MP says Wales club system is in 'crisis'
December 19, 2013
Pontypridd MP and shadow secretary of state for Wales Owen Smith has claimed the club game in the country is in "crisis" and is "failing".
The Pontypridd MP has called for a "root and branch" review of the Welsh game, pleading with the Welsh Rugby Union and bosses at the four regions to put their political posturing aside. Regional Rugby Wales, the body that represents provincial sides Cardiff Blues, Scarlets, Ospreys and the Newport-Gwent Dragons, is preparing to take the WRU to court.
The regions have written to Welsh MPs and the Welsh Assembly to garner support for their potential court battle with the WRU. Smith admits he is an advocate of change, but called on all parties to approach the issues in boardrooms not law courts.
Smith said: "Even though Wales has enjoyed great success at international level in recent years, the club game has been in permanent crisis since the creation of the regional clubs.
"Our game is failing because fans have never truly warmed to the regional concept and want a game based on traditional club identities and the centuries of fraternal rivalry that exists between them.
"In many parts of our rugby heartlands fans, players and the volunteers who are the backbones of our rugby clubs feel totally alienated from the elite, professional game."
Criticising both clubs and union for muscle-flexing in the latest round of talks aimed at amending existing league structures, Smith called for an end to the "phoney confections" of the regions, and the restoration of traditional clubs tied to singular towns and cities.
Smith added: "This latest crisis is nothing more than a power struggle between the clubs and the union for control of the game's principal assets, money and the players that generate it.
"Whoever wins that battle, the wider game will be the loser in the long term.
"What we need is root and branch reform, a return to a structure built on our traditional clubs, whose identities will never be eroded by the phoney confections of the Dragons, Blues and Ospreys, and an end to the closed shop which says only those four clubs can ever aspire to play at the top level of the game."
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