WRU pledges to ensure rugby talent thrives in Wales
20 October 2013 18:34pm
The WRU AGM was held on Sunday 20th October
The Welsh Rugby Union has pledged to continue to invest in excellence to secure the long term future of the national sport of Wales.
Group Chief Executive, Roger Lewis, says creating the platform for a winning Wales team will remain the focus in order to generate funds which will help nurture and develop the grassroots of the sport.
Speaking after the Annual General Meeting of the WRU he said the strategy of building a strong Welsh team as the "financial engine" for rugby in Wales had paid dividends both on and off the field in recent years.
He pinpointed Grand Slam victories in 2008 and 2012 along with an RBS 6 Nations Championship title in 2013 as evidence of the delivery on the promises of previous years.
Lewis said: "From my first day in this role I explained that a winning Wales team was the financial engine which drives our sport and the evidence of that statement is clear for all to see.
"We have increased our turnover by some 40 per cent since 2006 based on the opportunities created by our playing success to secure strong broadcaster partnerships, commercial and sponsorship deals which give us financial muscle and the support of fans who flock in large numbers to the Millennium Stadium.
"We have put in place one of the world's best coaching and backroom teams under Warren Gatland, developed a meaningful age grade and academy pathway and sharpened our focus on sevens.
"Last June we had more than 100 players wearing international jerseys with various teams including Wales, the Lions, our sevens squad and age grade youngsters.
"To have sixteen players and seven backroom staff on the victorious Lions tour is testimony to the truth of the claim that our systems and structures are working.
"All this has enabled us to grow our financial and corporate strength and that is the key to investing in our future through delivering meaningful help to the grassroots.
"Rugby is the national sport of Wales and a strong foundation at the community level built on generous participation levels is vital for our future.
"I have been able to tell delegates at the AGM of the range of activity we have initiated in order to make sure we are delivering action and not just fine words.
"Investment is at record levels despite a dip in our annual turnover and off the field we have put the grassroots game under the microscope and come up with some exciting plans and projects.
"There are no easy answers to the issues we face but the WRU is in a strong position to tackle the problems and take the opportunities which present themselves."
He pointed out that the WRU had helped member clubs access funding streams which brought them more than £28m since 2008.
A new partnership with NatWest is now delivering advice to clubs on how to improve their businesses, a WRU Club Operations Team is focused on community rugby with more than 50 staff targeting the grassroots and schools while a free legal advice service for clubs is now in place.
Investment in the community game was up from £3.8m in 2012 to £4m for the last financial year to the end of June 2013.
The operational costs of elite rugby were also up for the same period from £4.1m to £4.2m.
The WRU achieved those levels of investment against a predicted dip in turnover from £63.2m to £61m for the period.
Delegates at the Annual General Meeting in Port Talbot were also told that a one-off figure of £1.3m was identified by the WRU for investment in facilities and initiatives within grassroots rugby.
A further £1m was earmarked as one-off payment for the four Regions to help with the retention of elite and international players.
During the past financial year the WRU invested a record £22.1m into Welsh rugby.
The CEO praised the clubs for their efforts and urged them to take all opportunities on offer to help them improve.
The Chairman of the WRU, David Pickering, told delegates that future followers of the game would look back on today as a golden era for the game of rugby in Wales.
He said: "We have enjoyed a decade of success which justifies us in calling this a golden era for Wales.
"The game of rugby is growing globally and here in Wales we are punching above our weight on the field of play and in our profitability.
"We have had games from more Rugby World Cup competitions here than any other nation and that is a true reflection of our status in the game.
"Our national team is at the forefront and apart from their list of Grand Slam and championship victories there is the scale of involvement in the recent British and Irish Lions and the fact that our sevens team have been crowned World Champions in the past decade."
Amongst the rugby highlights for the past year were:
An RBS 6 Nations Championship title
A record Six Nations win against England by 30 points to 3.
16 players and 7 backroom staff selected for the British and Irish Lions with key Welsh involvement in the Lions series victory
A Junior World Championship final place for Wales U20 including a historic U20 win over South Africa
Wales Sevens reaching the final of the Hong Kong leg of the IRB World Series
Wales Sevens reaching the knock out stage of the IRB Sevens Rugby World Cup
A total of 100 Welsh qualified players playing international rugby at some level during the month of June 2013
Against this backdrop of rugby achievements the WRU was also informed that eight Rugby World Cup 2015 international games including two quarter finals will take place at the Millennium Stadium.
During the year the Stadium also hosted 11 international football games during the London Olympics 2012.
A keynote rugby event during the year was Judgement Day when the Stadium played host to matches between all four of the Welsh Regions for the first time at the same venue on the same day.
A National Sevens tournament was launched during the year and behind the scenes the governing body launched a review of its own governance headed by the distinguished High Court judge Sir Robert Owen.
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.