Trouble in Wales?

Discussion in 'Guinness Pro14' started by Bruce_ma_goose, Feb 24, 2019.

  1. Bruce_ma_goose

    Bruce_ma_goose First XV

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    From the article below it sounds like a merger of the Blues and Ospreys has been rejected. We all know that the WRU and SRU in particular are struggling to compete with salaries elsewhere, but is there more to it than that?

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-u...ns_source=twitter&ns_campaign=bbc_wales_sport

    I saw the Ospreys played at Bridgend last weekend? Are there issues around stadia as well as salaries?

    I figured 12hrs was long enough for the Welsh to be cheery. :p
     
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  3. bushytop

    bushytop First XV

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    I have heard disturbing rumours about the state of affairs at the Ospreys... and have a feeling AWJ was quite so emotional yesterday (in tears as he ‘waved’ at the crowd post-match seemed ‘more’ than just as a result of the victory) as a result of the situation.

    I think by refusing the merger, the O’s are hoping to force the WRU’s hand into taking on the region like at the Dragons.

    My opinion is Wales need four regions... the more opportunities for young Welsh players to play competitive matches the better, even if that means the Regions are struggling. I also believe that the WRU have an obligation to provide four competitive ‘teams’ into the Pro 14 and European competitions.

    In the long run, unless a new and considerable financial stream becomes available, which seems unlikely our regions may have to simply be for homegrown talent on their way up. This will lead to the odd couple of seasons where a region or two (like the Scarlets of 2016-17) will bring through a decent number of young talent that is cheap to field and be highly competitive. Then the talent that achieved that will for the most part sign big deals in France and England (& you heard it here first... Ireland) and the region will start to suffer once more.

    If this does turn out to be the case, Wales would then have to reverse the 60 cap rule and operate more like Scotland and simply play their stars regardless of which league they operate in, which would imho have a pretty significant detrimental effect on the Wales team. So not great but a more than possible reality for the regional game in Wales moving forward.

    Unless the WRU eventually ends up ‘owning’ all four regions (a way down the line I’ll give you) and is able to siphon off a little more of the turn over to the Regions’ operating costs.
     
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  4. sophielharris93

    sophielharris93 Academy Player

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    Hi all,

    I hope you don't mind me intruding here. I'm working on a fan engagement project within the Welsh regions.

    What do you think are the major issues? How do you think they could do better? Some have suggested more online stuff, eg. an app or website. What are your thoughts?
     
  5. bushytop

    bushytop First XV

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    The problems are vast and bigger than anything an app, website or online stuff could even dent. I think that the problem you will face is that you are imho looking at the problem from the wrong perspective. The regions need to be actively engaging the community rather than just leaving the virtual front door open just in case someone wants to swing by.

    The thing that I would look to do above all else is to get the regions engaging the schools more within their geographical borders. I’m sure there is some interaction but it is clearly not enough. If you can drive more enthusiasm amongst primary and secondary school kids it solves at least a couple of major problems.

    One, if more kids are enthused and motivated to play the game, together with the fact that the regions could be getting a look at them early enough to begin the moulding process... they (the regions) would have more player resources coming through their system (& they’d be a damn sight cheaper than any foreign imports). The players coming through would also be ‘tailored’ to the regions wants and needs, what with the fact that the region would have been interacting and advising the kid as they come through.

    Two, kids dictate a constantly increasing amount of their parents disposable income these days. Get the kids on board (pride in the region and wanting to represent it etc) and they’re going to be hounding their folks to take them to the game(s)... and thus helping to alleviate the lack of match day revenue that welsh regions have a particular problem with.

    The major problem though... and one that is almost insurmountable given the financial situation at welsh regions, is that of success. If there was some success, like when first Ulster, then Munster and Leinster won the Heineken Cup back in the day... fan interaction takes care of itself. You only have to look at the crowds that the Scarlets have got over the last two or three years. Even then, the ticket prices are so low in Wales due to the low wages and lack of real desire to follow the regions, that even if we had consistent full houses at about £20 a ticket, we would STILL be way short of the match day revenue of clubs in England, Ireland and France due the amount each ticket is sold for.

    Sadly, this is the current state of affairs but I wish you well.
     
  6. Amiga500

    Amiga500 First XV

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    From the outside - it'd appear to be an issue of people brought up in the club scene identifying with the regions.

    Over here, we've had 4 provinces since forever (in the context of this discussion). There was long established competition between the provinces in rugby and other sports (like the Railway cup). They were ideally distributed geographically and in terms of population distribution as good as could be realistically hoped for with 4 of the 5 largest towns in Ireland in different provinces. Thus, when the IRFU went to use the provinces as the basis for professional units - it was a no brainer. There was no conflict in crossing club/province boundaries, there was instant association from the support base and it was always solid.

    Conversely, in Wales, there was rows and arguments before the regions even formed. Some wanted superclubs, others wanted amalgamations, yet others didn't want it at all. Geographically, the distribution is extremely poor - but that is not helped by the population concentration of Wales. Even given that - or maybe especially given that - the reach out of the regions to their base has been extremely poor.

    Why are Ospreys playing in Liberty stadium when its empty? They went to Bridgend a couple of weeks ago - they should be rotating matches around all the big clubs in their catchment and getting people involved, not playing in their empty ivory tower. Same with the Blues. To a lesser extent the Scarlets and Dragons are already in the undisputed centre of their catchments.


    But then, I guess, really, the bottom line is the Welsh are poor at turning out for anything outside of internationals. They talk about rugby being the national game, but that quite clearly is a load of bull. Soccer is the most popular national game. Compare and contrast the crowds for Newport, Cardiff and Swansea in soccer to the crowds in the Pro14.


    If I were in charge of a region, I'd be playing all my games around the club grounds until I was pretty much selling games out. Parents will take kids to the local pitch to watch the pros when they wouldn't take them way down the road for the same game. Anything else is likely embroidery. Its not about having loads of big names, one or two established internationals would do, success helps, but its mostly beyond the directors' control. Accessibility is key for me for building the roots from which the whole thing can grow.

    edit: Accessibility is an easily achievable objective that will improve things. It doesn't need millions of pounds and it doesn't rely on the stars aligning for success.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
  7. Bruce_ma_goose

    Bruce_ma_goose First XV

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    Seems this has legs.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/47368262

    I thought North Wales didn't really have the population centre to support a Pro14 club? I'd say forget it if you dont have a town of 100k inhabitants.

    I have no suggestions for Wales. The only observation I'd make is that having those match days at the Millenium stadium for both derbies attracted sizeable crowds, so I was surprised to see them being stopped. I'm guessing it was down to finances. Dragons seem to get reasonable crowds when you factor in how consistently bad they are. Maybe that loyalty needs rewarded.
     
  8. Amiga500

    Amiga500 First XV

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    If they were going to have a region in the north, would it not be a good idea for the WRU to pay one of the current regions to have a game there to gauge interest? Surely for a one off they should be able to get a sizeable crowd in for the novelty of it alone?


    Cheaper to test it in a one off game than disband a structure, set up an entirely new one with all the facilities etc only to find out then that it wasn't going to add up.
     
  9. RedruthRFC

    RedruthRFC First XV

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    Surely this would represent treating the symptoms, not the cause. If the new media presence is poor, it is a symptom of the fact that those in charge don't have the ability to run a business in 2019.
     
  10. dullonien

    dullonien International

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    It would obviously be nice to have a region based in North Wales, however questions must be asked about whether it's totally viable. There must be a reason why there wasn't at least one top level club based in North Wales during the club days.

    It would be a real shame if the Ospreys were disbanded/merged with Scarlets, mainly due to the history they've managed to generate. It does sound like they're in real trouble though which is a travesty given where they were 10 years ago as one of the best sides in Europe, one which probably should have conquered Europe in their pomp. It also leaves South Wales with a very uneven split, with Cardiff and Newport being so close geographically.

    I do wonder whether now would be the best time to just start afresh once again? Have some of the old rivalries reduced over time which makes a more logical split possible? E.g:

    - Llanelli + Swansea = South-West Wales region
    - Cardiff + Newport = South-East Wales region
    - Neath + Bridgend + Valleys = South-Mid Wales region
    - North Wales region (if viable). They would probably also need to capture all of mid wales

    Joining Llanelli + Swansea would probably be the biggest hurdle, but I do worry about the future viability of the Scarlets when they rely on Llanelli + Carmarthen as their support base (neither of which are very big). Adding Swansea's population into that mix helps massively. This would also get the valleys back on board, very few of which are willing to support a side based in Cardiff. Cardiff + Newport just makes sense and would solve the Dragons issue.

    I could see 2 of those sides being very competitive out of the gate, depending on how many ospreys players the Scarlets would inherit (+ how many they'd lose to a north wales region) and how many valleys players the Cardiff Blues would lose to the South-Mid region.

    Some would argue that we're too far down the road with the current regions, and I would have agreed previously; but if the ospreys are to go, then that changes everything.
     
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  11. bushytop

    bushytop First XV

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    Interesting stuff... I'm inclined to agree in regards to your suggestion that this might just be the time to start from scratch.

    If we're gonna merge/end regions and create a Northern one anyway... maybe now is the time to undo the past mistakes. How the regions would be demarcated is anyone's guess but it'll be tears before bedtime no matter how it is done.

    I would probably go North (totally new), West (Swansea to the West coast), East (Newport and the valleys) and Cardiff (given the city's population and growth potential etc) so fairly similar to yours only Newport would catch a bit more.
     
  12. higgik

    higgik Academy Player

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    How about
    Gwent,
    Capital and South Glamorgan,
    Glamorgan
    West Wales
     
  13. Bruce_ma_goose

    Bruce_ma_goose First XV

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    I think you should only mess with the teams as a last resort. You will alienate existing fans and you must never forget that things can always get worse rather than better.
     
  14. Thingimubob

    Thingimubob First XV

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    Tbf, that's pretty much what it is now, but under different names?

    Gwent = Dragons (Newport and Gwent regions covered)
    Capital and South Glamorgan = Blues (Cardiff + the Vale of Glamorgan)
    Glamorgan = Ospreys (Swansea, Neath, Bridgend and the rest of the historic "Glamorgan")
    West Wales = Scarlets

    Does cut out on the North and leaves the valleys a bit cut adrift too.
     
  15. dullonien

    dullonien International

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    I would agree, but if they are planning to mess by disbanding the Ospreys and creating a North Wales region then may as well try and solve a couple of major regional issues:

    - the alienation of the valleys, one of the historic heartland of Welsh rugby.
    - the Dragons' long running performance issues.

    This would probably require tinkering with all the existing regions' boundaries + a major re-branding exercise. Obviously there's question marks over whether Llanelli+Swansea & Cardiff+Newport can come together harmoniously , but hopefully it'd be better than the Ponty+Cardiff situation we have now!

    Cardiff have the population base to stand-alone, but a valleys+Newport region feels a little odd geographocally, stretching around Cardiff. I also like the potential of North, East, South, West regions (even though 3 of them are in the South!), because I think this could help them feel like genuine regions instead of super-clubs in disguise. The East v West and North v South rivalries are already there to tap into.
     
  16. bushytop

    bushytop First XV

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    Seen a number of suggestions for how things should move forwards as far as the regional game should go in Wales and the more I think about it the more I think we should literally go North, South, East and West... with the borders being drawn up using a combination of historical borders and population numbers (easy to suggest, harder to execute).

    I did read a pretty interesting suggestion in the comments section of WoL (of all places)... though it is extremely left field and in all probability untenable. The Ospreys should forgo WRU funding and try and join the English pyramid. Yes it initially sounds ridiculous (maybe not just initially... as I’ve had a few) but the more I thought about it the more the idea wormed itself in.
     
  17. TRF_Olyy

    TRF_Olyy English Arrogance

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    At what level though?
    They wouldn't be able to just drop straight into the Premiership or Championship - there's no way the clubs would sign off on that (and you need all clubs to be in agreement to pass something like that).
     
  18. bushytop

    bushytop First XV

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    Yeah that is one of the many complications that would have to be ‘ironed’ out... like I said it is probably nothing more than a pipe dream. I do think (if it were somehow possible) that both crowds and commercial revenue would drastically increase though... as well as kids in the Swansea, Bridgend etc area having a whole new motivation to become an Osprey.
     
  19. Every Time Ref

    Every Time Ref First XV

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    Trouble is, what’s in it for the English clubs? We’ve already got yo-yo teams and talk of ringfencing which is controversial because of arguments about which/how many clubs are viable. Adding another club into the mix which the RFU has no responsibility towards, and which is actively benefitting a rival union, is going to be unpopular with absolutely everyone from the RFU to the clubs to the man in the street!
     
  20. bushytop

    bushytop First XV

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    All of a sudden 3 and a 1/2 million welshmen/women would be interested in your league.
     
  21. Every Time Ref

    Every Time Ref First XV

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    It there were that many people who could be monetised, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all...
     
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