‘Hang your heads in shame!’ — Furious fans slam WRU over proposals to axe region as URC and hotel investment under fire

The bombshell news that the Welsh Rugby Union is proposing to cut the number of regional teams from four to three in Wales has prompted a passionate response from fans.

The proposals will likely see the previously binned plan for a Scarlets-Ospreys merger put forward again as one option, with the scrapping of WRU-owned Dragons or the Ospreys as others. The Union has spent around £25,000 commissioning a report by Oakwell Sports Advisory, known as the Umbers report, with recommendations suggesting losing a team from the start of the 2023-24 season is the way to make professional rugby in Wales financially viable and successful. Read the full story here.

After the late-night revelation, fans have been having their say in droves, offering their suggestions and weighing in on which region, if any, should go, and other big issues at play, like the standard of the United Rugby Championship and the potential impact on Wayne Pivac’s Wales team. More than one also pointed to the fact the WRU had invested in a hotel in Cardiff city centre in recent times.

Read more: What happened with the Scarlets-Ospreys merger last time and why it’s being proposed again

Here is what some of them had to say:

“It’s our national sport and we can’t fund 4 full time professional sides […] what a shambles,” Duncan Davies said, while Philip Harvey observed: “You can restructure and have as many or as few teams as you like, but, if the Disney franchise continue to run it, we still won’t move forward. If you remember going to four regional teams was supposed to deepen the player pools, boost the fan bases and increase finances. With that wise plan, they forgot to include feeder teams and grassroots rugby. This will not fix the issue and the debacle will continue……. On a smaller scale of course.”

Geraint Harris said: “The Welsh regions have been a disaster since day one.”

Sue Coldwell questioned the spending of £27,000 on a report, saying: “Just listen to all us supporters over past few years for free and they’d have got far more sensible answers. The best solution would be for each of those so-called chiefs at WRU, and all their hangers-on, to take salaries like most of us have to live on and donate the rest to grassroots”.

Adam Roberts believes the Dragons should go, saying: “Just axe the Dragons and pump that money into the others. Anything is better than the existing model”, while several voiced their opposition to any proposal of the Ospreys being ditched.

Paul Rogers said he would ditch Welsh rugby altogether if that happened: “The WRU cannot be allowed the cull or merge the most successful and the only one true region in the country. Feathering their own nests quite clearly. If this does transpire then it’s ‘goodnight Welsh rugby’ for a swathe of genuine rugby followers. I for one would never support Welsh rugby again. Hang your head in shame, the lot of you in Westgate Street.”

On the same subject, Alan Smith asked: “How can they axe a region that has turned out so many international players?” Attention was pointed to the Ospreys’ 56-34 win over the Scarlets at the weekend, with Matthew Barnes comparing the team’s fortunes to the Dragons, saying: “The most successful region, who proved this weekend if they were allowed access to their full playing contingent, would arguably be battling up the top, or the region who have won a handful of games in their entire existence……… is there even a choice to be made there!!! Absolute joke!!”

Philip Anthony believes all emotion should be taken out of such decisions. He said: “If we are to cut to three regions, all sentiment needs to be taken out of the decision. We need to ask, what three cities/towns can best maximise potential attendance, sponsorship revenue and best develop talent through a revamped academy system. Arguments that Llanelli should have a team because they beat the All Blacks in 1922 or Newport shouldn’t have one because they’ve been underfunded and not done too well recently should be shot down immediately. Three teams in the most populated towns, Swansea ‘West Wales’, Cardiff ‘Glamorgan’ and Newport ‘Gwent’ is surely the way forward. Meanwhile, one million people and the sponsorship potential of North Wales needs to be harnessed somehow.”

“Regional rugby is a complete waste of time, it doesn’t work like it does in Ireland,” Alex Davies said. “Reducing the amount of teams Would be further embarrassment.”

What do you think Welsh rugby bosses should do next? Join the debate in the comments section here.

The standard of competition the Welsh regions play in has also been cited as a reason why crowds are not flocking to watch them in action and offering much-needed revenue. Paul Hill said playing in a “meaningless league” was the issue, while Rhys Owen said: “It’s poor to watch. Gallagher Prem is miles ahead. (In football terms, English Prem compared to the Scottish Prem). I can’t see it getting any better until they play in that league. Top players, bigger crowds, great rugby (hard to get tickets for matches). Four teams down to three, will it make a difference? If they can’t balance the books then something needs to change.”

John Thomas pointed back to the Celtic Warriors being axed after just a year, saying: “There were five, then there were four and soon there will be three – perfect example of retreat management. At least they will have an empty stadium and a hotel after the last ‘region’ gets closed down.”

But Lyndon Davies admitted change is needed, saying: “Something has to happen and three sides might just do it.” Joe Hawkins suggested funding each team adequately to make them competitive, saying: “Fund four regions properly which brings success and fans which brings money to reinvest. That’s what Ireland did and are most successful clubs bar France who have multimillionaire owners”.

As for players competing for places in Pivac’s Wales squad, Jonny Sutton said: “Cutting the pool of talent even further isn’t going to help the national team in the long run.”

Jamie Furber asked: “Why is a Cardiff and Newport merger never mentioned?” and Jonathan Jones wants a “total restructure from grassroots with a 10-year plan. No more WRU-owned clubs or players. No more 60-cap rule.”

The WRU has told WalesOnline: “Oakwell were commissioned by the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) to produce a report exploring the strategic options available to the professional game in Wales. It contains a number of recommendations which form a part of the current discussions taking place at the PRB. There are other reports informing these discussions and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this juncture.”

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