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Breakaway or die, Welsh regions are warned

David MoffettThe man who created the Welsh regions is urging them to break away and join the English Premiership or face destruction.

David Moffett, still a controversial figure ten years after devising the regional structure as WRU chief executive, said: “I don’t see any option other than to break away and bring this civil war to a head.

“If I were the regions, I would be going to court before the Union. It will end up in court anyway.   They’ve (the regions) got to bring the fight on. It has to be a major fight, one which means that a fresh start can be made in the best interests of Welsh rugby as a whole.   Bring it on.”

Moffett, formerly chief executive of the New Zealand RFU, Australian Rugby League and Sport England as well as the WRU, stepped into the political row at the end of a week when Welsh legend Phil Bennett condemned the saga as “absolutely disgraceful”.

With no sign of any peace initiatives, the former Lions captain summed up the pervasive sense of despair enveloping Welsh rugby.    “If they don’t get their act together…those gentlemen running the game should be ashamed of themselves,” an embarrassed Bennett told BBC Radio Wales.

Moffett described the impasse “an indictment” of the WRU hierarchy.  He was reacting to the regions’ call for an independent inquiry into why they have become the poor relations of European rugby, as revealed in The Rugby Paper last week.

“Why are the WRU asking the regions to exist on half the money for competing in Europe that the Scots are getting from the same competition?” Moffett said from his home in New Zealand.  “You don’t have to be a genius to work out what’s happening here.

“The clear inference is that the Union want the regions to go broke so they can take the players over and put an alternative system in place.

“There is an opportunity for the regions to become part of an Anglo-Welsh League and they should take it with both hands.  So should the WRU because it will bring more money into the Welsh game and consequently reduce the threat of the top players leaving for France.

“It would be good for the English clubs and it’s a win-win for the Welsh clubs. It would be a huge step in the right direction by giving the fans the type of matches they want to see.

“People say: ‘What about Scotland and Ireland?’   England and Wales are a natural fit as they are in the laws of the land.

“There’s the England and Wales Cricket Board. In football, you can get into the English League as a Welsh club.   The English Rugby Premiership is, therefore, a natural home for the Welsh regions.

“The WRU  do not have any control over the regions other than financial so they keep the funding as low as they can.  The WRU have to be extremely careful that they don’t end up like Welsh football, a feeder country for other countries.

“It’s almost like that now.   The players don’t know what’s happening. No wonder they’re saying: ‘If I get an offer, I’m off’.

“The regions have given the Welsh national team extraordinary success since their creation in 2003.  What had Wales won in the 20 years before then? Absolutely nothing.  Zilch.  Make no mistake, that recent success is due to the regions.

“There are now three choices:

1: The regions continue to exist but with the English clubs.

2: The regions go out of business and the Union tries to run alternative teams which would be a disaster.

3: Wales pick their best players from clubs outside Wales and the domestic game goes back to 13 professional clubs.”

While the WRU have said nothing in response to the regions’ grievances issued in a statement last Monday, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, has called for an independent inquiry into “the future of Welsh regional rugby governance and financing”.

Davies, a veterans rugby enthusiast and chairman of the Welsh National Assembley’s rugby club, says the dispute “demonstrates the wider difficulties associated with the way Welsh rugby is run. The need for an independent inquiry is now very clear.”

He has written to the chair of the Communities, Equality and Local Government committee calling for a broad inquiry into the governance and financing of Welsh rugby.

“This committee has the potential to act as an honest broker on what appears to be a deteriorating situation,” he said.

PETER JACKSON

This article was brought to you by The Rugby Paper, the UK's best-selling rugby publication, on-sale every Sunday.
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