There’s been a lot of rubbish written in the press lately about corporate sponsorship and the way the strawberries and cream set are running off with our tickets. The evil Mike Burton is pictured as depriving the good honest fan of tickets for the big game. But all this is far too superficial.
Let’s look at the real cause of the problem, and once more, its our friends in the WRU.
Can clubs be blamed for selling their ticket allocation on to people like Burton, or to allocating tickets to sponsors? The money raised is pumped back into the club, whether to maintain wages for the type of players we, as club supporters, want to see, or to maintain club facilities. Either way, the money is used for the benefit of the club. As rugby supporters, do we really expect it any other way? Should we expect magnanimous clubs to guarantee their supports all the tickets allocated by the WRU? Wouldn’t this deprive the clubs – all clubs – of a valuable way of raising revenue to invest in the game?
No, the real cause of the problem here is the WRU. If they were really committed to looking after the typical supporter – those that loyally follow their club week after week – and not so-called rugby fans who wouldn’t know one end of a club house from another, then why don’t they legislate that all tickets released to clubs must be sold to members and not the likes of Burton and his ilk? So the press attacking Burton misses the point. They are attacking the symptom and not the root cause of the problem. The WRU is quite aware of the service Burton and other corporate sponsors offer smaller and poorer clubs. They condone the selling of tickets to non-fans. That’s professionalism, progress and capitalism for you bois! If you’ve got the wad, you’ll get the ticket and the WRU is quite happy with the situation, thank you very much.
Yet another area where the WRU have been quite happy to take the back seat and do nothing about next year’s fixture list, has been their Trappist silence on the attitude and actions of the RFU. The talk in the press recently, was that the Celtic Nations may only get £12m of the Sky money that the RFU unilaterally secured. The RFU have also unilaterally decided the winners of the Tetley Bitter Cup will qualify for Europe. Now they’re deciding to move the Six Nations. But what’s worse, they’re deciding on our fixture list for next season and there’s no one from the WRU standing up for Welsh clubs at their closed door meetings.
So let’s look at what we’ve got in Wales. A sponsorless Premier Division, a sponsorless knock out competition and a future devoid of any leadership from the WRU. On the pitch, in Llanelli and Cardiff we have two of the best teams in Europe, but what will happen next season? If the WRU allow the RFU to dominate and decide next year’s structure, then how long will the money last in Wales? Unless Welsh clubs get a hold of some television money, their future is bleak. If the RFU sign a multi-million pound television deal enriching the English clubs further, how long before the wealth they will accumulate will result in a talent drain of Welsh players across the border? Already the national press and television is dominated by English club rugby, can Wales continue to hold onto its best players in the future? Our view is that we either create a British League now (as proposed by the Scotsman Walkinshaw) or the gap will widen. The 57 old farts are determined to hang on to their privileges, so unless real pressure is put on them from the start, they’ll pick up the ball and run away with it!
Our plea to the WRU is talk with the RFU now, try and influence them now, before they set the agenda and the English dominate our domestic rugby, not by beating us on the pitch, but by beating us in the board room and the wallet.