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WRU Status Update

There is no place for racism of any kind in rugby union. Black lives matter. We are not a political organisation, but we are aware of our role at the very heart of Welsh culture and the responsibility that comes with that position.

There are times when silence can be construed as an endorsement.

Welsh rugby has a long-standing relationship with the ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ campaign and recent proactive moves to work with other partners and modernise our governance structure to improve the diversity of its representation have been well received, but we are not the finished article.

We must represent all of Welsh society, we know we can, and must continue to, do better and we will. It is all our responsibility to learn and understand the ongoing damage of systemic racism. It is not enough to be non-racist, we must be actively anti-racist in order to create a more equal society.

There is no place for prejudice of any kind in rugby union. It must truly be a sport for all.

Rightly, there is a conversation taking place in wider society about ‘listening’ to the experience of people who have been subject to racism. We need to do that but equally we need to act. We must educate and we must make clear what is unacceptable.

I have been asked this week to assess the impact of Covid 19 on Welsh rugby.

We are still very much in the eye of this storm and it will not be possible to fully answer this question until that storm subsides.

But we do know that we generate much of our income from leisure and entertainment spending, whether that be stadium tours, conferences and events or our core business of Welsh professional rugby. This entire sector has suffered a cessation of business on a par with the worst hit sectors of industry.

Since it opened, Principality Stadium has generated billions of pounds for the hotels, restaurants, bars and leisure industry in Wales as well as generating thousands of jobs – the knock-on effect will be widely felt and our pain will unfortunately be shared.

It is still the case that we do not know when ‘normal’ business will resume. When Welsh rugby stadia will be full again and when new broadcast and sponsor income can be generated.

The major issue we face is if matches resume “behind closed doors”, this will have repercussions as the majority of costs will be brought into play, yet local revenues such as ticket income and associated match day revenues will not.

The WRU does not retain profits but re-distributes all funds back to clubs and the professional game, so all aspects of Welsh rugby have been challenged by the current crisis.

When we do return, we know there will be numerous challenges around the resumption of contact sport and we don’t know what the attitude of our players, coaches, referees and other volunteers in the community game will be.

It is possible that rugby may return sooner than we are able to open our clubs and the ability to align both aspects in the community game will be key.

We are of course hugely optimistic that people value social interaction even more than they may have done before lockdown and return to rugby in their droves when they are able to do so. All we can do in the meantime is plan properly for this eventuality and look forward to it.

The social aspect of rugby is a defining characteristic for our clubs and we are a business built on live experiences, from the community club to a full Principality Stadium.

We will look for support from government for our efforts to safeguard the future of rugby in Wales, be it rugby within schools or harder to reach communities.

We will also need support on event planning and a collective approach to attracting events to Wales – something exemplified by the cross-agency approach to attracting the Nitro World Games – will help us.

The positive role of the club game across communities is an essential part of Welsh rugby and it must not be allowed to wither.

We will continue to need the support of the Government as critical advisers in our plans to return to rugby.

From health and well-being through to social inclusion, the role of our clubs is vital to Welsh society and for these reasons we will continue to work together to make them more sustainable and even more integral to the communities they serve as the current crisis subsides.

Yours in rugby, Gareth Davies, Chairman

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