At the risk of sounding like Bob Dylan, these are changing times.
I was extremely proud to announce Steve Phillips as our new interim chief executive this week after a series of rigorous interviews and a range of excellent candidates for the position Martyn Phillips will vacate after our AGM in October.
It became clear during the recruitment process that the uncertainty currently surrounding sport was a challenge, both for candidates and the Union.
We also discussed with Steve the fact that a possible new chairperson would more than likely prefer to appoint their own chief executive, I know I would.
Steve was fully supportive of this approach and this is the reason for appointing on an interim basis.
He knows our business inside out and I believe this knowledge, combined with his track record with the Union and long-established strong relationships throughout the world game, ensure he is well placed to navigate the challenges ahead.
There is no doubt that the sports industry has been significantly impacted by the current pandemic. Steve has been at the forefront of our management of this challenging period.
He is entirely familiar with the business, has impressed throughout the process and as such will ‘hit the ground running’.
We have made a ‘boot room’ appointment which offers stability to Welsh rugby in transient times and on this note I am also delighted to inform member clubs that our new Community Rugby Strategy is approaching its sign-off and roll-out stage. Club workshops were integral to us reaching this stage and clubs will continue to be consulted to fine-tune the strategy further.
COMMUNITY RUGBY STRATEGY
This strategy will bring with it changes to the community game that will safeguard our long-term future together. The document has been 16 months in the making and has included consultations with Board members, District representatives, World Rugby, Sport Wales, schools, head teachers, players, key club representatives and our executive, council and Community Board.
Representations have been taken from the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Disability Sport Wales and Street Games.
A central question the strategy seeks to answer is: what does the successful, sustainable Welsh rugby club of the future look like?
The answer, in short, is that we truly have a game for everyone and we must ensure that the resources, expertise, personnel and planning is in place at all levels to maximise the potential of this fact. One of the key aspects is about encouraging more people to play in a variety of formats, plus we will have a new training and education work force to support not only coaches and referees but all volunteers, administrators, players and supporters. This includes developing a progressive pathway and framework for the mini, junior and adult game, increasing participation numbers and ensuring the competition model is right for the community game.
There is much more detail to come on the Community Rugby Strategy and clubs will continue to be an integral part of fine-tuning. Now Community Game Board approval has been realised for the first draft, the WRU Council and Board must be formally consulted. But I wanted to let member clubs know at the earliest opportunity that significant and exciting progress has been made.
We have said that we want to ensure all member clubs survive the current pandemic intact. We have made inroads into achieving this ambition, but we have also not rested on our laurels. There are changes to come, changes for the better that have been planned and researched in a structured way. Changes that will lift spirits as well as coffers, that will improve participation, raise standards, re-invigorate facilities, welcome the new and safeguard the old. Changes that will ensure Welsh rugby swims against the current tide, which has forced some of our number to stay in their homes, shelter and ultimately withdraw. Welsh rugby must not only stay afloat in these difficult times, it must will ride all of the waves coming its way and the Community Game Board is there to ensure that clubs are best equipped at every stage to do so.
NATIONAL COUNCIL ELECTIONS
To the immediate future, one more potentially imminent change will be directly influenced by the upcoming National Council elections. It is no secret that I am seeking to stand for a third and final term as a National Council Member and I have also offered my services to continue as chairman, if called upon during these unprecedented times. It is well documented that the one can’t follow without the other and if I am not re-elected to the Council a further change at the helm is inevitable. The Council consists of elected members from our clubs and districts and its role will be highly influential whatever happens next, but first clubs will speak.
Please read the documents you have been provided on each candidate and make your choice accordingly ahead of the fast approaching deadline of Friday 11th September. Of course, I would like you to vote for me. I’m standing for continuity, consistency, strength, stability and normality at a time when evolution could quickly turn to revolution, just a step away from imbalance, disruption and potential unrest. Without the right management during these unprecedented times we could so easily be put back, but I appeal to everyone to make your views known regardless of your preferred candidate.
Now is the time to speak up and exert your own influence on the future of our game. Now is the time for member clubs to act. To vote.
On that note, I leave you with Dylan:
…And you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
Yours in rugby,
Phillips appointed CEO
Group finance director, Steve Phillips, will become interim chief executive officer of the Welsh Rugby Union when incumbent Martyn Phillips leaves the role after the next Annual General Meeting in October.
Phillips will assume responsibility for the day to day running of the Union from 14th September, with the transition and hand over period between the two colleagues set to reach its conclusion in advance of the AGM, scheduled for Sunday 18th October.’
The current WRU GFD joined in 2007 from a similar role with TBI, one of the largest regional airport owners in the world.
In addition to managing the financial impact of the current pandemic on Welsh rugby, he has recently represented the WRU in discussions with CVC over their investment in the PRO14 competition and overseen The Westgate Hotel project, a joint venture between the Union, Celtic Manor Resort and property firm Rightacres.
The WRU’s next chief executive spent ten years at TBI, playing active roles in the acquisition of airports in Belfast, Sweden, London Luton, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Australia and North America, before moving on to tackle Welsh Rugby’s finances.
In the 13 years since he first joined the Union he has filed a succession of Annual Reports charting a significant rise in the turnover of the WRU, which reached £90.5m in the accounts for the year ending 2019 and overseen the reduction of the company’s debt from in excess of £50m when he took over to an all-time low of £6.2m. These accounts also showed the WRU re-invested a record £49.6m (2018: £42.8m) across the game in Wales.
“It is both an honour and a privilege to take on this role and I am hugely confident about what the future holds for Welsh rugby,” said Phillips.
“Sport’s governing bodies have a broad remit and I relish the challenge of balancing the needs of the community clubs that are the lifeblood of our game with the ‘business’ of professional sport.
“I very much look forward to building on the solid foundations created by Martyn during his five year tenure and working with our staff, clubs, commercial partners and our wider stakeholder community in the coming months. There are undoubtedly tough times ahead but with the right planning, resource and strategies in place Welsh rugby will be in the very best position to not only continue to build sustainability but to also thrive in spite of the unprecedented challenges we face.”
Phillips trained with KPMG and qualified as a chartered accountant in 1989. He was previously Finance Director at the Tedcastle UK Group before joining TBI as Group Financial Controller and then Group Finance Director.
He played rugby for Amman Valley Comprehensive School, Imperial College London, University of London and Amman United, where he captained the first XV. He was previously on the Dragons Rugby Board and is currently on the Boards of European Professional Club Rugby, Celtic Rugby DAC & Pro Rugby Championship DAC and the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) in Wales.
National Council Elections
Clubs will be aware that valid nominations have been received for Gareth Davies, Nigel Davies and Ieuan Evans as candidates for the available National Council Member role.
We would like to remind clubs that the deadline to vote in this election is 3pm on Friday 11th September and would encourage all clubs to submit their votes as soon as possible.
The available National Council Member role is an important position within the WRU’s governance structure, and the person appointed will be committed to making a difference to Welsh Rugby.
The National Council Member elected will be appointed to the WRU Council to hold office until the close of the Annual General Meeting held in 2023 and as they will serve on the WRU Council, will be in a position to be elected to the WRU Board as the relevant Directors’ terms are completed.
Profiles describing each candidate’s relevant experience and expertise to fulfil the available National Council Member role, as referenced against the Council Member Role Specification, have already been sent to clubs.
For the overall benefit of Welsh rugby, we would encourage you to make as many people as possible within your Club aware of the information contained within the candidate profiles and the requirements of the available National Council Member role.
Please be satisfied that your Club’s chosen candidate has the relevant experience and expertise to fulfil the role of a Council Member, as referenced in the documents already provided.
To ensure that your Club’s vote is validly received and counted for the ongoing election process, please return your Club’s completed ballot paper to the WRU’s Independent Electoral Scrutineers (Walter Hunter & Co Limited) by email no later than 3pm on Friday 11 September 2020.
Return to rugby
The Welsh Rugby Union has announced measures to further progress the phased return of community rugby in Wales – while still taking a safety-first approach to the resumption of the grassroots game.
In line with Welsh Government guidance, the governing body has now sanctioned the inclusion of touch rugby activities as part of fitness and skills-based training sessions at all levels of the game in Wales. This is in addition to the tag and touch rugby already sanctioned for under 7s to under 11s.
We will continue to work closely with Welsh Government and Public Health Wales over the coming weeks as we lead into the next announcement expected in mid-September.
We have also confirmed we will not be returning to competitions in October, and remain committed to providing our players a six week lead time into contact rugby.
Online player registration continues to look healthy, especially in the minis and juniors sections of rugby clubs and coaching registration is vibrant too with almost 4,000 coaches and 30,000 players already signed up. The process has been slower for senior players and referees, but we expect that this is linked to the fact that competitions are net yet on in this area – but we will keep a careful eye here and react appropriately when necessary.
The professional game has returned safely to competitive rugby with the Welsh Derbies over recent weeks which is a credit to all involved in this area of the game. And, whilst we are not featuring the in the latter stages of PRO14, we have both the Dragons and Scarlets facing their quarter-finals in the Challenge Cup against Bristol and Toulon respectively. We have undertaken 1,962 tests to date with only one positive result which was managed swiftly and in line with our protocols and Public Health Wales and Government guidelines which can be found here:
CATCHING UP WITH WALES AND BLUES SPEEDSTER JOSH ADAMS
Wales wing Josh Adams scored his seventh try in eight games for Cardiff Blues as they ended their regular season with victory over the Ospreys at Rodney Parade.
Adams – the top try scorer at the 2019 Rugby World Cup where Wales finished fourth – joined the Blues from English side Worcester Warriors for the start of the 2019/20 campaign.
He suffered an ankle injury which required surgery in the Six Nations earlier this year but is now back fit with the new rugby season already around the corner.
Here Adams talks through rugby’s return from lockdown, getting back on the pitch again, and what’s to come in the rest of 2020:
REGIONS LEARN EUROPEAN FATE
Wales’ four regions have learned their European fate for the 2020/21 season.
The Scarlets and Dragons will play in the Heineken Champions Cup with Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys featuring in the Challenge Cup.
The EPCR Board has unanimously agreed new Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournament formats will be introduced for the upcoming campaign.
Find out more here:
The Wales men’s sevens programme has ceased to operate in its current format for the foreseeable future due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19.
The global nature of the pandemic and its financial implications – including the disruption of the World Rugby Sevens Series – has rendered the programme unsustainable in the current climate.
“It’s an extremely regrettable situation we find ourselves in, and one that is being felt across the world inside and outside the context of sport,” said WRU Performance Director Ryan Jones. “I’ve seen first-hand how much the sevens players and staff have put their heart and soul into the programme, which has made reaching this outcome all the more difficult.
“Unfortunately, while we have seen the return of regional rugby in its current restricted form, it’s unlikely the sevens programme would be preparing for any top-level competition until at least April of next year. The realities of a reduced funding situation have made this impossible for us to sustain.”
JONES’ COACHING CRUSADE CONT…
As far as smacks in the face go, coaching the Crusaders to Super Rugby Aotearoa title glory has hit Mark Jones front on with the full force of a Tyson fury uppercut. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The former Wales speedster has had little time to celebrate the Crusaders’ success, as he is now plotting further success with Canterbury’s quest to claim the Mitre10 Cup which is contested by New Zealand’s top provincial sides.
“It’s been a great 12 months coming off the back of the World Cup with Phil [Davies] and Namibia, that was an awesome opportunity and obviously we came across the All Blacks. That was a great experience and then to jump straight out of that into Super Rugby with Rugby Aotearoa has been terrific, I haven’t really had time to absorb it much if I’m honest but it has been really enjoyable. Prior to that I was up at RGC so it’s been a good couple of years in fairness,” says Jones in an understated tone.
RHIANON STEPS UP
The women in Welsh rugby continue to break new ground with London Welsh’ Rhianon Williams becoming the latest leading light as she has become the first female Chair in the 42 year history of the Exiles’ Supporters’ Club.
Described by outgoing chairman Haydn Parry as the “outstanding candidate” to take over from him, she has been one of only two women on the Supporters’ Club committee in recent years.
“I’m excited, proud and I must admit to having slight trepidation as I try to continue to build on the advances that Haydn has brought to the club during his five years as Chairman,” said Williams.
VIDEO: CAERPHILLY BACK WHERE THEY BELONG
Caerphilly and the Chargers Female Hub are thrilled to be back training, especially now that they can include some touch rugby within their training sessions.
They are making sure the new hygiene measures and protocols are strictly adhered to in order to help keep the Return to Community Rugby plan on track.
SEVENS ACE JOINS STEELMEN
Wales Sevens star Dafydd Smith will be returning to the 15-a-side game next season after signing a contract to play in the Indigo Group Premiership with Ebbw Vale.
The 21-year-old centre made his Wales Sevens debut in Hong Kong in 2018 while he was in the Cardiff Blues Academy. He also played for Wales U20 during his Academy days.
Born in Penarth, he learned his rugby at Cardiff & Vale College and went on to play in nine tournaments with Wales on the World Sevens Series. He also played 11 times for Cardiff RFC over three seasons and had experience playing in the Cardiff Blues Premiership Select XV.