Moffett calls for Welsh rugby re-vamp
April 21, 2012
David Moffett brought regional rugby to Wales and also previously served as chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union © Getty Images
Former Welsh Rugby Union chief executive David Moffett believes a dramatic shake-up of regional rugby is required to prevent the country's best players heading overseas.
The outspoken Moffett, who helped introduce the current domestic set-up in 2003 during his three-year tenure at the WRU, believes the regions need to be reinvented as provinces to attract a larger supporter base and secure their financial future. He has also called for a strict and controversial national selection policy with Welsh players who opt to move abroad to be barred from playing for Wales.
"Once again Welsh rugby stands at the crossroads and not this time because of abysmal finances and abject performances by the national team, as was the case back in 2002," Moffett told the Western Mail. "By any measure, Wales are these days in the top echelon of the world game. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that Welsh rugby is almost on a par with New Zealand, on and off the field.
"No, the problems are with the regions. Their lack of support and dire financial situation is forcing them to consider the unthinkable. They are considering investing more of their money, time and effort in discovering and nurturing young talent. In other words they will become feeder clubs to the French Top 14 in particular and also the English Premier League."
Moffett, who has also served as chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Union, SANZAR and the National Rugby League in Australia, continued: "Here are three strategies that I think would work to address this threat to Welsh rugby. First, the WRU could create four genuine Welsh rugby provinces and divest some of the centralised functions to them.
"Secondly, the WRU and money-men could jointly own the provincial teams on a 50-50 basis. Thirdly, as the WRU and provincial teams would jointly own the players' contracts, central contracting becomes superfluous. Players who play outside Wales would not be selected for the national side."
He continued: "I admired the attempt by the WRU and Warren Gatland to insist on only picking Welsh domiciled players. The inevitable reality of having to pick talented overseas based Welsh players just makes the situation untenable. I am suggesting that a genuine 50-50 partnership with the WRU is one way forward. In conjunction with a move to a provincial system, this may help address the acute lack of fan support.
"In a situation where the current owners and the WRU enter into joint venture agreements, and as a result have joint ownership of the player contracts, the need for central contracts becomes redundant. Every one of the 150 or so player contracts would be treated in this way, not just the top 25 to 30, as is the case at the moment.
"In reality the WRU has central contracts in everything but name. In a good year, winning the Grand Slam, players can earn up to £250,000 each from their WRU contract. That makes the WRU their biggest contributor. If they then move to France for £500,000 a season, knowing they will still be picked for Wales, there is absolutely no incentive to remain here."
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