CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Modification is necessary

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.

Comments (4)

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10:39am Thu 17 Jan 13

Robert Shillabeer says...

Yes you do sound like a doom mongrel. It's the first season with the reduced Premiership and the former Pontypool players have moved to Newport and Cross Keys some have been worthwhile additions others not and this should be sorted at the end f a season that has seen several very good clubs lse ground this year. Next year should see an improvement as it was expected that there would be some rebalancing of the competition in year one. When you look at Ebbw Vale they have held onto many of thier players from the previous year in the second tier so little change for them and they continued to play very good rugby, Pontypool have lost many of their better players and their results show it. Patience is needed for one more year before any advantage could be seen.
Yes you do sound like a doom mongrel. It's the first season with the reduced Premiership and the former Pontypool players have moved to Newport and Cross Keys some have been worthwhile additions others not and this should be sorted at the end f a season that has seen several very good clubs lse ground this year. Next year should see an improvement as it was expected that there would be some rebalancing of the competition in year one. When you look at Ebbw Vale they have held onto many of thier players from the previous year in the second tier so little change for them and they continued to play very good rugby, Pontypool have lost many of their better players and their results show it. Patience is needed for one more year before any advantage could be seen. Robert Shillabeer
  • Score: 0

2:19pm Thu 17 Jan 13

blackandamber says...

The problem with the game in Wales IS regional rugby. The strength of rugby in Wales has always been with its clubs and the intense rivalry that has always gone with it. Just because somebody thought the Irish do it this way it must be good. But no we hired an "expert" to sort it all out. First thing he does is say 150 years of history is bunk and your clubs mean nothing, this move alone probably cost Welsh rugby thousands of fans at a stroke. While you allow amateurs to run the professional game it is and going to be a non starter.
While i'm in the mood the mood why dont we change the name of the Dragons (a name nobody wanted) to the Owls because they only come out to play at night.
The problem with the game in Wales IS regional rugby. The strength of rugby in Wales has always been with its clubs and the intense rivalry that has always gone with it. Just because somebody thought the Irish do it this way it must be good. But no we hired an "expert" to sort it all out. First thing he does is say 150 years of history is bunk and your clubs mean nothing, this move alone probably cost Welsh rugby thousands of fans at a stroke. While you allow amateurs to run the professional game it is and going to be a non starter. While i'm in the mood the mood why dont we change the name of the Dragons (a name nobody wanted) to the Owls because they only come out to play at night. blackandamber
  • Score: 0

3:59pm Thu 17 Jan 13

Dai the Milk says...

The reduction of the Premiership is a complete nonsense. No rise in standards whatsoever, players sitting on the bench or, even worse, drawing wages whilst allegedly injured, large drop in income at the turnstiles and inside the clubhouses and less aspiring rugby players as club numbers are reduced. You couldn't make this up. And in the wings, you have clubs with the pedigree of Pontypool, Ebbw Vale and Newbridge playing 2 leagues below the top flight. The person who thought this up needs his head examined. These 3 great clubs have produced a wealth of talent over the years in East Wales..........even in recent times Lloyd Burns and Andrew Coombs cut their teeth at Pontypool and Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau both played for Pontypool clubs in their formative years. The WRU has chosen to cut off the hand which feeds it.
The reduction of the Premiership is a complete nonsense. No rise in standards whatsoever, players sitting on the bench or, even worse, drawing wages whilst allegedly injured, large drop in income at the turnstiles and inside the clubhouses and less aspiring rugby players as club numbers are reduced. You couldn't make this up. And in the wings, you have clubs with the pedigree of Pontypool, Ebbw Vale and Newbridge playing 2 leagues below the top flight. The person who thought this up needs his head examined. These 3 great clubs have produced a wealth of talent over the years in East Wales..........even in recent times Lloyd Burns and Andrew Coombs cut their teeth at Pontypool and Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau both played for Pontypool clubs in their formative years. The WRU has chosen to cut off the hand which feeds it. Dai the Milk
  • Score: 0

1:12am Fri 18 Jan 13

CM1 says...

DtM, you might as well bang your head against a brick wall. The WRU have no interest in changing their system, as the 'loss of face' would be too much to bear, which is far more important to these individuals than thousands of, now mostly, former fans, or the game of rugby. They are politicians, as evidenced by Mr Lewis' recent sojourn, campaigning with his chums in the Assembly. The sooner a number of regions go bankrupt the better. It would reinvigorate the grass roots of the game.
DtM, you might as well bang your head against a brick wall. The WRU have no interest in changing their system, as the 'loss of face' would be too much to bear, which is far more important to these individuals than thousands of, now mostly, former fans, or the game of rugby. They are politicians, as evidenced by Mr Lewis' recent sojourn, campaigning with his chums in the Assembly. The sooner a number of regions go bankrupt the better. It would reinvigorate the grass roots of the game. CM1
  • Score: 0

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