Monthly Archives: January 2003

The ‘X’ Files

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We’ve been crying out for a reduction in the number of paid professionals in Welsh rugby for over three years now, and at last the WRU seems to have woken up and taken some notice.

The Union will try to force through franchises for European competition next season, though it remains to be seen whether the French and English clubs will allow this to happen. If the WRU are allowed to rail road proposals over the interests of clubs, what’s to stop the French and English unions doing the same thing? And here’s the rub. Club owners in Wales may be ready to throw the towel in and give up control of their clubs, but don’t expect the French or the English to do so.

This fight isn’t over yet!

Clear conflict of interest

The press has yet to report under what criteria the WRU will select the franchise winners, and as a club they own are involved in the bidding process (Neath), it doesn’t take a genius to detect a conflict of interest.

Leighton Samuel has certainly seen that one of the best way’s to ensure selection is to ally his club with the WRU’s club. But what does this mean for Swansea? Wales’ second city should definitely hold a franchise given the economic clout of the area and the huge population. But don’t expect the WRU to respect such logic – vested interests count!

Solution – Franchise should be awarded by an independent body auditing the structure and financial plans of the franchise winners.

Selection Criteria

It’s still not clear from press reports on what criteria will be used to decide on how franchises should be awarded. For example, for the sake of a level playing field (something we don’t see in the Village League!), all franchise winners must play games in stadium they own. We’ve long asked for supporters to be put first – for example, set minimal standards on facilities – access to the ground, seating, toilets, ground capacity etc..

Solution – Clear publication in the media of what criteria will be used for selection

What do Franchise winners receive?

Again, in the muddled world of the WRU, this is also not clear at the moment, but on first sweep it would seem that they get the right to play in Europe (still not approved by ERC) and in a revised Celtic League (structure still not agreed by the IRU and the SRU). They will also receive a share of the £4m on offer from the Union – remember that £2.7m comes from the ERC. In short, franchise winners don’t get very much.

Will franchise winners be allowed to keep funds they raise through the marketing of their clubs? Unknown.

Solution – Union should concentrate on promoting the international game and the amateur game by investing in coaches and facilities at a grass roots level. Union should concentrate on getting competitions adequately sponsored. Perhaps when they can contribute money equal to that of the IRU – for example, Ulster receive £2.5m a season – then we’ll get a decent franchise structure.

Muddled Franchise ownership

Moffet has come up with a proposal for ownership of the franchise, though this too is full of holes. It is muddled and based on vested interests – far from meritocratic structure that we need. What happens if clubs bid alone? There was talk that their funding would be cut to 75% of a joint bid – so what happens to the other 25%? Back in the WRU coffers? Why should district clubs own any shares in the franchise winner? What can they bring to the party?

Solution – Union should retain 50% of share ownership of the franchise winner and commit to put in 50% of the finances. Union should adopt a passive policing role to ensure franchise performs at a standard stipulated by the franchise document. Involvement of the district clubs is farcical and an attempt at populism by the Union – nothing else.

Central Contracts

The WRU has made it clear that they want to drive all non-Welshman from Welsh clubs – despite the fact that it’s obviously illegal. As far as Cardiff are concerned, that would mean the end of Dan Baugh’s career at the club. So how many Cardiff fans would like to see him go?

With contracts held by the clubs at the moment, does the Union have the money to buy players out of their contracts? Uh …. no. So where does the money come from?

Whilst we’d welcome a new coach at Cardiff (sorry Dai), how can the Union order players between clubs? We’ve long opposed dual contracts on the evidence of union mismanagement of our game for many decades, and thankfully this is one area where the Union is destined to defeat in the law courts should it insist on this. For a measly £6.7m a season, they think they can buy up 130 contracts? Bluddy hilarious. That would make an average salary of £51K a year JUST FOR THE PLAYERS, let alone the coaches, directors of the clubs, ground maintenance, travel etc. etc.

With central control, will players be forced to play for franchises, despite their own preferences? Who makes the choices of which player should play where? Hansen? Do us a favour! The man will disappear after the world cup!

Solution – Central contracts? Forget it! Impossible and undesirable! Union can’t do what it’s supposed to do now – why give it more power?

What happens next season?

If the club owners agree to franchises, if other clubs in Europe agree to franchises, if there’s no legal row over contracts, if there’s an equitable selection process, if clubs can survive on the tiny amount of money offered by the union we’ll get four nomadic teams with no “home” fixture, no passion for the jersey, no identity and no committed fan base.

Solution – Franchise winners should be individual clubs where at all possible and not some fudged compromise. We must give preference to our major conurbations – Swansea, Cardiff and Newport.

What happens the season after?

Watch out for the breakaway!

Franchises …

What must be the structure must franchise winners?

* The winner of the franchise will hold a 50 per cent stake.

* The other “beaten” premier clubs in that area will hold 30 per cent

* District clubs hold remaining 20 per cent.

Moffit’s Franchise will be based on four areas …

* EAST WALES – (Newport, Ebbw Vale and Caerphilly?)
* CENTRAL WALES – (Cardiff and Pontypridd?)
* SOUTH WEST WALES – (Neath and Bridgend?)
* WEST WALES – (Llanelli and Swansea?)

It will cost nothing to bid, which opens the door for clubs such as Pontypool, Aberavon and Llandovery to apply too.

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