As Gwyn Jones has pointed out all clubs in England’s Zurich Premiership received the same amount from the RFU – £1.6 million. This allowed a competitive tournament that last week saw Sale – bottom last season – defeat Bath, the champions of the previous year. In Wales, though, the bigger clubs are given a disproportionate share of the Union’s money, increasing the gulf between the clubs in the premier league.
The Union should stop meddling in the financial affairs of the clubs. Clubs should be given the freedom to market their own players and their own team. The Union must allow the clubs to play who they want in order to generate their own revenue and sponsorship – indeed the Union should have supported the idea of four professional clubs from wales – with the top 120 players – playing in a British League when the idea was offered to them. This can still happen.
The union must concentrate on developing the grass routes and invest heavily in this area. High level coaches and facilities for school rugby are the way to develop the game in Wales. They should also spend their resources in training clubs to develop their own professional management side – how to attract money to the club and to the game? How to market the club?
The sad thing is that the Union thinks it knows more about the players on the pitch – and the coaches who coach them – than the clubs. Player development must be left to the clubs where competition for places and tough competition will provide an the necessary impetus to player development.
Interfering in the finances of top clubs may provide short term gain like keeping our top players in Wales instead of them leaving to England where they could earn more money, but this is only a short term solution. The only way to keep players in Wales is to allow them to compete weekly with the higher profile and better marketed English clubs.
Just look at two initiatives for an example. Take Wasps and their plan to offer free admission to the recent Wasps vs Leicester game, Or how about Saracens with season ticket prices cheaper than Cardiff’s – despite higher costs in London and the higher salaries of both players and spectators! A quick scan of the internet sites of the ZP teams will show you the difference in professionalism between the two structures. Leicester are the best supported club in Britain because they work hard to develop their fan base with open days, weekly newsletters, promotions etc.etc. Our club – the biggest in Wales – offers a shadow of this approach. The club is still run for the benefit of the players and the privileged few. How long will it take for things to change? How long will it take for us to see players accessible to the fans? How long until we see Dai Young serving pints in the bar as Olivier Magne was doing at Montferrand?