CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Modification is necessary
9:10am Thursday 17th January 2013 in Sport
AT the risk of sounding like a doom monger, the navel-gazing when it comes to the regional rugby in Wales is taking the spotlight away from mounting problems in the club game.
We frequently hear about the financial problems facing Newport Gwent Dragons, the Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets; their struggles to compete with the euros on offer in France well-documented.
But the battle to bring in cash for clubs up and down the land is not a tale told quite so often.
This is evident in the Premiership, a league that is often called the 'jewel in the crown' by the Welsh Rugby Union but one that is hindered by their tinkering to the format.
This season it has been reduced to 12 clubs in a bid to improve standards and help develop talent for the regions.
It’s early days but the change hasn’t worked to those ends.
Generally the gulf between top and bottom is small – 'anybody can beat anybody in this league' if you’re playing cliché bingo – but the overall standard isn’t greatly higher and it doesn’t seem to be the case that more academy boys are being picked.
But even worse than that, it has left clubs struggling financially with just 11 home league games a season and a lop-sided fixture list. We are in January and Cross Keys have just ONE Premiership game left at Pandy Park this season while Bedwas, Llandovery and Carmarthen have three.
Clubs rely on bar takings and players like to play, not twiddle their thumbs on the sidelines. Less isn’t more when it comes to the Premiership and perhaps a rethink is needed.
Bump the top flight up by four so we have 16 teams again and allow those in the Championship to have a path back into the Premiership, which is all but ring-fenced.
If there are worries about bad weather causing problems then get rid of the unwanted end-of-season playoffs.
To keep the Union happy let them add RGC1404 – the Gogs would probably add a bit of spice to it all anyway.
Last weekend I watched Ebbw Vale ease to an away win at Pontypool; two famous clubs that are feeling the pinch, cut adrift in the second tier.
Among some there was a sense of entitlement that is hard to fathom, yet they do deserve to at least be open to the ups and downs of league rugby.
The club scene needs to be thriving and at the minute it isn't, yet the problems could get worse over the coming years.
Saga Holidays are missing a trick by not handing out leaflets to the arriving men in blazers outside the Annual General Meeting of the WRU.
It's a thankless task being a club official and the worry is that the next generation is not going to take over the reins.