WRU status update – 01/07/20
CEO Martyn Phillips says club rugby is preparing for ‘the greatest of comebacks’ as he predicts post-pandemic progress ‘through a lens of hope’ in the latest Welsh Rugby Union Status Update – plus a new £600,000 fund is announced :
There is no doubt the pandemic has presented challenges, sacrifices, heartache and anxiety.
We are under no illusions about the reality of the last three or four months. That said, without getting too philosophical, we can choose to view our future through a lens of hope or one of fear. You don’t need to watch too much TV news, or read too much media or social media, to get your daily dose of fear!
So, whilst there are tough days ahead, and inevitable challenges as we transition to life with the virus supressed or defeated, I would like to talk about our hopes rather than fears. We have a vision for how life can be for us in Welsh rugby if we believe that good things will happen. Rest assured everyone at the WRU will graft shoulder to shoulder with you to bring the game back stronger – we will leave nothing on the pitch.
During challenging times, it can be difficult to see beyond the day-to-day. However, I have been struck recently by how rugby in Wales can not only survive this pandemic, but could thrive. I am sure many of us have been through a process of re-assessing what really matters in life.
Family, health and well-being are obviously front of mind, but equally the value of community, of social interactions, of our local environment and being part of a larger social circle feel important now.
In many ways, rugby is ready made for this moment. The health benefits of sport are self-evident, but what is a rugby club if not a welcoming, social community hub?
What is a rugby club if not the product of the collective efforts of players, coaches, referees, volunteers and families?
What is the roar of the Principality Stadium if not the sound of our communities celebrating our collective Welsh identity?
Rugby will be back. And rugby will be better if we all put in place the things we have learned during this hiatus.
So, from positive and hopeful perspective:
- Our players will have missed playing and will be itching to get back out there with their team-mates. We also have a gilt-edged opportunity to recruit new players who will be looking to be part of a team and who will be looking for the camaraderie that a team sport like rugby provides
- Rugby is the ultimate social, team sport and nothing will compare to the return to that sense of “Hwyl”
- Lapsed players who have stopped playing may want to pull the jersey on again and we will provide the welcome
- Our coaches at all levels will have had time to plan, time to learn and will return with new ideas, having developed new approaches and with new energy
- Our volunteers will have missed the sense of purpose that volunteering brings, that chance to put something back into our communities
- Better still we can embrace new volunteers who will have endured months of relative isolation, who will be keen to be part of something purposeful and where new relationships can be formed
- We have learnt some new practices in lockdown. We have held many video conferences and webinars. In future we may still sometimes need to travel for a meeting or coaching workshop, but now sometimes we can conveniently get this done from closer to home
- We have missed the sense of belonging that only a rugby club can bring. That sense of community, being part of something and shared experiences with our team-mates
- All of our staff at the WRU care about the game and we are all itching to get back into our workplaces, back into clubs, schools and colleges to engage and excite about all that rugby brings
- Rugby clubs are the most welcoming of places, open to everyone and we have an opportunity to be the venue of choice to bring people back together for the ultimate “Social” experience
- Welsh rugby’s mantra has been a “Jersey for all”. Whether it be 15’s, 7s, touch, tag, walking, disability or mixed rugby we have a game for all
- We have over 300 clubs, we span all of Wales and we can be the most inclusive sport in the country. We can embrace all of society, men, women and children, regardless of background with a safe and welcoming place to come
- The pandemic has been a financial reality check. We have had to cut our cloth accordingly and we have the chance now to take that new mentality into our new world and to genuinely live within our means. We can choose to not take payment for amateur players into our new world. It’s in our hands.
- We have many great rugby partners and many great commercial partners who have stuck with us through the tough times. We have the opportunity, as we wait to resume playing, to build plans for a successful shared future
- Life will be more “Local” for some time. We can set our clubs up to be the sport and social hubs in our communities as we all look local for our leisure time
- As people stay local, our clubhouses have the potential for more events and celebrations than ever before
- Some people have used lockdown to be more active than ever and will be looking for physical activity in groups rather than as individuals. Some people haven’t been active enough and will be looking for somewhere to get active. We have a game for all
- We all recognise the positive impact that physical activity and the sense of belonging rugby can bring to our mental health. We can be there for those who need to be with others, to have someone to talk to and somewhere to go when we need company
- There is a backlog of professional rugby to fit in. We can go and support our local teams or meet at the clubs to watch the games together
- We know that club volunteers have been busy painting, fixing and maintaining. How positive when we are up and running again to return to clubhouses that have been given an overhaul
We plan to work together to make our clubs a safe place to visit – the detailed process we are undertaking will make the rugby club and all associated activities as safe as possible for you to return.
Patience – we are playing the biggest waiting game of all. We understand club frustrations but we can use this time wisely (deal with everything that you didn’t have time to do before) to prepare our clubs for the greatest of comebacks when it is safe to do so.
We have a brilliant sport that is at the heart of our communities. Life after this pandemic will never be the same and it can be better than it was before. There are many, many factors that mean we can come out of the other side of this crisis stronger than when we went in. This is why we have committed a further £600,000 to member clubs today, further details of which are below, taking the total amount of emergency funding for clubs to more than £1m in the last six months.
If we believe all of this is possible, we plan as clubs for the opportunity and work together, I’ve no doubt the game will continue to grow and get stronger.
CV-19 Return to Play and Social Distancing Support Grants and Funding
We are pleased to announce that a one-off £600,000 fund will be made available to member clubs to support return to play protocols and to assist with the purchase of equipment or adaptations to premises/facilities that may be required as a result of CV-19 related social distancing measures.
The £600,000 will include the central procurement of items such as PPE with grants awarded to individual clubs on a criteria and assessment of need basis.
All clubs will be eligible to apply for a grant for qualifying expenditure within the scheme and the amounts awarded by the WRU can potentially be increased further by external funding sources.
“Following a period of consultation via the recent Club Impact Survey, the findings identified clubs were protected for a minimum of six months,” said WRU Community Director Geraint John.
“Consequently we have now outlined our intention to further financially support our clubs to prepare to return to rugby and remain at the heart of our communities.
“A Facilities Working Group has been established including club representatives to ensure that we continue to listen and support our community game in line with Welsh Government guidance.
“Further details on what types of expenditure will be supported and how clubs can apply for the grant element of the scheme will be provided shortly.”
Once guidance on the scheme has been published the Club Development Team will host local/virtual sessions where WRU staff will be on hand to provide detailed guidance on the support that will be available to clubs.
The £600,000 fund will be in addition to the rugby and development grants for the 2020/21 season, with details on those grants due to be announced shortly.
This additional £600,000 means the WRU has now committed over £1m in emergency funding to clubs in the past six months, including £100,000 to support remedial works following Storm Dennis, and c.£300,000 paid to clubs at the start of the CV-19 lockdown, via the £1,000 grant per club.
Further information on the new funding programme will be issued to Club Secretaries shortly.