Under-fire Welsh Rugby Union boss vows to transform the game as pressure mounts

  • ITV Wales sports reporter Matt Southcombe takes a closer look at the questions being asked of Welsh rugby

A dismal run of results at international level has led to how Welsh rugby is run at all levels being scrutinised like never before.

Protracted discussions over the finances of the professional side of the game has led to players leaving Wales in order to secure their financial future.

In the community game, fixtures are being called off all over the country, with clubs struggling to raise a team.

Cardiff's Principality Stadium is the home of the Wales national rugby union team and has also held a number of large-scale concerts.

There are a myriad of problems to be fixed but top of the agenda will be tidying up the governance of the professional game, which generates the vast majority of revenue that keeps the game alive.

At present, any decisions made by the Professional Rugby Board - the body that looks after the interests of the elite game - must have decisions ratified by the main Welsh Rugby Union Board, the majority of whom are elected club officials.

This has led to widespread claims that the ‘tail wags the dog’ and the club game has too much power over professional matters.

But that is something that Stuart Broad, Secretary of Aberavon Quins, opposes.

Stuart Broad, Secretary of club side Aberavon Quins says blaming clubs for holding back the professional game is bang out of order." Credit: ITV Wales

“There’s a lot of rhetoric going around that we’re holding the professional game back,” he told ITV Wales.

“It couldn’t be further from the truth in my opinion.

“To blame the clubs - with contempt and disdain if I might add - is bang out of order."

According to Broad, clubs have no desire to run the professional game as seen in 2018 when they voted unanimously in favour of the Community Game Board (CGB) and the Professional Rugby Board (PRB).

“The professional game can sort itself out as far as I’m concerned. But it shouldn’t be at the detriment of the club game,” he said.

Going forward, Broad will lobby for independent figures on the WRU Board to hold larger voting shares on issues regarding professional rugby

Last month, the WRU attempted to modernise their governance when outgoing chair Rob Butcher put forward a motion that would have given the Union the option of appointing an independent chair if they wished.

But the clubs blocked the motion when it was put to a vote and the chair will continue to be an elected club official.

Broad was among those who voted against the motion but insists he is not against reform.

“We understand, as clubs, that those three feathers don’t just represent our national side, they represent a £100 million business,” he said.

“They are a brand, I get that. And certainly from our understanding, the clubs don't want to run the professional side of things. But what we do want to protect is our democratic voice.

Broad believes that by appointing another business-minded person onto the main Board, their voice would be diluted and this could further damage the community game.

The WRU announced Warren Gatland would be returning as head coach for the national team, after a disappointing recent run under Wayne Pivac.

“As it stands, the community game is on life support. You only have to look at the fixture lists.

“It’s not a question of funding - obviously everyone wants more money, certainly the regions do, you could argue! - but it’s not about money, it’s about participation.”

Broad though, insisted that the current setup serves neither the professional or amateur game as best it could.

Moving forward, he will lobby for the independent figures on the WRU Board - Steve Phillips (WRU CEO), Malcolm Wall (Chair of the PRB), Henry Engelhardt (Independent non-executive director) and Catherine Read (Independent non-executive director) - to hold an increased voting share on matters pertaining to professional rugby.

Warren Gatland is Wales' longest-serving head coach and it's hoped his return will help turn things around for the national team.

But when the issues revolve around the community game, their voting share returns to one vote per person.

“We’re not far off, there are possibilities but it’s not going to be an overnight fix. There are two elements of the game now - the professional side and the community side," said Broad.

He understands that they shouldn’t be run under the same infrastructure, but he said: “If the main Board can’t fathom the decisions being made at PRB level, then I’m all for giving the four business-minded people on the Board a double vote share so that they would have an equal vote to the eight (elected) members.

"I wouldn’t even be against giving them a triple vote share. But when it comes to the CGB, they get an equal vote.”

Despite recent attempts to modernising falling on deaf ears, there is a growing sense of acceptance that things have to change.

Since Butcher’s departure, former Wales wing Ieuan Evans has been installed as the new WRU chair.

And he has already hinted that he will push for reform.

“Let’s look forward in terms of improving and evolving our governance,” he told ITV Wales.

Former Wales wing Ieuan Evans is the new WRU chair and he believes Welsh rugby needs to evolve for both the survival and growth of the game.

“Governance is like painting the Forth Bridge, it never stops. It’s constantly reviewed and stress tested.

“It’s going to be scrutinised, challenged, reviewed, adapted and moved forward. We need to evolve and, for us, it’s about ensuring not only the survival of the game but the flourishing of the game, the growth of the game.”

With the regions and the grassroots game struggling financially, how that money is divided and crucially, who gets a say has never been more important.

But until all of that is resolved, it's difficult to see how the mountain of problems facing Welsh rugby can ever be conquered.