffett covets a return to the top of the WRU hierarchy and believes he can solve the crisis in ten short days. In the Kiwi's sights is the group chief executive role currently held by Roger Lewis.

Much like this website, Lewis straddles rugby and music. In the 80s Lewis was considered one of the most powerful men in music and was head of music at Radio 1. Ironic then, that during the recent Scrum V debate on the standoff, Lewis often resembled a broken record. He was not unable to answer Gareth Lewis' questions on replacement regions, simply unwilling.

Roger Lewis, rugby, WRU, Wales

By contrast, Mr Moffett wanted to answer questions he wasn't asked and pose a few of his own. Gareth Lewis seemed loathed to allow Moffett take the floor and left him to remain quietly seated in the audience.

So it was, that all the questions of importance remained unanswered. 
  • What is the future of Welsh rugby? 
  • Will any of Wales' stars commit to their regions? 
  • Will the regions still be there to commit to? 
  • If they are, what competitions will they be playing in?

At the moment we seem further from a solution than we do from an unwelcome civil war that could tear Welsh rugby apart as egos and self interests threaten to decanonize what is for sometime been treated akin to religion in Wales.

 Guns n' Roses - Civil War

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