Welsh franchise to be culled?
Mon, 24 Dec 2012 09:37
The minimum to me must be three teams
Poor results and financial constraints may force the Welsh Rugby Union to cull another one of their franchises.
Despite the evidence that such actions brought no reward for the Scottish Rugby Union, Wales Rugby Union Chief Executive Roger Lewis is still considering this drastic step.
Lewis, speaking to the Sunday Times, revealed that drastic financial measures are needed to boost game in Wales.
He told the newspaper that one of the four current Welsh regional teams could be downgraded to a "development operation" and that full European funding could be restricted to only two teams a season by a WRU fighting to shore up the professional game.
In other moves mooted by Lewis the operation of the four regional teams - Blues, Ospreys, Dragons and Scarlets - could come increasingly under the control of the union.
He suggested that marketing, coaching development and even coaching appointments and aspects of player recruitment could be taken over entirely or at the very least in significant measure at headquarters.
"We must ensure a far better Welsh performance in the European Cup and one of the things we should be looking at is funding one or two Welsh regions to a greater extent," Lewis told the Sunday Times.
"Instead of an equality of funding, we could move towards a situation where everyone is equal," he added.
The Welsh franchises are struggling to compete financially with some of their European rivals and Lewis has given the game just a year to sort itself out.
While he says he would like to keep four professional sides, finances might dictate otherwise.
"The minimum to me must be three teams," Lewis told the newspaper.
"Two is far too few and four is preferable."
In a landmark move earlier this month a new professional body was created to strengthen and develop professional rugby in Wales and the four Welsh regions.
However, the clear implication of Lewis's comments is that unless there are significant changes one of the regions could find themselves reduced to a development operation in the not-too-distant future.
That would be the most significant change to the professional structure in Wales since the Celtic Warriors were culled in 2004, leaving four regions.
Now doubt there will be a massive outcry if one of the Welsh teams is culled.
Scotland is clear proof that slashing numbers doesn't guarantee a miraculous transformation in fortunes.
One of Lewis' mains goals would be to stop the exodus of Welsh players to the wealthy Top 14 clubs in France.
"The Welsh Rugby Union has to take a far greater responsibility and therefore control over professional rugby within Wales," added Lewis.
"This is no criticism of the regions; this is merely my view. A successful Wales playing at the Millennium Stadium drives rugby."
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