Memo To: All Welsh Rugby Clubs
Subject: The Future of Welsh Rugby
Sender: David Moffett (Former WRU Group CEO)
Date: 18th January 2014
I apologise if I have the wrong address or name on this e-mail. In order to get these thoughts to your club as quickly as possible I have used the details as provided by the official Welsh Rugby Union website for all Club Secretaries. If you are not the appropriate person to receive this letter I would be grateful if you could pass it on to the relevant officials at your club.
You may be asking ‘why has Moffett come back to Wales and why is he sticking his oar in?’
The answer is simple - I cannot sit in the sun on the other side of the world whilst Welsh Rugby implodes. I arrived on Wednesday, have helped to stimulate much debate since then and intend to continue in a similar vein in order to help resolve the current impasse between your Union and the Regions.
More than that, it is my intention to offer myself for election to the WRU Board of Directors as and when an opportunity arises. I am here to serve the best interests of the game as a whole in Wales.
Whether you like or dislike me, like or dislike Regional Rugby, the facts are that the Regions, the benefactors and most importantly the players have delivered unprecedented success at International level since the creation of regional rugby in 2003. This has not translated into much success on the European club stage and for that the Regions have to shoulder the blame.
As well as providing you all with the framework for a more competitive playing structure by creating five and then four Regions, I also negotiated during my time as your CEO a huge reduction in the crippling debt at the WRU. This was to be paid off over 35 years. When I arrived the WRU was technically insolvent and there was a real possibility we could have lost the Millennium Stadium. We did not and the Union’s finances are now in better shape.
That was my legacy, not always popular, but I delivered and was known as a straight shooter. I have not changed and will work tirelessly to end this latest in a series of disastrous management blunders on both sides of the current rugby row.
The one thing I can guarantee if I return to the WRU is that you will be inundated with communications from the WRU to keep you all informed and part of the main debate. I’m sure this will be a welcome change. You should always remember that the clubs are the owners of the WRU and have the power to determine the composition of the board and executive for as long as they enjoy your trust and confidence.
So what is the best way to clean up this, the latest in a series of avoidable wars that is threatening the future on not only Welsh Rugby but indeed European Rugby.
The first thing I would do if I am able to return to the Union is set aside the behemoth Participation Agreement and concentrate on the real issues. It is interesting to note that the United States Constitution runs to 2,200 words (Wikipedia) and the WRU’s PA with the Regions is about 6000 plus. The bulk of the PA is about procedural matters.
As I see it, the guts of this dispute centres around:
1. Money and Competitions
3. Risk and Reward
1. Money and Competitions
It is abundantly clear that the WRU and Regions are suffering huge inequalities in funding compared to all other Unions. This has got dramatically worse since the announcement of the new Premier Rugby and Top 14 TV deals.
We have already seen a huge exodus of our best players to France and England. No matter what happens this will get worse and we are already well down the Argentinian rugby and Welsh football roads.
To counter this I would consider every option that puts Wales’s interests first and then look at how to help Ireland and Scotland. It is my firm view that Italy should be assisted by their next door neighbours France. We just cannot lose out by trying to be nice guys. As for existing contracts, they can be renegotiated.
At the same time I would end the insane practice that the WRU have adopted of paying down debt early. It has done nothing but keep all levels of the game poor. I would renegotiate the loan with Barclays on a more sustainable basis. There is no point in being debt free with Welsh Rugby in tatters. More money with KPI’s would be freed up for all levels of the game.
Money or the lack of it lies at the heart of professional sport.
Much has been made of the WRU wanting Control. Don’t be fooled by this, they already have control of every aspect of the game.
The one critical area that they don’t control is the players. Unfortunately the WRU, along with so many other Unions, dropped that ball in 1995 when the game went ‘Open’ and there is no prospect of the Regions giving up any control of the players in the current toxic environment.
The WRU does have almost unfettered access to the players and Warren Gatland has said he does not need any more access. There is however an argument to be made that in Wales neither the WRU nor the Regions can compete with France and England on their own.
I would immediately open discussions with the Regions to find a better way forward where both parties’ interests are protected.
3. Risk & Reward
This is an issue that has not been recognised by anyone thus far. In life or business if one side is being asked to take all the risk whilst the other takes all the reward, all hell breaks loose. It is not sustainable and I am unaware of any well run organisation that successfully operates like this. Even the mega-supermarket chains have been forced to recognise they need more of a partnership with their suppliers. Even to the casual observer the WRU favours the concept of reward for them and all the risk for the Regions. Can’t work, won’t work – hasn’t been working!
The relationship between the WRU and Regions is toxic, divisive, lacking in trust and respect for each other. This has got to stop . . . and stop now! A genuine partnership between the WRU and Regions is required to ensure a sustainable and successful future at all levels of Welsh Rugby.
I would work assiduously to develop a genuine partnership with the interests of the WRU at the forefront, but with an honest, open and transparent partnership with the Regions. The clubs will be at the forefront of communications with the WRU, not an afterthought. That is the right way to treat owners and shareholders.
It is my passion for Welsh Rugby that has brought me back. Once these major issues have been addressed it will be a straightforward matter to put the meat on the bones.
I believe I can broker an honest, transparent and sustainable agreement with the Regions in 10 days. This would be a win / win result for all parties. We have two entrenched groups at the moment with both sides seeking a victory. I don’t believe we have to have any losers if we address the issues professionally and reasonably.
There needs to be only one winner – Welsh rugby!
With best wishes for a vibrant future.
Please follow me on twitter @DaiMoffett