Exclusive: WRU board tell clubs ‘sponsors pulling out would cost WRU ‘£20m”

The WRU has issued a notice of the board governance reform to be motioned and voted upon at the EGM in Port Talbot on March 26. Amidst the chaos and clashes, it has come to light that principle sponsors have threatened to pull out of their contracts if board reform doesn’t pass. 

Last Word now understands that WRU board member Rhodri Lewis has told a club representative that the move would cost the union £20m, effectively bankrupting the governing body.

WRU board issue warning

Last Word understands that the WRU’s Commercial and Legal Director Rhodri Lewis has told a club representative that should the motion fail to reach the 75% pass rate, it would cost them £20m. The money they can’t afford to lose at this stage of proceedings.

District D Council member Chris Morgan has also told clubs at the District D meeting on February 1 that “principle partners have threatened to pull out of their contracts” should reform not take place. A threat that has gone down with mixed feelings amongst the clubs present.

“It feels like a gun to our heads,” said a club official.

JSG Cymru meeting minutes have also been released this week highlighting that PRB Chair Malcolm Wall said exactly the same to the supporters groups’ in their meeting last month, stating it was Principality who were threatening to pull out.

It’s also understood that the CGB Chair John Manders told a meeting of around 30 North Wales clubs that “if you don’t vote in favour of this proposal, you’ll be putting these lads [referring to hub officers] out of a job.”

What is the motion tabled?

The tabled motion, to be voted upon by the 282 member clubs and which requires 75% in favour to pass, includes the following proposals.

  • Increase the number of independent representatives (INED’s), who are appointed rather than elected, from three to six.
  • A reduction in the number – from eight to four – of elected national or district members from the WRU Council on the board.
  • The full composition of the WRU board would be a CEO, an independent Chair, four independent Non-Executive Directors, a Chair of the PRB and a representative from the women’s game, and four National and District Council members, including the Chair of the CGB.

Further turmoil for the WRU

This is the latest rung on the ladder of mishaps for the Welsh Rugby Union as we see an ongoing dispute over a Professional Rugby Agreement (PRA) which leaves nearly 100 professional players at risk of job loss and their lives turned upside down as some face up to 85% wage cuts.

However, all of the board reform stems from allegations of misogyny, sexism, and bullying following a legal case that ceased in 2022 over the harassment of a former employee, Charlotte Wathan.

With off-field matters in tatters, and results at a domestic and national level struggling as a result, the future of Welsh rugby truly hangs in the balance over the next three weeks.

The Welsh Rugby Union was approached for comments regarding Lewis’ and Morgan’s thoughts, but has yet to respond.


“Main photo credit”

WRU board
The clubs listen in at the WRU AGM as former Chair Rob Butcher speaks. Credit Welsh Rugby Union.