In attendance: Gareth Davies (WRU), Mark Davies, Antonia Lamont (both PRW), Barrie Jones, Dorian Davies, Neil Bathgate, Nigel Jones, Nigel Maggs, Sarah Hopkins, Cath Smart, Chris Stork and Kevin Jarvis (all JSG).
Gareth Davies welcomed all to the meeting and expressed his thanks to all for attending advising that the WRU is in a very different place now compared with when the JSG last met with them in December 2013 and was looking forward to the WRU, PRW and JSG working together not in adversity.
The meeting was intended to set the scene for future meetings and dialogue and have a general update. The JSG thanked both the WRU and PRW for their proactive approach and the WRU and PRW confirmed they would be more than happy to meet with the JSG on a 6 monthly basis to give updates and listen to any concerns.
Using Judgement Day III as an example of a strong collaborative approach PRW highlighted how the improved relationship between the Regions and the WRU had allowed for the games to be jointly marketed. The Ospreys and Scarlets were effectively marketing an away game which is something that wouldn’t have happened historically and this is something other countries are particularly strong at and something that the Regions and the WRU can learn from sharing experiences and information.
The JSG queried what type of character the WRU were looking for in their search for a new CEO and what their focus would be on. Gareth Davies said that they were looking for a commercially focused CEO and a person who needed empathy for the game but not necessarily a fan of the game.
Gareth went on to advise that there are reviews underway of the structures and governance of the WRU and he would be looking for the board, which will shortly contain 2 newly appointed non-executive directors, to take on a more dynamic approach so the game in Wales can move forward with people having very clear roles and responsibilities. Gareth acknowledged that recent reviews needed to be revisited with a broader scope.
Gareth was keen to highlight the amount of work that currently goes on and wanted these efforts to be put into looking forward rather than dealing with a legacy giving several examples of how other unions have developed and what the WRU and PRW can learn from them.
One of the examples given was the succession planning for players where the Regions and WRU have historically worked separately and this is something that they are looking to change with the Welsh coaches very much on board with this.
The JSG asked for an update in respect of dual contracts and the impact of players leaving Wales as there appeared to be a lot of ambiguity around the selection criteria with phrases like ‘common sense approach’ and ‘best for Wales’ being used without any context. Gareth and Mark Davies advised that there was more detail around the criteria for players outside of Wales but with the dual contracts still being new and evolving there is still a lot of work going into how they will look long term with the WRU and regions working together to shape this.
The JSG queried how PRW and the WRU were looking to address the gap between the Pro12 and other domestic European leagues. Mark Davies confirmed that in European terms the funding gap will reduce over the course of the current agreement with the regions position improving year on year and that the Pro12 was looking to appoint a Managing Director solely for the Pro12 and will be looking to go to the broadcasters as soon as feasibly possibly to negotiate new packages well in advance of the expiring of the existing deals. Mark Davies also commented that there were opportunities to significantly improve revenues from the Pro12’s international market and praised Gerald Davies’ input and leadership in his role as Pro12 Chairman.
Fixtures, both in respect of patterns and the amount of notice given to supporters, were queried and Mark Davies advised that both were ongoing discussions. The derby matches at certain points of the season was something that all the teams in the league were keen to maintain which makes the pattern of matches difficult to change, he also advised that teams sharing stadiums also impacts fixture patterns significantly.
In respect of the amount of notice given for exact fixture dates and times this is something that they are looking to improve and are due to meet the broadcasters in the next few weeks to hopefully move this forward. The league matches during the World Cup will also be arranged sensitively around the international matches and with there being no LV Cup this season fixtures will be able to catch up in this period and during the 6 nations.
The standard of refereeing was raised by the JSG and Mark Davies confirmed that this is something that the league is aware of and was actively looking to improve with Ed Morrision (Independent Referee Commissioner for the Pro12) working closely with the Unions with the clubs being strongly represented by the likes of Steve Tandy and Gregor Townsend amongst others.
The JSG expressed their sincere thanks to the WRU and PRW for their time and commitment to listen to the supporters and to build on the relationship with regular meetings.