(Title Image: Ospreys)
I’ve always believed politics and sport shouldn’t mix, but it was inevitable recent “issues” arising from the proposed reorganisation of regional rugby (“Project Reset”)– particularly a mooted merger between Ospreys and Scarlets (which appears to be off) – would be taken up in the Senedd.
The Welsh Government does have a stake in the issue as they provide some funding to the WRU and sport falls under their remit even though rugby is self-governing.
Deputy Minister for Culture, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd), told AMs he held regular meeting with the WRU and discussed their business model and reorganisation – however, the Welsh Government has no intention of getting directly involved in Project Reset.
Fans left “punch drunk”
“I think many fans are punch-drunk by many of the developments that have happened, and I saw just a couple of minutes ago a news report saying that the merger is off the table. But from the grassroots right up to international level, there is grave concern over the current proposals that have been put forward whether they would be lasting, whether they would be durable….I would have thought the Welsh Government would have a view as to how they would like to see the Welsh game develop given the strength of grass-roots rugby and, obviously, the implications for many of the messages that Welsh Government brings out about sport and inclusivity.”
– Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central)
The Deputy Minister was willing to admit that he likes the idea of a professional team based in north Wales and there may be a call for the Welsh Government to contribute towards infrastructure improvements – as they already have done at Colwyn Bay’s Eirias Park.
“What I would like also to say, of course, is that the seventy-fifth biggest company in the SA (postcode) region is the Ospreys. The eighty-fourth biggest company in the SA region is the Scarlets. We’re talking about major employers. Many of my constituents have been worried since it was talked about that they would not have a job.”
– Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East)
Ospreys have “embraced the regional concept”
David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon) said the Ospreys have embraced the regional concept more fully than any of the other teams. They were heavily involved in local communities and were involved in education and physical activity programmes. He believed the Welsh Government needed to look very carefully about what a merger might mean to local communities.
Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) – an Ospreys season ticket holder – concurred, saying there was a “whole umbrella” of teams from under-8s upwards for both genders. The creation of the Ospreys was a painful process (ask anyone in Bridgend that) and people were “in a state of bewilderment” that this proposal has come forward.
The Deputy Minister appreciated the forceful way members made their point. The government has commitments from the WRU that community programmes which have received some form of public investment would be maintained.
While he acknowledged the wider economic concerns– promising to take the matter up with the WRU at the earliest possibility – he understood the need for reform of the game.
“We need to have a serious look about what structure is required to make rugby in Wales, at whatever level, at the community level, at the youth level, at the women’s level – which I, obviously, strongly encourage – but also at the international level, the Six Nations, which we are now doing really well at that level.”
– Deputy Minister for Culture, Dafydd Elis-Thomas