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Thursday, 7 March 2019

Welsh Restructure

The Bad People’s guide to the Welsh Regional restructure

My confession: I’m the scum of the Earth

If Twitter is to be believed, I am one of the worst Welsh supporters alive, because I support the national team, but my club energies go into an English club – the Leicester Tigers. This is an obsession that goes back to my primary school days when my uncle was a serving RAF officer and had a young winger called Rory Underwood working for him who was DEAD FAMOUS. I now happen to live 45 minutes from Welford Road, although that is a very recent development, so I now have a season ticket.

As an expat child (my Dad was also in the RAF) of a Welsh family from Anglesey despatched to the wilds of Germany and then Hertfordshire, we didn’t really have a Welsh club team to follow. His mum was originally from Ammanford in the South, so we sort of kept in touch with those teams, mainly Neath and Llanelli. Since the regional restructure, Scarlets has been the team I’ve mainly followed, but I’ve not made the journey to Parc-y-Scarlets. Here endeth my confession.
PS It’s not all bad, I don’t watch Wendyball…

And then I married a Kiwi

Maybe it was the early days of following Neath, but I love a black rugby shirt. Mr Sutton is an All Blacks and Auckland Blues man, and I have successfully indoctrinated him into the club structures of the Northern Hemisphere. We watch a LOT of rugby in our house – the PRO14, the English Premiership and the Top14 (the latter is mainly for the eye gouging and the handbag fights).
He’s merrily assumed that the reason the PRO14 only has southern teams in it is because the north only has sheep, despite me pointing out to him numerous times that George North is from Anglesey! He has ridden mountain bikes in Afan, and also spent 9 months working in Newport, which he cites as making him an expert on South Wales.

So obviously, we are well qualified to give our opinion on “Project Reset”

We have interpreted the situation as the WRU attempting to combine two strong teams into a powerhouse, freeing up cash to splash on a region that currently has nothing. Cardiff Blues will be team #2 by some distance and then depending on what magic they can conjure up in the North, Dragons will be team #3 or #4.

At a business level it is highly expensive and makes no sense, because you need to create something from nothing in the North and transform the team in Newport, while messing around with products that work. Going back to first principles, that makes little economic sense. Mr Sutton “has this been cooked up by an out of work consultant?”

Well Mrs Sutton is a very much in work consultant and what I can’t get my head around is how shortsighted it is when you survey the movements in the market. There are two key sources of
revenue that could make a significant difference to the fortunes of Welsh Rugby. Firstly, the World League that is being cooked up could inject a significant amount of cash into the principality. The World League proposition in its current state is littered with problems and will need some reworking, but if that is the direction of travel, Wales are in a strong position to benefit. Secondly, rumours have been circulating since last autumn that CVC, the Private Equity partnership that owns 27% of the English Premiership, are looking at investing into the PRO14

At a rugby level it is equally bewildering, because you run the risk of doing an Ireland where you have a massively strong top team like Leinster, which is effectively the national team, that smothers the teams below and your strength in depth suffers. If you are a bright young talent like Joe Carbery, the academy feed at Leinster creates you and then you’re on the bench getting zero game time. Move too soon, you miss out on world-class training opportunities, move too late and the national team can’t bank on you performing at an international level. Carbery moved to Munster last April and is now getting more game time, but he’s not a Sexton substitute yet.

Please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

We’re not saying the current setup is perfect, either economically or in terms of rugby development. There is a definite talent leak to the East. When we get excited about the current strength in depth in the national side, it invariably involves men who are playing their club rugby in the English Premiership (just last week, we got excited about Liam Williams who plays at Saracens and Dan Biggar who is at Northampton) and the financial woes of rugby in Wales do not go unreported. However, there is something to be said for a tiny country which through the Ospreys, Scarlets and Cardiff Blues deliver a national team that can compete with the world’s best. Let’s look at better future talent capitalisation in the North and give the inhabitants somewhere to spend their money on watching top-flight matches, but please don’t do it at the expense of the current talent structure in the South.

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