Congratulations to the Noisy Neighbours

In many ways, this season’s success for Pontypridd RFC is the blueprint for all non-professional clubs in Wales to follow. The positives that come from a well-deserved double this season are numerous and should be the aim for all Welsh Premiership (bar those who own professional teams) and lower league clubs, but so should be how PRFC are looking to build on that success.

For me, the key to the success of PRFC this season is stability based on the coaching setup and the “in house” method of those who understand the club being in the key positions which control both the on and off field matters. By that, I mean that they have proper club men in charge of all aspects of the club, men who love the club and see the club as “theirs”. This is vital at this level of rugby.

The two leading lights in this regard are obviously the Coaches – MacIntosh and John (plus Gareth Wyatt). Both have worn the PRFC shirt, both are ingrained in the Club and the Club’s history, both understand what PRFC is, what it represents and how its players should view playing for the club. From this strong base they can recruit players who fit the mould, who will contribute to the team ethic and who will play for the club. It is a club which tried mercenaries in the past and failed with them, for good reason. To play for PRFC, you have to understand PRFC.

It goes beyond the coaches and the players, however. The Team Manager (Richard Langmead) played for the club, the club’s Conditioning Coach (Darren Bool) played for the club in his youth days. The club runs a junior section from u7s to u16s and then into a Youth team. The Board of Directors are led by those who have been part of the club for decades and they have seen the sense to further expand the business which runs the club by encouraging supporters to buy further shares in the business. This will allow them to become more involved with their club, to “belong” even more.

Local sponsors have been found to help support the club as they are happy to be aligned with what PRFC stands for. They want their companies associated with those values and they pay accordingly. It is a community spirit.

PRFC is a family and families stick together at all times.

This togetherness is the model for community clubs. PRFC aims to be at the centre of the community, the focal point for the town and something for the town to be proud of. This model (although I would prefer an I&PS than a Limited Company as the ownership model, but that is a minor complaint) is something that all Town and Village Clubs throughout Wales should follow. There is a continuity, an identity, a value and a spirit than passes down generations and ensures longevity.

Now, however, comes the negative. The strength of PRFC and its ability to flourish as a semi professional club is not translatable to a higher level of rugby. It is the perfect set up for club rugby in Wales but that is its plateau and it should not try to push beyond that.

To compete as a professional club requires access to millions of pounds worth of funds, huge sponsorship deals and a love of money. Money is key at the professional level. Without money a team will simply not survive, let alone be in a position to compete in cross border competition. The present four Welsh professional teams are struggling on this stage with wage bills of £3.5m (let’s remind ourselves that both HEC Cup Finalists had salary caps of €8.7m as a comparison) and there is no way that a professional PRFC would generate enough income to have a cap anywhere near even £3.5m. The infrastructure in its community simply isn’t there.

It is a shame that PRFC voiced its public support for Valleys Rugby as I believe that VR could easily kill off PRFC as we know it. The time and finances simply are not there in this community to support both teams, plus the business plan of Valleys Rugby tried to kid its supporters that it could compete at cross border level with a salary bill of just £1.7m. That means that they would be twice as bad as the four Welsh teams currently are.

I’d urge PRFC and its supporters to ditch Valleys Rugby and to concentrate on themselves. I applaud their performances this year, I urge them to concentrate further on strengthening that family of players to be able to compete in their own HEC – the British & Irish Cup. They have the potential to position themselves as the Premier “Club” in Wales and beyond.

It is a family that doesn’t need professional rugby in order to survive and grow. In fact, I’d argue that history tells us that professional rugby is bad for this Club so it should concentrate on what it does best and continuing to do that as it bloody well can.

21 thoughts on “Congratulations to the Noisy Neighbours

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  1. Surely for all that ditto Ebbw Vale RFC – who it must be remembered, and agreed by all who were there, should have beaten Ponty in the QF but lost by 1 point. They certainly would have hammered Llanelli last Saturday (just have they have done to Cardiff, Swansea, Bedwas etc. etc. ………ad nauseum). They have won their league three years in a row and yet are still confined to the so-called Championship!
    If RGC1404 had been promoted last year and topped the league would they now be in the Premiership? I tend to the view that the rules would have been changed to allow it, in order to get a Premier side in north Wales – but that’s just me.

    1. Yep. Two good, honest clubs with their roots embedded in the working class communities they represent. Both perfect for semi professional Welsh rugby where the best “local amateurs” represent their towns. Neither, of course, are suited for professional rugby.

      1. Agree with the article Phil and think that is the way forward for Welsh rugby under the professional level. Remove Cardiff, Newport, Llanelli and Swansea from the Welsh Premiership and keep it as a league for the ” honest clubs with their roots embedded in the working class communities they represent”.

    2. Joe, firstly congratulations on an excellent season this year and yes I believe you should be in the Premiership. Re your comments about RGC 1404,,do the WRU have a different agenda between RGC 1404 and Ebbw Vale? Obviously the answer is yes, if RGC 1404 win the Championship next year will they go up? Yes, if you win it will you go up? I doubt it. I am a North Walian (but a proud Ponty fan) and I support the idea of advancing a North Wales region but this should not be at the expense of teams who have attained success like Ebbw Vale have.

      1. As far as I am aware, the block on promotion ends for all teams next season so I’m not sure that your sentiments are accurate, Andrew.

  2. Nice job Phill. Well written article. You always put things in an interesting perspective, without a bashing. Ponty and Ebbw are excellent examples of good road maps to success. Ebbw should be brought back to the WP, without a doubt. But, I disagree with Joe a bit, as the Ponty squad they played was much different than the final squad, and it was a one off. Chief has mixed it up a lot, all year, and has done an incredible job of picking the right team, for the right game. I have a lot of respect for Ebbw, but if you played Ponty 10x, one win would be about right.
    Hope they get back up soon, though.
    And thanks for the kind words about the Pont, my friend. Much appreciated.

  3. I read your blog on TT where it has now been posted and would not disagree with much you have written regarding club and semi-professional rugby and also your opinion regarding VR and Ponty appears to me to be spot on .

    The problems of declining participation and standards in welsh rugby is almost entirely caused by the monetary and resource focus by the WRU on the ” big four ” which starves local clubs of access to coaching and facilities and is a major factor in the decline of schools rugby as the big four insist on control of all funding for and access to junior players .

    The £ 3.5 millions mentioned in your blog as a self imposed salary cap is in fact less than these four clubs receive from the WRU . They are therefore contributing nothing financially to justify such exclusive funding deals .

    Over the decade since they were established professional regions have received well over £ 100 millions of WRU funding yet have failed to develop as businesses to the point where they would either be self sufficient or show signs of growth towards competitiveness with French and English club sides . The business cases they gave for exclusivity when they were established have been exposed as misguided at best and pure fantasy in some cases .

    A key element of this is the alienation of club rugby supporters at individual and business sponsor level . The gulf you describe between club and professional rugby has to be bridged in some way for the game to develop.

    1. Good to hear from you, Rhyd. I’ve read a lot of stuff from you in recent years and disagreed with much of it. An example of which being your claim of the salary cap being less than the four receive from the Union. It is not. The WRU provide only £6m between the four as the rest of the £15m is made up of broadcast and competition money that is owed directly to the participants of those tournaments.

      I’d also disagree that the four should have been able to generate more of their own income. I give you the examples of their TV contract, their league, their fixture list and the availability of their better players as all key business (and therefore income) drivers which are out of their control.

      If you want businesses to be self sufficient then the market conditions must be there in order for them to go it alone. The WRU have deliberately skewed the market to prevent the four from being self sufficient, so yours is an unfair criticism of them.

      1. Per the 2012 annual accounts of the WRU ” the four regions shared £ 15.1 millions up £ 100 000 on the previous year ”

        . I cannot copy and paste the link , for copyright reasons , but here is a link to the report on the accounts ;

        http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/wru-reports-boost-financial-fortunes-2019420

        It is also illogical to suggest that the TV contract , participation monies etc ” belong ” to the regions but at the same time argue that they have no control over them . it is either one or the other .

        Incidentally the salary cap in the English premiership was £ 4.1 million in the corresponding season

        The regions do not have either the fan or customer base to generate the kind of income enjoyed by English and French club sides and until they do they will be unable to stop players moving to other clubs . the far better supported and administered Irish regions seem to have little difficulty operating the same competitions .

      2. The £15m is made up of £6m from the WRU and £9m due to participation in the competitions. The money is owed to those participants for without them there would be no competition and because the participants own their own IP rights. Lewis himself admitted this in the Week In, Week Out show on the BBC. The WRU also admit in their press releases regarding the Participation Agreement.

        It is far from illogical to note that the money belongs to the participants even though they do not control the competitions. This is exactly what the French and English clubs are presently fighting for with their notice given on the present HEC. A further analogy would be a salary owed to a working man even though he has no control over the greater product or it’s sales value.

        You are also entirely wrong with regards to income generation as a quick look at the turnover figures of the companies involved will show you.

        The Irish provinces also get significantly more from their respective Union and operate within a different tax system which benefits them, notably the lack of VAT on tickets and the tax break upon retirement for players.

        You will also note that Ulster is pretty much Northern Ireland, Leinster has a population of over 2 million and Munster is bigger than Wales. So unless you are arguing for just one professional team, I fail to see the point you are raising.

  4. In the main a very good article, however this comment does leave me wondering about your research ‘the business plan of Valleys Rugby tried to kid its supporters that it could compete at cross border level with a salary bill of just £1.7m’. I would simply use the example of Exeter who operate on a similiar budget and since when has money been the only guarantee of success? The history of Pontypridd RFC in Europe suggests that money isn’t as important as pride and passion. It’s notable while dismissing VR you never question how the current superclubs viability. While I’ll concede that there is more money in the cities of Cardiff, Newport and Swansea, maybe you should ask how Llanelli can sustain a region, it is after a small town? As I said in the main this a very good article, but while VR would hurt the depth of Pontypridd RFC’s squad,and quite possibly our support, certainly in the short run, why is the campaign for a professional team in an area that produces more than it’s fair share of Welsh internationals be ignored by professional rugby?

    1. Do you have any evidence that Exeter have a wage bill of just £1.7m? I would be interested in seeing that. I could also point you to Ponty’s history of failing to qualify for the HEC in the seasons running up to 2003 and their failures in the preceding seasons. They were simply not competitive. Llanelli can sustain professional rugby because they have multiple millionaires on the board. It is that simple. Money comes first. The production of players through junior clubs s meaningless without an effective Academy system and we have that in place. Just because an area helps to produce a junior player does not mean it can also meet his wage demands as a professional. It is no different from any other economic sector, hence my point about PRFC being a working class club which should be unspoilt by money.

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/article-1303898/Exeter-Chiefs-Tony-Rowe-hits-Guinness-Premiership-new-rules.html

      Exeter claim they can pay up to the salary cap.

      They also paid £5m for a shareholding in PRL

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/rugby-union/19785431

      The evidence seems to disprove your claim of Exeter

      1. A lot of points Phill so let me answer them Firstly I only repeated the Exeter claim as it was something I recall Owen Smith claiming on the BBC’s Sport Wales show on Friday 13th April 2012. I’ve searched for the show but only found the promo which doesn’t feature Mr Smith (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/wales/17539936).

        Secondly since when has European rugby been confined to just the HEC? Yes Ponty failed to make the HEC in the 2001/02 and 2002/03 seasons but before that they always qualified for the HEC beating Bath, Munster and Leicester. However in 01/02 and 02/03 we made a final and a semi final. I will point out that Ponty were the only Welsh club to make a final in Europe when all leading nations were involved. In February 2003 Eurorugby published its rankings of Europe’s top rugby clubs. Pontypridd were placed 11th in the table, the highest of any Welsh club. So hardly a failure given the scant playing talent in Welsh rugby back then.
        http://www.ponty.net/a-brief-history

        Thirdly, Llanelli have millionaires on board? Maybe that’s why serious questions are being asked about local government aid to the Scarlets http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/llanelli-scarlets-questions-raised-over-2496626
        And how can you say that Valleys Rugby would not be able to attract a millionaire backer? The original idea of a fan owned region while laudable was extremely ambitious but I cannot see why a major backer cannot be found.

        Finally as regards to the effective academy systems. I’ll point out a problem for Cardiff Blues, Cardiff City FC. If we accept the obvious that many in the valleys have little time for Cardiff RFC, which is essentially what the Blues are, Cardiff City’s raise is a huge worry. . It’s hard enough to get kids to choose rugby over football even if they’re joining a (rugby) team that they love, but give a kid a choice between a premiership soccer team and a region they have little affinity for and I know where he’ll go.

      2. So we can agree that the Exeter point is false? I think that the evidence I provided does just that.

        On the history of Ponty in Europe, I am sure that you will agree that there were no top level achievements during that time. At the HEC, when they were good enough to qualify, they did not achieve.

        Llanelli’s existence is because of their backers and now, with PyS, their infrastructure. They have a council loan to repay, yes, but there should be no issue with that. It was part of the financing of the stadium just as, for example, the RCT council aide PRFC by collecting only a peppercorn rent on Sardis Rd.

        I can say that VR would attract no backer as it clearly hasn’t yet and, during its time as a pro club, neither did PRFC. A major backer would want control over his investment but the VR business model excludes that. There is no corporate market in the area VR claims to represent. There is just no money there at all and the pro game needs money. That is before the obvious point that Sardis Road cannot generate the required funds.

        You’re right to point out that the very small number of kids lucky enough to be able to choose between a career in soccer and a career in rugby will choose the former. I’d suggest that the wages on offer would have as much to do with that as some claimed prejudice against Cardiff RFC. However, this supposed lack of affinity doesn’t seem to have affected the large number of players presently travelling through the Academy, many of whom being loaned to PRFC during that time.

        If we are honest, how many would be offered both pro soccer and pro rugby careers? And, from that small number, how many would turn down the prospect of tens of thousands of pounds per week in soccer just to earn a few grand playing for VR? I’d suggest the answer to that is none.

  5. Anybody who kids themselves that with clubs reinstated ahead of regions wouldn’t have the problems of getting outbid and losing players to France, England and becoming uncompetitive in Europe both multiplied is stupid. Aquick look at European results in the 2002/03 season confirms this.

  6. Exeter definately spend upto (or very near to) the cap
    in 2011 their wages bill was £3,500,000 (57/108 **)
    & for 2012 it was £4,263,000 (67/120 **)

    That was for; players/all staff **
    That was upto & inc May 2012…..

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