|Roger Lewis - CEO, Welsh Rugby Union|
|Profile of the week|
Friday, 08 February 2013 16:40
Last year the Professional Regional Game Board was set up with the possibility of two of the four regions gaining extra funding. Can you tell us more about the proposals?
The discussions with the four regions are still on going, it’s very early days yet. We have a participation agreement with the four regions that runs until June 2014 so we’ve got plenty of time to get this right. No decision will be reached on the future shape of professional rugby until there’s an agreement with all the appropriate and relative parties.
How do you respond to those who feel they may lose out?
The most important thing is that whatever we do, we have to get it right for Welsh rugby and make sure that all our clubs are convinced that it is the right solution. We cannot exist in a parochial myopic way, purely looking after the vested interests of a small minority. We’ve got to look at the bigger picture here and that is what’s right for Welsh rugby. Working together in as joined a fashion as possible is without doubt the most appropriate way for a country that is as small as Wales.
Paddy Power signed up as the Official Betting partner of the WRU. Why Paddy Power?
Sport thrives on uncertainty. That is the thrill and magic of sport. The idea of the occasional bet on a sporting encounter can add to the enjoyment of the day and working with a recognised betting brand such as Paddy Power makes sense for us all. There is a long history and tradition of sport working alongside the betting industry. This is something that I think can add to a bit of fun to the match day experience.
As you mentioned, Wales won the grand slam last year. What positive effects does this have on the WRU?
For a number of years now the financial performance of the WRU has been in very robust shape. In fact we put in record financial results last year. I am pleased to say that the strength of the brand is such that commercial deals we are cutting at the moment are very encouraging. The most important point I’d emphasise is that all the money we generate from those commercial deals, go back into the game. The area of the game that we’re most concerned with and are making great strides in is at grassroots level. We’ve generated somewhere in the order of £28m to put back into grassroots rugby in the last five years alone.
How has the WRU prepared for the 6 Nations in terms of marketing strategies?
What’s hugely encouraging is that our first home game against Ireland sold out many, many weeks ago. Our last home game against England we sold out months ago. So we’ve got two sell out fixtures here for our 6 nations. What I’m focused on now is next year. We’ve announced a very dynamic sales ticketing strategy for next year, where we are actually going to drop the prices for two of the games; Italy and Scotland. We’re also going to hold the same price for the French game at ticket price level going out this year for the England and Ireland game.
I could have kept the prices at the same price as this year, or put in a modest increase, however, I think by reducing the ticket prices, I’ll ensure three sell out games and so the yield we’ll produce from a reduced ticket price, but an increased attendance, will give us the same return as we would if we’d kept the same prices or increased them. My strategic imperative for next year is based upon a very tough economic environment in Wales and a desire to ensure the fans remain engaged with the game at international level.
So this is a way of paying back the fans?
It’s a way of making sense for everyone. It’s looking after the fans in the tough times and also not being greedy with ones yield and making sure you play to a full house. Everyone wants to play to a full Millennium Stadium.
The four regions rejected the WRU’s offer to centrally contract Welsh international players last year. Are you still trying to pursue this?
I think going forward, centrally contracted players in Wales has to be the way, but to achieve that you have to have the agreement of a number of parties. We’re not there at the moment but I’m still of the view that a more centralised approach to rugby in Wales is the way forward because we are a small country and the economic environment here is extremely challenging.
What are the WRU’s plans for the future and how will you achieve them?
The future is doing what we’re doing now, but even better. We’ve operated to a rolling five year plan since 2007. I’ve got a clear idea of what we’re doing up until 2019 and we need to do what we’re doing but better. The heart of that is ensuring that we continue to get as many young people involved in the game at a junior and mini level. We have to ensure that our rugby clubs continue to be the hubs and the heart of their communities, and we have to make sure our player pathways for elite rugby are sufficiently supported and developed to maintain the quality of international rugby that exists in Wales. A winning Wales, filling the Millennium Stadium, is the model that drives all of rugby in Wales.