WRU Chief Executive Steve Lewis said, "These figures are unacceptably high. We believe that if indiscipline is allowed to increase in rugby in Wales at all age groups under 19, there is no doubt that it will have a number of serious consequences:
- It will become even more difficult to recruit referees. In recent seasons, much good work has been done by the Union's Referees Department and local Referees Societies to attract people who are prepared to give their time to rugby by refereeing. Without referees, no game can take place. The recruitment work is being seriously undermined by the abuse many referees receive in junior matches.
- The continued recruitment of junior players will be threatened unless rugby can demonstrate that it is a game that is safe for young players to play and one that instils a sense of respect for officials. And that means players, coaches, parents and officials.
- The third perceived consequence of high levels of indiscipline at junior levels is less tangible than the first two issues identified but is, perhaps, the most important of all. As a game, rugby is dependant for its popularity with players and spectators upon levels of controlled physicality, governed by the Laws of the Game and enforced by a referee who has the respect of players from both teams.
This ethos of the Game will not be sustained if young players come into senior rugby thinking that indiscipline and lack of respect for officials is the norm. The delicate balance in the game which makes the physical contest within the Laws attractive to players and spectators and violence which would make rugby unattractive could swing harmfully towards violence and abuse which would make the game impossible to control."
In a very determined attempt to deal with indiscipline in the Welsh game at all junior levels, the Welsh Rugby Union intends to:
- Ensure that the senior WRU or WDRU (Welsh Districts Rugby Union) clubs that run youth and junior teams are fully responsible for their junior teams, coaches and officials. Clubs will be asked to show that junior teams bearing their names are fully integrated parts of their club and that junior and youth sections are represented on the main committees of clubs.
If a junior team is found to have misbehaved, penalties will be imposed upon the senior club.
- Increase the penalties that are imposed upon miscreant clubs and players, through penalties, fines or suspensions.
- Introduce a scheme whereby awards are made to individuals or teams that demonstrate good sportsmanship and apply the principles of fair play.
- Ensure that throughout the coach education programme there is an emphasis placed upon the importance of maintaining good discipline.
- Invite all clubs and Associations of clubs to critically examine disciplinary standards in their own organisations and to debate within club meetings the importance of discipline.
In support of this national debate, the WRU felt the need to launch a campaign, supported by leading players, coaches, referees and officials, to make all elements of the game aware of the vital need to ensure that the game's rosy future is not blighted by poor discipline.
Wales coach Gareth Jenkins said, "It is worrying to learn that coaches are responsible for a large percentage of recent breaches of the Union's code of conduct.
"A coach's role, particularly where young people are concerned is to nurture talent, to bring out the best in all players and to be a role model at all times.
"I know how important it is that Welsh rugby continues to attract new coaches to our game but a respect for the Laws of the Game and for all players, referees and officials is part and parcel of our job."
Wales forward Ian Evans added, "Indiscipline in my game has cost me a chunk of my professional rugby career already. I missed out on a chance of playing in last season's Six Nations because of a suspension and to receive a ban after my international debut in Argentina brought shame on myself, my family and the people who had shown faith in me.
"I know it is a part of my game that I must control if I am to have a successful career in professional rugby and I would urge young players who have similar discipline problems to do the same."
This is the third season that youth rugby in Wales has been directly controlled by the WRU. In that time, there has been a massive increase in the number of teams participating in the WRU National Youth League. More than 200 teams registered to play in the Youth League structure this season compared to 152 teams at the end of last season and 135 teams at the end of the 2004/2005 season.
The first matches of the new season of the Welsh Schools Senior Leagues season have also taken place. In this Welsh Schools Rugby Union organised League there are over 100 teams, 24 Schools playing in a Saturday League and more than 80 Schools playing in midweek Leagues. These figures show a record level of participation in the Schools League.
This significant uplift in teams playing in the Youth and Senior School Leagues, that is the 16-19 age groups, can be attributed largely to the wonderful work which the Welsh clubs and schools are doing, fully supported by the WRU, to encourage youngsters to play the game.
The league structures that are now in place for clubs and schools will ensure that the players introduced to rugby in the younger age groups have an opportunity to hone their talents in a sound competitive environment before going on to boost the playing resources of senior teams of clubs throughout Wales.
This bright picture is, to some extent, darkened and threatened by the continuing problem of poor discipline at Under 19 level and other junior age groups. Indiscipline, on and off the field, is a problem that faces many sports and, indeed, society generally. However, the WRU believes that for Welsh rugby to dismiss the trend of increased indiscipline in the game as merely reflective of a tendency in society generally would be to do rugby in Wales, and the game of rugby a grave disservice.