Mike Cuddy appeals for help for the Welsh rugby regions
THE Welsh Rugby Union will hold their annual general conference in Port Talbot on Sunday with Mike Cuddy warning that regional rugby is staring down the barrel.
The former Ospreys chief, speaking in a personal capacity, has urged delegates from member clubs to grill the union and push for a debate.
In a strongly-worded statement, Cuddy:
questions whether the WRU has a plan to help the regions;
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raises the spectre of top-level rugby going the same way as Welsh domestic football;
says that without a clear strategy it is “guaranteed” that top players will continue to leave Wales;
and floats the idea of inviting David Moffett back to help Welsh rugby out.
Cuddy said: “While Roger Lewis and his team have done an excellent job managing the game at international level and the union’s overall financial performance is one to be admired, the regional game in Wales needs to quickly rise to the top of the WRU’s list of priorities.
“I’ve had 25 years on the frontline of off-field Welsh rugby and I can honestly say that the environment has never been more onerous, nor the challenge more extreme.
“If our regions are to remain competitive, there has to be a plan, led by the union, with all interested parties sitting down together. But alas, the only plan I see at the moment is that there’s no plan.
“The regional game in Wales is looking down the barrel of a gun.
“Unless the issues are addressed, there’s a grave danger of us becoming non-players in the bigger picture.
“Ask yourself the question: where will we be in, say, five years? It’s all well and good the governing body making big profits and big turnover, but what will it profit them if there is no professional rugby in Wales worthy of the name outside of the international tier?”
“Who wants the Welsh football scenario to be replicated in Welsh rugby where having an international player ply his trade inside the Principality is the exception rather than the rule, and where the top tier of domestic competition is so far removed from international level that it attracts only a few hundred diehard supporters?
“But without a plan, it’s guaranteed that our top players will not play and stay in Wales.”
Cuddy claimed the WRU had become a rival of the regions, adding: “They are Wales’s fifth region, more competitor than friend, flooding the market with hundreds of thousands of tickets that allow fans to get their rugby fix at the Millennium Stadium rather than anywhere else.
“They spend hundreds of thousands of pounds promoting their games, selling against their own regions at key times of the year. Yet they produce none of the players, bear little of their wage costs and then claim them to be their own.”
Cuddy called for union bosses to step forward and lead the professional game.
“The problem isn’t going to be solved by the union doling out £100K here or there for a marquee player or two. It’s much deeper than that. A sticking plaster won’t stop the bleeding from a partially severed arm.
“David Moffett never shunned the tough decisions, and the time’s coming where some big ones have to be made. Perhaps we should invite him back to help us out.”