Fresh Indigo Premiership season ahead
Looking forward to the Indigo Group Welsh Premiership season WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) head of participation Geraint John said, “It’s a new season, there are only 12 teams – some people say it’s another change but we think it’s a positive one.
“The competition will be tough – It’s always tough but just 12 teams will make it competitive. You look at the fixture list and talking to players, coaches and supporters it’s very difficult to decide on who’s going to win those games.”
Discussing the arrival of new sponsors, the Indigo Group he added, “We’ve got a new sponsor which is extremely pleasing for us as a governing body.
“It shows what people think of the league and the competition, that we can gain a company like Indigo to come in and support us. The same with BBC and S4C, to provide live games and highlights.
“Some will be on Friday and others may be on a Saturday but, it shows what they think of the product.
“And from the player’s perspective, it’s another chance to for them to express themselves and their teams to show off their quality.”
Despite the changes in recent years that have baffled supporters John explains just how easy this year will be to follow, “it’s easy to understand
Home and away fixtures
The top placed team wins
The 12th placed side gets relegated.
“So, there’s a lot to play for and hopefully supporters will get behind it and support their clubs and communities.”
New Commercial Manager assignment imminent
The Welsh Premiership will be assigning a new Commercial Manager to help clubs remain financially stable and to help plug the £20,000 budget cuts they’ve undergone.
Discussing the appointment to be John said, “Hopefully we’ll be able to announce that in the next couple of weeks. We’re in the position of making the appointment – We’re in the process of interviewing this week and then we’ll introduce that individual to the clubs to start working immediately.
“That’s something we discussed with the clubs in our review process and we’ll get that started ASAP.”
2020 Super Six fixtures
With the top six from last season’s Welsh Premiership facing off against the Scottish Super Six at the end of the season, Geraint John explained the key details. “We’re working with the Scottish Rugby Union on that. Whatever we decide will be the same for Scotland as well.
“There’ll be a certain amount of players and management that we’ll fund travel for an overnight stay, just like Scotland are doing.”
Last Word on Rugby understands that at current discussions this is for 33 players. John added, “The key thing was that we were funding for a similar or to the same number of players and management.”
Attraction of a Super Six competition
Discussing why the WRU and clubs went for a cross-border competition with the Scottish Super Six, John explained, “One of the things was when we did the review over 18 months ago was talking to a lot of people, and they felt that when the British and Irish Cup was taken away from the clubs there was a gap.
“They all felt they needed to show their skills to teams and clubs from outside of Wales and experience life away from Wales in terms of how other sides play. We thought about how to rectify that and it was very difficult. At the time we spoke with Scotland who had this opportunity with the Super Six.
“A lot of supporters we spoke to said this was something they were desperate to have and I think as a group of players and coaches they wanted to play against a team who they don’t recognize the tactics of or what kind of system they’d bring on to the field.”
He added, “It’s about engaging and learning with different cultures to make our product better.”
Improved WRU-Club relationship
Looking back at the review process and the discussions that took place with the clubs, John explained how the relationship between the Union and clubs has grown. He said, “I think it’s vital. The last thing we want is to be looked at as people who sit in offices dictating.
“That’s not what we’re about, it’s key for us to have a relationship with everybody and support them”.
“We just want to work collectively. It’s important that we can give clubs our views and where we’re looking to go, it’s important for us to sit down and listen, which we do regularly. Jonathan Jones (Ebbw Vale and Premiership Clubs’ Chairman) heads that group – we’ve got a meeting next Tuesday.
“It’s about progressing things and moving forward to make the product better and the WRU and club relationship has developed tremendously over the past 18 months.”
Indigo Group joining the league
Discussing the league’s new sponsors, John said, “It was always a worry when Principality left; as everyone talked about it as the Principality Premiership. Indigo came in, the first thing we did was have a launch in the [Principality] Stadium, they went and met the Welsh Premiership clubs to see how they could help and support.
“Having that engagement and working togetherness is a plus and hopefully throughout the year they’ll continue to help and support the clubs.”
Incoming WRU salary cap
The WRU approached clubs at the start of the season to discuss the idea of introducing a salary cap. Explaining the process the WRU Head of Participation said, “It’s something we instigated and talked to them [clubs] about. It’s something we’ll have to discuss as we want all clubs to be financially stable.
“We want the stability out there and we’ve got to work together on that. We’ve done it at the top level so why shouldn’t we do it at the Premiership level.
Those discussion are ones we’ll have, we haven’t fully started getting into the process of that. They’ll be looking at how we go about doing this and dealing with the next six to eight months.”
TV deal money goes to clubs via grant
The new BBC TV deal began this summer after a successful initial stint. The monies claimed from the TV deal go to the WRU who then dish it out via the clubs’ core grants.
Explaining the motion John added, “When you look at it the clubs get more than just the core grant and TV money. “The money that’s generated from the TV deal is just a small proportion of finance that the clubs get.”
Clubs benefit by having their product aired to a wider audience, thus allowing for more sponsorships at the ground, but they do suffer on gate receipts.
Celtic Cup is bridging the gap
The A-Team structure put in place ahead of last year, where the Regional A sides take part in the Celtic Cup against their Irish counterparts, was put in place to bridge the gap between the pro and semi-pro levels.
Looking at whether this has worked or not John said, “I haven’t been around the Celtic Cup this year as my role has changed but when you talk to the regions they feel it’s a product they want to keep on supporting.
“They find it very beneficial to their program and pathway and bringing through their players. So, you have to listen to what they’re saying and they feel it’s a very viable product.”
Last Word on Rugby and Robert Rees would like to thanks WRU head of participation Geraint John for his time and clarity on the topics discussed.
“Main photo credit – Mike Jones/Replay Images)