Monthly Archives: February 2001

An open letter to Graham Henry …..

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The logical future of the RFU’s present isolationism is that they will soon become so financially ahead of the Welsh clubs that the gap in playing levels will widen.As you know, one of the saddest things in Welsh rugby is the stubborn refusal of club fans in Wales to wake up to the reality of professionalism. Professionalism is unsustainable if clubs don’t have decent pitches, decent stadia and average gates approaching 10,000 at least!

You can see that Welsh rugby will mere become a training ground for the richer, sponsored English clubs unless we do something NOW. We’ve all heard talk that the English are ready to sign contracts for broadcasting rights and sponsorship that will bring them 250m!!

So when they blame you for defeat, tell them the way it is.

Sadly, Wales has a tiny economy (and a population less than Birmingham’s) and there’s simply not enough money domestically to sustain a structure which can compete with the wealthier English game. A stuborn refusal by the WRUin and supporters of smaller clubs to recognise this fact is therefore dragging us all down.

Whether we like it or not, the name of Llanelli will generate more interest nationally than Neath or Pontypridd. Therefore, the marketing boys and the corporate investers, the media and the sponsors and the press at large will show interest in Llanelli vs Harlequins – they’ll sponsor it, they’ll put it on television etc, etc. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Neath vs London Irish. With the loss of the steel works in Ebbw, one wonders how long the club can survive – there’s simply not enough money in the area to sustain professional sport.

We need to have a pool of players at the top end of the game competing for their places week in week out (as well as for the international side) in clubs who can beat the top English teams.

Sadly, too many club supporters in Wales blindly support their club without demanding more. How many fans in Wales have actually visited Leicester with their 10,000 average gate, Saracens with their excellent match day organisation and Bath with their extremely wealthy supporters? As you know, club fans in Wales struggle to look outside their own club.

We have to look outside our own borders to progress – 220 clubs in Wales will not produce a winning national side which can challenge for the Six Nations let alone the World Cup now that the age of professionalism has dawned.

I grew up thinking that the English would never beat us on a rugby pitch in Wales – we were invincible. Now they’re beating us because of their superior organisation and professionalism. Welsh rugby still has more flair, but unless we can match that level of organisation and professionalism (which means whether we like it or not, MONEY), we’re going to fall further behind.

Unless we get a British League soon, within 10 years Welsh rugby will adopt the same posture as Welsh football does now – a pale imitation of its English counterpart, feeding a couple of players to the top leagues, and woefully outclassed at international level. Anyone who looks at the gaps that have emerged in football should learn what professionalism an TV contracts does.

Some time soon the English will realise that they need the Celts for opposition. If they decide they don’t need us and bugger off to play the SA-NZ-Ozzies, then you can wave goodbye to the professional sport in Wales.

I don’t think this will happen, do you?

When they realise they need us, then they will realise that somehow money has to be injected into the game in Wales, and that means a professional league. And here’s the crux of the matter. Will the WRUin have enough humility to realise that Wales cannot stand alone against the financial power of the English game? As things stand at the moment, the WRUin are far too arrogant and full of their own self importance. How bad do things need to get before they learn some humility? How many times do we have to get thrashed by the English before the WRUin realise that maybe we need them more than they need us?

So before your contract comes to an end, Graham, have a word with those boys at the WRUin. Tell them the way it is. Tell them to swallow their petty village loyalties and look outside the village. There’s a big world out there with so much to learn!

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