We have Warren Gatland back at the helm of our senior men’s side and a new six-year verbal agreement in place to deliver sustainability and success for the professional game in Wales. We now urgently need to convert this verbal consensus into an agreement which is in executable form. Particularly in order to give the players in Wales the required confidence and also to enable our professional game generally to plan and flourish.
Our member clubs also have a new chair of the WRU Board, a position to which I was honoured to be appointed in November.
I’m joined by Anthony Buchanan who has been even more recently appointed to the position of vice-chair and John Manders has been duly elected to chair our Community Game Board (CGB).
This completes the new set up of the WRU Board, after enforced changes brought about by Rob Butcher stepping back from his role as chair of both the Board and the CGB, though we are pleased to have retained his services on the WRU Council.
Rob was a chair very much forged from the club game, a one club man who is still directly in touch with the game at community level as well as a genuine achiever with ambitions to modernise the WRU from within – he achieved this mission in part. I have a huge amount of respect for Rob and what he tried to do in trying to bring new skill sets onto the WRU Board, whilst maintaining vitally important links to the community game and to allow the Board the option to appoint a chair from outside of its own ranks if it so desired.
In fact, I have so much respect that I fully intend to pick up exactly where Rob left off in these ambitions. We know we need a 75% vote to pass any changes to our constitution, but we are buoyed by the fact that 66% of clubs at our recent AGM voted with the motion proposed in respect of our appointment processes for chair. We were also pleased that a number of other governance proposals were approved. The feedback we have received tells us more clubs will join us if we can explain our thinking more clearly and this is now the task at hand. My task.
We will call a special meeting of members, or extraordinary general meeting (EGM) as it is traditionally known, next year. We will, amongst other things, revisit the idea that our Board should be allowed – should it choose to do so having first considered whether one of the Directors can fulfil the role – to appoint a chair with the right skillset, acumen and experience to oversee this £100m business which sustains our game, if and when it decides this move is necessary. A move which could see the number of Directors increase from 12 to 13.
We will also encourage our members to take further steps towards improving diversity throughout our governance structure. This will include asking members to pass proposals to improve the gender diversity of our Board and Council.
We have made some progress in this area with recent elections, but we need to double-down on diversity in 2023. Today’s Council Member could be tomorrow’s Board Member and Welsh rugby will be better for having as broad a pool of talent as possible, improving diversity, skill set and experience within our governance structures. Our Board and Council should be as representative as possible, positively contributing to a culture that promotes equality and inclusion and values diversity.
Finally, given our ambition to move towards skills based appointments within our governance structure, we will look to increase the number of independent non-executive directors (iNEDs) on our Board from three – as it currently stands (two appointed iNEDs and the PRB chair) – to four and we will be asking member clubs to vote this and the other changes through with a 75% majority.
But before we do any of this, we will visit member clubs and districts to explain our thinking. To answer all questions and to listen to and allay any concerns. The Board unanimously believes that governance improvement is absolutely the right thing to do for Welsh rugby and remains committed to taking further steps to improve our organisation. It will safeguard our future. Long after I have served my time as chair, however long that may be, the steps and structures we want to put in place now will continue to pay dividends to all of Welsh rugby.
During the year, Wales Women left New Zealand with reputations enhanced after a sojourn into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in October having beaten Scotland in their opening pool game. Ioan Cunningham’s side progressed out of their group before exiting the competition after their knock-out meeting with the All Blacks in the quarters. They will have learned much from their experiences in their first World Cup as a professional side and the Tik Tok Six Nations in March will present a new opportunity to shine.
As we enter a World Cup year for Wales’ senior men in 2023 we have every reason to be optimistic about the future. We continue to work hard on putting the right systems and structures in place to support sustained success in our professional game at all levels and we are tireless in our pursuit of security and safety for our community game.
These are exciting times. Warren is targeting immediate success at the 2023 Guinness Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup in France later in the year. If anyone can make an immediate and positive impact it’s him and he has put maximum pressure on himself by willingly raising expectations. It’s a measure of the man that he says he is looking forward to facing the world’s best side in Ireland at Principality Stadium in his first game back in charge. ‘We’re really excited about it, it’s probably the best time to get them…’ he says.
We of course want him to win this encounter and every game in the Six Nations thereafter. Then we are looking for Wales to break-out of the pool and make an assault on the knock-out stages of the World Cup which inspires a nation in the same way that it did in both 2011 and 2019. We are not setting minimum standards or low benchmarks we are setting high expectations and Warren is right there with us.
We need our member clubs to understand our rationale for change and progress with the same clarity that I and my fellow board members do. We are confident that this is the right thing to do. But that does not mean we have the right to expect members to agree with us. The onus is on us to explain our arguments, to put forward the conclusions of our recent governance review and to allow you to judge and see the value for yourselves.
A happy and a prosperous New Year to you all!”