International rugby union referee Nigel Owens and Sir Emyr Jones Parry, chair of the All Wales Convention, have a lot in common.
They are both passionate about sport, rugby and cricket in particular, and they both need to tow a neutral line in their chosen areas of work. Referees need to be impartial to be effective, so too does the man in charge of the public consultation on more law-making powers for the National Assembly for Wales.
Keeping to middle ground is not always easy and was the main topic of conversation when the two men, together with WRU chairman David Pickering, met at Wales Millennium Stadium to launch the Convention's new leaflet. The leaflet is designed to inform members of the public about what the All Wales Convention is all about. It explains the current situation in respect of the Assembly's law-making powers and details the options available for the future governance of Wales. It provides information on what's up for debate and lets people know where and how they can get involved.
Sir Emyr Jones Parry said, "My role is to test the waters of public opinion in Wales about whether they feel the time is right for the National Assembly to be given more law-making powers. I want to encourage everyone to speak up and tell me how they think the Assembly has performed to date and how they would like to see it work in future. I'm here to inform and encourage, not to express or canvass an opinion, either for or against. I'm the sounding board for the debate and I want to make sure that as many people as possible get the chance to voice their opinions."
Nigel Owens added, "As a referee, I have to keep to neutral ground and be utterly impartial. It's a skill that's taken some time to master, but is essential to a good, fair game. And that's what the All Wales Convention wants to achieve too - a good, fair debate. Like a well performing team, it needs everyone to co-operate and play their part to get a result. The challenge is to get people, who are normally comfortable shouting on the sidelines, to join in on the action. Commenting on politics is like taking a step into un-chartered territory for some, but sometimes it's rewarding to break out of those comfort zones."
David Pickering, WRU chairman, said, "Wales is a proud rugby nation and many of us hold strong views and opinions which we would like to be heard and taken into account when discussing the future, be it the future of our national sport or that of our National Assembly.
"I hope this passion can become a passion for making all voices heard as part of the All Wales Convention debate on more law-making powers for the Welsh Assembly. I call on rugby fans and those who care about how Wales is governed to get informed and get engaged in the debate."
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