11 June 2020 / Club News

WRU Status Update

Chairman Gareth Davies talks of the recognised need to further educate and proactively act against racism as well as addresssing the overall impact of Coronavirus on the game in Wales, plus much more in the latest Welsh Rugby Union Status Update: 

There is no place for racism of any kind in rugby union. Black lives matter. We are not a political organisation, but we are aware of our role at the very heart of Welsh culture and the responsibility that comes with that position.

There are times when silence can be construed as an endorsement.

Welsh rugby has a long-standing relationship with the ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ campaign and recent proactive moves to work with other partners and modernise our governance structure to improve the diversity of its representation have been well received, but we are not the finished article.

We must represent all of Welsh society, we know we can, and must continue to, do better and we will.
It is all our responsibility to learn and understand the ongoing damage of systemic racism. It is not enough to be non-racist, we must be actively anti-racist in order to create a more equal society.

There is no place for prejudice of any kind in rugby union. It must truly be a sport for all.

Rightly, there is a conversation taking place in wider society about ‘listening’ to the experience of people who have been subject to racism. We need to do that but equally we need to act. We must educate and we must make clear what is unacceptable.

I have been asked this week to assess the impact of Covid 19 on Welsh rugby.

We are still very much in the eye of this storm and it will not be possible to fully answer this question until that storm subsides.

But we do know that we generate much of our income from leisure and entertainment spending, whether that be stadium tours, conferences and events or our core business of Welsh professional rugby. This entire sector has suffered a cessation of business on a par with the worst hit sectors of industry.

Since it opened, Principality Stadium has generated billions of pounds for the hotels, restaurants, bars and leisure industry in Wales as well as generating thousands of jobs – the knock-on effect will be widely felt and our pain will unfortunately be shared.

It is still the case that we do not know when ‘normal’ business will resume. When Welsh rugby stadia will be full again and when new broadcast and sponsor income can be generated.

The major issue we face is if matches resume “behind closed doors”, this will have repercussions as the majority of costs will be brought into play, yet local revenues such as ticket income and associated match day revenues will not.

The WRU does not retain profits but re-distributes all funds back to clubs and the professional game, so all aspects of Welsh rugby have been challenged by the current crisis.

When we do return, we know there will be numerous challenges around the resumption of contact sport and we don’t know what the attitude of our players, coaches, referees and other volunteers in the community game will be.

It is possible that rugby may return sooner than we are able to open our clubs and the ability to align both aspects in the community game will be key.

We are of course hugely optimistic that people value social interaction even more than they may have done before lockdown and return to rugby in their droves when they are able to do so. All we can do in the meantime is plan properly for this eventuality and look forward to it.

The social aspect of rugby is a defining characteristic for our clubs and we are a business built on live experiences, from the community club to a full Principality Stadium.

We will look for support from government for our efforts to safeguard the future of rugby in Wales, be it rugby within schools or harder to reach communities.

We will also need support on event planning and a collective approach to attracting events to Wales – something exemplified by the cross-agency approach to attracting the Nitro World Games – will help us.

The positive role of the club game across communities is an essential part of Welsh rugby and it must not be allowed to wither.

We will continue to need the support of the Government as critical advisers in our plans to return to rugby.

From health and well-being through to social inclusion, the role of our clubs is vital to Welsh society and for these reasons we will continue to work together to make them more sustainable and even more integral to the communities they serve as the current crisis subsides.

Yours in rugby
Gareth Davies

Club Operations Managers
We continue examine the impact of Covid19 on our game and how we may look to return to rugby safely.
Led by Welsh Government guidelines, we are exploring the early stages of planning a potential return to train and ultimately play rugby.
Part of the process is to develop protocols and guidelines aimed at assisting our member clubs to manage through this period, from an operational perspective, and we have approached each of our clubs to nominate a Club Operations Manager to oversee the return to rugby.
This manager’s role is to ensure internal plans are in place within clubs to enable safe return and will perform a similar function to existing Club Integrity Officer (CIO) or Club Safeguarding Officer (CSO) who’s club role revolves around keeping our game safe.
The WRU will establish a network of contacts and a support mechanism around each Club Operations Manager, to ensure the relevant protocols are implemented and there is a
return to rugby in a safe and managed environment.
We anticipate that our return to rugby will be phased and we continue to work with Welsh Government and Public Health Wales as we develop this plan.
The role of the Club Operations Manager is to:-

  • Develop a network of Operational Leads within the club who will manage Community Guidelines and Recommended Operating Procedures for individual squads
  • Disseminate all up to date and relevant information on COVID-19 and return to play to the relevant individuals within the Club
  • Implement the guidance in the return to play protocol – Community Guidelines and Recommended Operating Procedures (and all other relevant guidance, advice and instruction regarding COVID-19) on behalf of the Club.
  • Notify other Clubs and the WRU that he/she is the Club Operations Manager (and the identity of the relevant Operational Leads) for the relevant Club.

We already have 232 Club Operation Managers in place and are planning to hold webinars to provide briefing and support to the people who have volunteered to undertake this important role within our clubs.
Clubs who have not already done so are asked to confirm their nominated Club Operations Manager by email to Jeremy Rogers, WRU Policy and Integrity Manager, at asap.

Important Contacts
To ensure effective communication during this period the WRU Rugby Department would like share three email addresses as a point of contact for Participation, Female Rugby and Club Development.
Using these email addresses will enable the WRU Rugby Department team to manage all communications efficiently, allowing for quick responses and enabling us to connect any query to the respective department or team member.
Please continue to share your news, information and queries with us:
Female Rugby:
The Club Development Team will continue to provide weekly updates to club secretaries on a Friday and any queries regarding the information provided should be directed to the WRU Helpdesk

Dragon’s Heart hospital at Principality Stadium
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board chief executive Len Richards has announced that the 1,500-bed capacity Dragon’s Heart Hospital, on site at Principality Stadium, is no longer currently receiving patients but will remain on standby.
“As of the 8 June Cardiff and Vale UHB will be utilising the capacity at its main hospital sites for Covid 19 patients,” said Richards.
“The Dragon’s Heart Hospital sites will still be retained and will be available to admit patients should a surge in capacity be required. This is in line with normal NHS operational bed occupancy plans, to ensure efficiency of services and workforce, particularly with the onset of Winter planning already initiated.
“We are following the modelling and trajectory of the virus to ensure that should we see a further spike, we will be able to respond quickly and seamlessly to support patients and their families, providing them with the care and treatment required in tackling but also recovering from the virus.
“The success story of the Dragon’s Heart Hospital is that it hasn’t been utilised to its full capacity but is there fully functional if we need to.
“This is thanks to the communities of South Wales who have all played their part in mitigating the spread of the virus.
“It hasn’t gone away but we are learning to manage it with a range of measure, led by the science and what the modelling as a result of the science is telling us. The bottom line is that we were and are prepared and that should provide reassurance to our communities”
Hear more from the Cardiff and Vale UHB CEO 

Club fundraising initiatives continue…
At the beginning of May 2020 Caldicot rugby club were due to take to the skies and spend a few weeks touring Canada playing rugby and taking in the local scenery.
Due to Covid-19 this trip was cancelled which caused a huge amount of disappointment but obviously travel was not an option at this uncertain time.
After the initial disappointment passed the club started to look collectively at turning the negative situation into a positive and potentially help others on our way.
A tough fundraising challenge was accepted, to travel as a club the distance from Caldicot (South Wales, UK) to Edmonton (Canada) and back!
The distance is just under 8,300 miles (13,342 km) Caldicot players, staff and family will attempt to travel the distance in the month of June.
All activities will be recorded on Strava so there will be a full record of all miles/km travelled by walking, running, riding and swimming in the 30 day period.
As a family friendly community club Caldicot wanted to give something back to the local community by raising money for a very important cause.
Caldicot Community working together is a local group which has been set up to support local people at this tough time during Covid-19.
The group of volunteers works with small local businesses to provide essentials such as meals for anyone in need such as the elderly and vulnerable.
Money raised will be split 50/50 between the Caldicot Community working together group and Caldicot rugby club, who will use the money to ensure the club remains sustainable during this tough time with Covid-19 having a huge negative impact financially.
“We are keen to ensure that Caldicot’s future generations have a local rugby club they can enjoy which encourages social well-being, good health, fitness and a sense of togetherness,” said club secretary Keith Mellens.
“We are hoping to raise 50p per mile travelled meaning a total of £4,150.00.”
At the end of the first week of the challenge the club had already achieved 51% of its target with over eighty active participants. New challenges are under consideration.

Former decorated Wales international and Scarlets full-back Morgan Stoddart was the lead rider in a 1,000 miles in May cycling challenge last month.
Stoddart was joined by a host of community rugby players and the group have raised a huge amount of money for Velindre Cancer Centre, with more to come on this story next week and donations still open 

Rugby news

We caught up with some of the clubs worst hit by Storm Dennis
Risca and Newport High School Old Boys are very grateful for the support of their communities for the help provided since the storms hit.
Risca chairman and WRU Community Board member Colin Wilks said “The club basically ground to a halt in a matter of hours. If it wasn’t for the local community helping us out on that Sunday and in the days after that, we would have been in a right pickle. It was quite emotional really. You have your regular volunteers and they all came to help but many others that we didn’t even know turned up to lend a hand too which was quite touching. We had such a brilliant response from the public that we were able to share out the workload between us.
“We did enough initial remedial work that we were able to open one bar by the Monday night for a local (dance) group and function as much as possible to keep some income coming in but then we closed everything back down to replace carpets, furniture etc and then Covid happened.
“We’re thankful to the WRU financial support, with each club receiving £1k and benefitted from the rateable relief . I know some clubs have been able to pull funds in from other streams too.
“We’re almost back to 100% now, thanks to the help and support from the community who have helped us practically too, we’re almost ready to open depending on government and WRU advice.
“Good financial management has helped us and although we’re all desperate to see rugby ball being passed around, we’re thankful that we should be able to survive through this period.”
Hear from NHSOB club representative about their Storm Dennis experience on the Club Development page of the WRU Game Locker – 

The Covid pandemic and lockdown has affected thousands of individuals and families across the country in many different ways, but it has also brought clubs and communities together.
None more so than in Ystradgynlais in the Swansea Valley.
From quizzes, musical entertainment and Saturday evenings with some of the biggest names in the game, the Division Two West Central club has worked hard, not only to keep its own players, coaches, members and supporters engaged but its blue-sky thinking has reached rugby-loving fans all over the world.
Gareth Thomas, a former club prop and current under 10s coach, has picked up the reins as unofficial entertainments manager during lockdown.
He said, “We all just wanted to support the club at this time and it’s amazing how the community has come together. We started off by organising fundraisers for the local hospital and community through NHS T-Shirts and Easter egg donations. We also started weekly quiz nights supported by local businesses. That moved on to online live music evenings and then we thought about interviewing some stars of the game – our version of An Evening With.
“We’ve had Shane Williams, Adam Jones, Sean Holley and Tom Shanklin so far. It’s become a real highlight of the week for many – we’ve had more than 100 000 people engaging with us during our Saturday evening slot on our Facebook page, which for a small club is quite astounding. People can submit questions to us beforehand or during the live interviews and we’ve had people tuning in from all around the world. We’ve got Lee Byrne and Ben Evans booked for this Saturday and already had a question submitted from Australia! Nigel Owens is next on the list.
“It’s brilliant how these internationals and big names are giving their time freely to keep the rugby community engaged and we’ve had some brilliant feedback. It’s not about raising money, just about having some fun and keeping everyone together.”
Gareth believes a new generation of volunteers has come to the fore during this time.
“We’ve got some brilliant volunteers at the club who have dedicated their lives to Welsh rugby. However, during this time, others involved in the club have also wanted to help in whatever way they can. Social media is obviously key during lockdown so we’ve tried to maximise on that and we have some more ideas to help the club over the next few months and even once rugby is back up and running.
“We usually hold a Family Day and fundraising duck race for our mini and junior section during the summer. That can’t happen this year so at the end of July we’re going to hold what we believe is the first computer generated duck race! We will film the river and people can still buy their ducks which will be super-imposed in the same way as computer generated horse races. Watch this space!”

Tune in to the latest WRU audio podcast as we take a look at health and mental health through the coronavirus crisis – and the role rugby is still playing in helping.
Dragons Gateway Community Coach Gareth Sullivan explains his role and we also hear from Wales international back Jonah Holmes on why he decided to move to the Dragons.
Listen here:

What do you get when you assemble a side that contains five British & Irish Lions, five Grand Slammers and 12 international players? A Sardis Rd ‘Dream Team’, that’s what!
Along similar lines to so many clubs during lockdown, Pontypridd rugby club asked their fans to vote for their greatest Past & Present XV.
Parker was paired up with Dafydd Lockyer in the midfield and found former team mates Kevin Morgan, Gareth Wyatt, Dafydd James, Neil Jenkins and Paul John joining him in a very powerful back division.
There were so many great names to conjure with that many stars didn’t make the cut.
The 1955 Lion Russell Robbins was one notable omission, as was another Lion and former Wales captain Michael Owen.
Welsh outside half Ceri Sweeney also missed out, as did 1988 Triple Crown flanker Richie Collins.
So who else made it, find out 

The cricket season would normally have been in full flow by now and so we thought we’d look back on those Welsh internationals who starred with bat and ball during their summer months.
Opening the attack are two current Welsh internationals, Jake Ball and Aaron Shingler.
Jake Ball was a cricketer before he was a rugby player and used to terrorise batsmen in Perth bowling at 82 mph. He was in the Western Australia cricket academy and played alongside future Aussie test all-rounder Mitch Marsh in the national U19 competition.
He was coached by Geoff Marsh, the former Test player and father to Mitch, presented with his U19 cap by Dennis Lillee and looked set to go a long way in the game had he not switched to rugby. He picked up 10 wickets at an average of 20.3 across seven matches in the National Under 19 competition.
His Scarlets teammate Aaron Shingler was also a hugely promising cricketer before he opted for rugby. He spent two years on the Glamorgan staff after coming through their academy and playing for the Cardiff University High Performance team.
He played with Mooen Ali for England U19 against Bangladesh and, as a fast opening bowler, also played for the Wales Minor Counties team.

Click here to find-out who makes of the rest of Welsh rugby’s fantasy cricket XI

And finally… Bennett wins!
He’s only gone and done it again! Back in 2007, Phil Bennett’s marvellous try against Scotland at Murrayfield won the BBC Wales vote for the best Welsh try in the Five or Six Nations and now it has come out on top once more in the Welsh Rugby Union’s ‘Greatest Ever Welsh Try’ competition.
The Llanelli outside half featured twice in a try that began at a breakdown in the Welsh 22 and ended up with what Bill McLaren described in commentary as “the try of the Championship”. More than that, it clinched another Triple Crown.
In all four rounds of our competition to find the best of 16 great Welsh tries, Benny’s side-stepping delight came out on top in every contest. In the final, Scott Gibbs’ iconic score at Wembley against England in 1999 had to settle for second best.

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