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'We can see the other side' - Phillips

17/06/2020

Welsh Rugby Union CEO Martyn Phillips focusses on solutions and addresses each of the main issues currently affecting Welsh rugby in turn in the lastest WRU Status Update – plus hear from the Return to Rugby Working Group, learn more about the three candidates standing in the National Council Member election and more…

CEO comment:

In directly addressing a variety of topics which have received extensive public focus recently, our financial situation is a good place to start.

The problem has been well documented, so I’d like to focus on where the solution will lie.

Given the financial shock of this pandemic the only solution is to increase our borrowing. We are in discussions with a range of institutions to assess our options. We are working hard to secure a loan and, importantly, on terms that allows for repayment over a number of years. So, whilst the current financial hit is extreme and focused, we will look to smooth and dampen its ongoing impact through a manageable repayment profile and interest rate.

In terms of specifics, funding for our community game is ringfenced which means that we hope all of our clubs will survive this crisis. I would also point out that the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) is, rightly, united in its support of this approach to the community game, to safeguard the long-term future of Welsh rugby. Likewise, I was a participant in a video conference last week with representatives from the Indigo Premiership where we discussed options at length for how the league can restart, at some point, and explored scenarios and contingency plans to navigate our way through what is an evolving situation.

Much of the loan will be onward lent, to Welsh rugby’s four professional regions. Again, this is only right, as the international and professional game is the financial powerhouse of Welsh rugby. Without it we would have little income or funding to re-invest. The professional game will bear the responsibility for servicing the loan, but will also benefit from any bounce back of any financial revenue over performance in future years. Meaning, in that regard, the professional game bears both the risk and the reward. Our goal, like with our semi-professional and community clubs, is to ensure all four regions survive this crisis.

We have also approved plans to grow the women’s game and to strengthen its performance side in particular. Clearly COVID-19 has impacted those plans like all areas in our organisation, but we have taken the conscious decision to continue with planned investments. It’s very possible that continued investment will allow us to more rapidly close the gap with other nations, which has always been at the core of our strategy.

We are at an advanced stage of planning for how we manage our costs over the next two years in particular. I would like to thank the staff within the WRU Group for their understanding, as we have extended salary reductions for a further three months to the end of September, which is when we will review the situation again. We are also exploring synergies with our regions to find cost benefits. In reality, between the WRU and each region, we have five of many things. Sometimes that is wholly appropriate and sometimes it isn’t. There are opportunities to combine our efforts and we need to be thoughtful in how we do this. Some things make sense to do together, whilst other things need to be done independently particularly to preserve identity, culture and competition on the pitch.

There has been a lot of commentary about players wages. Back in April the players agreed to temporary wage cuts to help us through the crisis, again for which we are grateful. We are now in further discussion, the first step of which is a responsibility of the PRB to, as transparently as possible, set out the financial situation and then work together with the players to find options that both safeguard the game and also deliver to the players’ personal situations.

There is a requirement for continued dialogue over the next few weeks to explore options and land on a way forward that works for all parties. I’m sure we can achieve this together. There has also been a lot of discussion about international fixtures and the potential to improve the global season. There is a backlog of professional club and country fixtures to schedule for the remainder of this calendar year. All parties are around the table and working hard to find a compromise that works for all.

In that vein, the global season will also require compromise. I have been involved on the small working group tasked with consulting with players, other unions and tournaments to help find a long-term solution. Nobody will get everything that they want, but the opportunity is there for everyone to have a season structure which is better going forwards.

In my experience, when you consult as widely as we have, the challenge can be that you create a situation where people interpret consultation as an indication that they will get exactly what they want. Clearly, that is rarely the case but I very much hope that, whilst at individual level there will be compromises required, the end result – based on continuing consultation – will be infinitely better for rugby as a sport and in particular for players, supporters and commercial partners.

Finally, I was heartened to find almost 300 individuals, many having recently taken up the role of Club Operations Managers and representing our member clubs, participated in a video conference with our community rugby department on Monday evening. Well done to the team for organising the event and thanks, in particular, to those who participated. As we have said all along we are working hard to communicate as regularly and transparently as possible, in addition to listening hard to understand the day-to-day reality at club level. The optimist in me hopes that we have seen the worst of this crisis and that any future spikes can be dealt with quickly and locally where possible. Whilst we don’t know everything we need to yet, we know a lot more than even a few weeks ago.

We have a plan, we can see the other side and we will calmly go about our business to ensure the game is better coming out of this crisis than it was going in.

Stay safe,

Martyn Phillips WRU CEO

We have a plan, we can see the other side and we will calmly go about our business to ensure the game is better coming out of this crisis than it was going in...
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