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Pooler CEO issues open letter to WRU Board of Directors following decision to not support reforms

Thursday 08th March 2018

To the Board of Directors of Welsh Rugby Union Limited,

I write in response to the correspondence issued by Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) Chairman, Gareth Davies – ‘Continuing Welsh Rugby Union Governance Discussions’ – dated 5th March 2018.

May I first emphasise how encouraged I was by Mr Davies’ declaration that there exists clear support from WRU Member Clubs to change the WRU’s governance structures in line with the Sport Wales Governance and Leadership Framework for Wales.

I was equally enthused by the Board of Directors’ acknowledgement that the WRU should have a smaller Board of Directors, consisting of no more than twelve members.

However, I was deeply concerned to learn that the Board of Directors failed to support the process of transferring the current nine Districts to five ‘Local Boards’, as this was fundamentally the mechanism by which the Board of Directors would be reduced in size to facilitate the successful implementation of the governance framework.

Based upon the Governance Forums feedback data released by the WRU on 24th January 2018, the Board of Directors’ decision to reject such a central element of the reforms effectively goes against the wishes of the 94% of Member Clubs that were ‘in support of the direction of what has been discussed’ - 70% of which agreed that ‘we need to change the way rugby is governed in Wales’.

When the WRU first issued correspondence to Member Clubs in relation to the concept of governance reforms on 27th October 2017, Mr Davies was clear in his assertion there was a ‘strong position that our clubs have an appetite to consider change’.

In that same correspondence, Mr Davies also made it abundantly clear that the information gathered from Member Clubs at the Governance Forums would ‘frame the governance proposals going forward’ and that ‘our clubs hold the key to drive this change’.

Accordingly, there can simply be no misinterpreting the emphasis placed by the WRU on how pivotal the opinions expressed by Member Clubs would be in successfully implementing the governance reform framework presented during the five Governance Forums held throughout November and December 2017.

It is also alarming to me that any significant delay in successfully implementing the governance framework would result in what Mr Davies described in his 24th January 2018 correspondence to Member Clubs as; ‘external pressure brought to bear’ that ‘will force the type of change anyway’.

In this regard, I share the subsequent judgement expressed by Mr Davies within that same correspondence, in that ‘I would rather take this opportunity to change and be the masters of our own destiny, than wait for someone outside the WRU to enforce change’.

I am deeply concerned that the Board of Directors’ actions to date threaten to jeopardise the successful implementation of the governance framework heralded by Sport Wales as having ‘helped sport and recreation bodies not only strengthen their governance structures, but also enabled significant and positive organisational growth’.

In light of the current circumstances, I strongly urge each individual member of the Board of Directors who presently opposes the governance framework to formally write to all Member Clubs prior to the conclusion of March, specifically to address:

·Why one considers that the support declared by 94% of Member Clubs is insufficient to initiate proceedings to call a Special General Meeting to ratify the framework and;

·To outline - in clear terms - what steps are being taken by the Board of Directors to reach a swift and amicable solution.

I fear that the failure to perform this task has the potential to cause Member Clubs to question whether the Board of Directors - in its current form - are the appropriate persons to be entrusted with representing their best interests and in turn, the wider interests of Welsh rugby at all levels.

I wish to conclude by offering my absolute support to the Chairman’s leadership of the WRU and I consider it essential that you take the necessary steps to support Mr Davies in his attempts to bring about much needed reform to Welsh rugby.

Unless we show exceptional courage and determination to drive through reform at such a pivotal moment in our game’s storied history, I genuinely fear for the future viability of the sport we all love so dearly.

Yours Sincerely,

Ben Jeffreys


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