The man who brought regional rugby to Wales has called for it to be scrapped and replaced by a new four-club elite of Newport, Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli.
David Moffett was the driving force behind the birth of the regions in 2003 during his time as chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union.
But he insists the system he introduced has not worked, with the public failing to buy into it, and that it’s time to stop flogging a dead horse. He says he now understands the parochialism of Welsh rugby better than he did some two decades ago.
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He has also called for Wales’ four professional sides to play in a new Celtic league, without South African or Italian teams on board. The New Zealand-based 74-year-old has taken to social media to air his views, amid the crisis currently facing the Welsh game. You can also read his thoughts on former Wales coach Warren Gatland here.
“I think we can all agree regional rugby, as originally conceived, is no longer fit for purpose, other than to prepare players for the international team. The fans voted with their feet from the very beginning. It’s time to stop flogging a dead horse,” he said.
“The solution is ditch the regional concept and have four teams – Newport, Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli. Offer them club contracts with criteria and KPIs, then WRU gets out of the way and lets them run themselves in a league without South Africa and Italy. Four Welsh, four Irish, two Scottish, home and away.
“I am just being realistic. The regional system has not and will not work in Wales. The Welsh are way too parochial for that. The public will not buy the regional concept. The people who really matter have a say every single day. The fans have spoken and you ignore the fans at your peril. That’s something I understand much better about Welsh rugby than I did.
“It’s been 18 years since I left and my successors have done bugger all to change anything of consequence. Subsequent administrations have failed to understand the need to change that system to one that is workable and sustainable. Prior to the regions, clubs existed in their own right and had fan bases which included fans from smaller clubs, up and down the valleys.
“The clubs concentrated on their own businesses and the WRU looked after what became the community game. They have failed dismally, but so have many other Unions. The idea that the WRU should own any professional teams is a non-starter. They should concentrate on developing the game.
“The real issue is the non-pro clubs want to have too much say in the pro game. Keep pro and community separate and concentrate on the purpose of each. Pro is to win competitions, earn revenue and prepare players for Wales. Community is to develop the game and participation.”
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Moffett’s comments on Twitter provoked a reaction from Dragons chairman David Buttress who said: “Your reflections on what you learnt are great, but please also be aware that many of us have inherited the compromises and fudges you and others have left behind. It’s a bit rich if you catch my drift.”
That interaction ended with the two Davids saying they would be happy to talk more on the subject. Moffett also has a specific plan for what he would like to see in place below the professional tier in Wales.
“In Year 1, the top four Premiership teams play in four nations Third Division. In the second year, the bottom-placed Welsh team is replaced by the top team in the Premiership and so on. Convince England that it is best to have three divisions of a four nations league if they are serious about their own game and that of their neighbours,” he said.
“The second and third divisions would be semi pro and there would be promotion and relegation to and from the third divisions. The bottom placed teams from Wales, Ireland and Scotland would be replaced by the top teams in their Premier league. It’s simple, but complicated by England’s obstinacy.”