27.1.2003 John Scott's view on the future
[icWales] FOUR is the cry from the Welsh Rugby Union on the number of professional clubs for next season - or did they mean fore?
David Moffett's franchise plan has in it one fundamental flaw which should be looked at before it is presented to the WRU clubs next month.
He is creating the four franchises around traditional districts, but what he is effectively doing is settling the professional game along the M4 corridor: Llanelli, Neath/Bridgend, Cardiff and Newport.
Not surprisingly, there have been volleys from the Valleys and while Moffett has to be commended for the way he has tackled a problem which had been beyond the grasp of the WRU's general committee, his considerable administrative experience and acumen will not totally make up for his lack of knowledge of Welsh rugby.
To suggest a franchise be created with Cardiff and Pontypridd as its principal shareholders is a folly born of ignorance: it is like trying to supplement petrol with sugar.
They are two totally different cultures, both of which have to be preserved if the franchise system is to have any chance of success and Moffett has to understand that.
Munster face Neath in the Celtic League final in Cardiff this weekend.
I read a report which said that Irish supporters will outnumber the Welsh by three to one and much has been made about Munster's success in the Heineken Cup.
Munster are Ireland's Pontypridd, passionate and fanatical rugby nuts who follow their team everywhere.
Leinster are similar to Cardiff and Llanelli, used to a more rarified atmosphere.
The Irish Rugby Football Union would never consider dumping Munster and while Moffett will say that Pontypridd will not be lost to the game because they will still exist as a club, he is missing the point.
The new franchises will need supporters and the best chance of achieving a draw will be at Sardis Road, not the Arms Park or even Stradey Park.
It should not be forgotten there will be some less than mouth-watering fixtures on offer: City Slackers against Ulster; Gwent Sleepers versus Glasgow; Black Armbands against Connacht.
It will be a marketing man's nightmare and if you take the Ponty fans out of the equation - and they would only travel to Cardiff to cheer on the opposition - you are almost beaten from the start.
I heard a suggestion on the radio last week that Pontypridd and Ebbw Vale should be offered a franchise with another going to Cardiff and Newport and that makes more sense than Moffett's proposal.
Cardiff and Newport have a lot in common, two clubs of the old school even if Newport have an owner in Tony Brown who prefers to act rather than talk, while Pontypridd and Ebbw would properly represent the Valleys.
With all due respect to Ebbw Vale, I would see Pontypool also playing a part in that franchise because their supporters, like Ponty's, will turn out in force when they get the smell of rugby in the air.
The chances of Moffett changing his mind do not appear to be great, but if he does not there will be a groundswell of opposition to his scheme at next month's emergency general committee meeting next month.
The three WRU general committee members who did not vote in his favour last week all had connections with the district which Pontypridd is part of and he has to show he is flexible. Swansea is the other rugby area which could lose out because of Llanelli's arrogant stance that they'd never dream of entering a joint franchise bid with anyone. Llanelli may have flown the Welsh flag in Europe for the last couple of seasons, but it was not that long ago they were pretty ordinary.
If they continue to dig their heels in, the WRU should demand the immediate payment on the £1.25m it is owed by Llanelli for Stradey Park. Swansea may be truly awful at the moment, but Wales' second city, like the Valleys, should be represented in the professional game.
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Ponty ar ben eu digon - pencampwyr dwbwl Cymru. Pwy oedd yn serennu yn y gem fawr yn erbyn Llanelli? Ponty on top of the world - double champions of Welsh rugby. Who starred in the big win over Llanelli?