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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 May 2006, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Welsh clubs give backing to Union
Welsh Rugby Union Extraordinary General Meeting
The WRU faced its member clubs in Cardiff on Sunday
The Welsh Rugby Union's 245 member clubs have overwhelmingly rejected a vote of no confidence in the board.

The motion had been brought by 13 'rebel' clubs at an Extraordinary General Meeting in Cardiff City Hall.

WRU President Keith Rowlands said he hoped that wounds had been healed and that Welsh rugby could move on.

WRU management have made a number of moves to assuage unrest, including agreeing to appoint a new group chief executive to replace David Moffett.

The failure to name a replacement after Moffett's surprise departure last December - and the failure to consult the clubs over that decision - was a major bone of contention.

I would like to see the rules changed so that a significantly larger number of clubs are needed to call an EGM than the current 10
WRU chairman David Pickering

The 'rebel' clubs, represented by former board member and Chepstow RFC official Howard Watkins, also alleged that the Union's debts were far heavier than the acknowledged 40m.

"It's a shame that we were called to account over financial matters that we have now fully justified," said WRU chairman David Pickering.

"The board's actions have been totally vindicated, but this sort of action has been expensive and extremely disruptive to business.

"I would like to see the rules changed so that a significantly larger number of clubs are needed to call an EGM than the current 10."

It's not really a defeat, we've made the board aware that they can't drive a bus through the constitution
'Rebel' leader Howard Watkins

Watkins insisted that the actions of the 'rebel' clubs had been justified and productive.

"It's not really a defeat, we've made the board aware that they can't drive a bus through the constitution," he told BBC Sport Wales.

"The Union has changed its attitude in the last six weeks and I'm happy with the outcome.

"The group chief executive issue was one of the main things and we've got our way on that.

"As to the cost, it was the Union's decision to throw money at the EGM - they were determined to win and they have.

Welsh Rugby Union Extraordinary General Meeting
Club and Union delegates debate the issues in a break

"I felt that the no confidence vote was raised irregularly and that the issues of Paul Sergeant, ticketing and the performance of the board were not discussed.

"The Union are aware that another EGM could be called in the future, but it would have to be a big issue and I can assure you that I'm not looking for another one."

Other criticisms voiced before the meeting were:

  • The director's role being performed by Millennium Stadium boss Paul Sergeant since Moffett's exit

  • The handling of former coach Mike Ruddock's departure - notably that the five-man executive board agreed his departure before informing the full board of directors

  • The performance of the 17-man WRU board

  • The WRU's criticism of clubs after international tickets found their way onto the black market and their ticket distribution policy

  • Issues over lower league structures

    But the vote of no confidence was supported by no more than 20 of the 350+ delegates at the meeting.

    Big businesses are investing large sums in Welsh rugby because they like what they see
    WRU chief executive Steve Lewis

    In the build-up to the meeting, Pickering apologised to the clubs over the Union's handling of the ticketing argument.

    The decision to appoint Gareth Jenkins as Ruddock's successor ahead of Phil Davies is also thought to have been influenced by grass-roots pressure.

    But Union officials were bullish over the financial position, last week pledging an extra 1.7m in funding for their four professional regions and 245 member clubs after what they described as a record financial year.

    The regions will receive an additional 300,000 each and an extra 200,000 goes to the semi-professional Premiership teams.

    An additional 300,000 will go to the community game in the Asda leagues.

    "Having got our debt under control we are poised to announce record profits across the group," said Lewis.

    "It is therefore only right that a large proportion of that money should be ploughed back into the game we service.

    "It is no secret that the Celtic League is hoping to announce a major sponsor for next season.

    THE 'REBEL' CLUBS
    Bridgend
    Morriston
    Trinant
    RTB Ebbw Vale
    Blaina
    Newbridge
    Bonymaen
    Pontycwmmer
    Pontardawe
    Resolven
    Cwmgrach
    Usk
    Chepstow

    "By that time we will have agreed a new four-year accord with our Scottish and Irish counterparts that will provide the backbone of the competitive season for our regions.

    "When that is confirmed it will mean that for the first time Welsh rugby will have a sponsor at every level.

    "Big businesses are investing large sums in Welsh rugby because they like what they see.

    "They have watched our game restructure itself from top to bottom and emerge leaner, meaner and more in tune with the requirements of clubs, players and spectators.

    "We have built a solid platform from which we can now move forward to gain greater success."



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