State of Welsh rugby survey results: Fans demand more money for regions, call for Anglo-Welsh League and want 60-cap rule scrapped
Welsh rugby finds itself at something of a crossroads.
Questions have been raised about the sustainability of the nature of the game expanding or collapsing here. One weekend the regions come out of the Champions Cup in droves, the next Cardiff beat Leinster.
One weekend, Wales are beaten by Ireland, the next day, they beat Scotland.
But, in truth, one has the feeling that the victories are covering up the cracks.
With that in mind, WalesOnline recently conducted a survey on the state of the game here and thousands of you responded, giving us your thoughts on what needs to happen.
What must change?
One of the key questions in our survey revolved around what needs to change to help regions be more successful.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of survey participants said the amount of Welsh Rugby Union payments to regions needs to increase to help them compete financially with Europe’s top flight. This response received 63% of the votes.
A minority said matches must take place outside of Test windows while others said the league our regions play in must change.
It is very easy to say that the regions should receive more money, but then the question is to know where this money comes from.
Which brings us to our next question, which is “What should the WRU do with the £51million CVC Six Nations money?”
What should WRU do with HVAC investment?
This refers to the investment the WRU received when CVC bought a share in Six Nations. All of this does not come all at once, but rather in stages and will eventually wear out.
The WRU opts to invest in capital projects like a ‘rooftop promenade’ which is talked about at the Principality Stadium.
However, only 2% of people who took part in our survey were satisfied with using money in this way.
There is an argument that the Union is a rugby business and should therefore invest in its core product – professional rugby. And 59% of voters said the money should be distributed to the national and regional sides. 33% felt the money should go to community gaming and 5% said it should be invested in gaming facilities.
Scrape the cork
In 2017, the WRU introduced the 60 cap rule which was loosely based on the model used in Australia. Essentially, if you had less than 60 caps for Wales, you had to play your domestic rugby in one of the four regions to be eligible for selection.
If you have more than 60 selections, you can play wherever you want and still be selected.
The only caveat being that if you are an uncapped player outside Wales you can be called up to the squad, but after making your Test debut the next contract you sign must be in Wales. Wales.
It’s controversial. Rhys Webb was ineligible for the 2019 Rugby World Cup because of this and the rule was criticized by Jamie Roberts.
More than half – 54% – of our voters agreed with Roberts and think he should be removed entirely, while 28% said to lower the threshold.
The rule was introduced for the benefit of the regions at first and then, consequently, on the national side. Welsh rugby could not compete financially with English and French clubs, so the rule was introduced as a means of stemming player flight.
It also led to Josh Adams, Ross Moriarty, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Jonah Holmes and Rhys Webb joining – or in some cases joining – the Welsh squads.
But only 17% of our voters wanted him to stay.
Where should our teams play?
On where our professional teams should play, three-quarters of those who voted said they would prefer an Anglo-Welsh league, with just 25 per cent saying they were happy with the United Rugby Championship.
This is a debate apparently as old as time. Some believe the WRU’s biggest mistake is not joining the English when they had the chance many years ago.
Despite how many fans want it now, it seems deeply unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Divide amateur and professional games
Another change that fans who voted in our poll want to see is the separation of amateur and professional game administration.
At present, the more than 300 amateur clubs in Wales have influence over decisions that directly impact the professional game in Wales, much to the frustration of those at the top of the regions.
A total of 69% of voters said the game should be split.
The North Wales Question
Another long-standing debate in Welsh rugby is whether or not there should be a North Wales-based region.
Currently, of course, the four professional sides are located on the M4 corridor. In principle, a region based in North Wales seems like a good idea, but in practice it is not straightforward.
There are legitimate questions about the viability of starting a professional business in the North, both in terms of the cost associated with setting it up and whether it would be successful enough to sustain itself.
In a close vote, 55% said there should be a team based in North Wales.
keep the number
However, voters also chose to keep the number of professional teams at four. A majority of 38% opted for this, meaning that if they want an area in North Wales, one of the existing four should cease to exist.
No less than 28% thought the number of teams should be increased to five. However, from a financial point of view, the four teams we currently have are in constant financial difficulties, so adding another team to the mix is not really viable.
There were 23% who said the number of teams should drop to three and a minority of 11% who said the number should be two.
What do we call them?
Although there was a majority on the number of teams to keep, those who participated were undecided on the name of the entities.
Since 2003 teams have been called regions, but things are starting to change with players like Cardiff returning to their roots as a club.
There is a feeling that it gives them a truer identity and is more marketable. However, they still have obligations to the game outside of Cardiff so must present themselves as a ‘club with regional responsibilities’.
The Ospreys started calling themselves a franchise recently and the Dragons remain a region. The Scarlets would also prefer to be known as a club.
But, in truth, there must be a decision made at all levels. It doesn’t help anyone if we call our organizations by different names and it does nothing to attract new fans.
And our constituents were divided. A tie of 40% for the regions, 40% for the clubs and 20% for the franchises, so we can at least exclude that one.
How to get regular attendance
We asked fans if they regularly attend regional rugby matches in Wales and 65% of our voters said no.
So our next question was ‘What would make you watch more games?’
Responses to this were quite mixed. A majority of 30% said they would go more often if the best players were featured each week.
Unfortunately, Wales’ best players miss URC games due to clashes with international sides and games. The league has attempted to address this issue with its calendar for the 2021/22 season. They didn’t quite get there and things were made worse by the postponements imposed by Covid, which is obviously out of their control.
26% said they would participate regularly if our teams were successful, which, in truth, ties in in many ways to the point above.
Playing a different opposition was the option chosen by 15% and the same number said they were a lost cause and nothing would encourage them to go.
While 14% called for a better match experience.