TEN South Wales Labour MPs have written to the chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union warning that communities have suffered as a result of the regional transformation of the professional game.
The MPs are seeking a meeting with Roger Lewis to express fears that traditional semi-professional clubs will be “further reduced in number and significance”.
The MPs, including former Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy, state: “[We] feel that the social and economic costs paid by the communities in which the former first-class clubs sit, have been significant, and were perhaps not fully appreciated when the changes were first introduced.”
WRU chief executive Mr Lewis has written to the MPs and said that last March 25, he and other senior figures had met with Pontypridd MP Owen Smith.
Mr Lewis wrote: “At that meeting, in which we all openly debated the issues, Mr Smith suggested that he would produce a detailed business plan to back up his arguments. In the meantime, the WRU and the Welsh Regions have got on with the job in hand, trying to make ends meet in rugby inWalesin the most brutal of economic conditions.
“If Mr Smith is really going to produce a plan, we could still welcome receiving it.
“We have told Mr Smith that we would ask PwC to independently review it in the context of the work they are undertaking for us and that we would require it by March of this year,” he added.
“When we receive Mr Smith’s plan, which as mentioned will be independently reviewed, we will meet with you all and this can be the basis of our discussions.”
Mr Smith said: “I find it extraordinary that the WRU should refuse to meet with a group of MPs until they have received a ‘business plan’ from one of them, namely myself.
“I have written to the WRU stating that, in response to their request, I will submit proposals for reform of the structures of Welsh rugby, with supporting business plans, to theUnionon March 31.
“These plans are currently being prepared by a business and legal advisory team who have volunteered their time to support our campaign to reform regional rugby.
“The MPs who have written to Mr Lewis are not involved in the production, and may not even endorse the plans being produced.
“If it would help bring the meeting about, I would happily not attend the meeting with the wider group.”