Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) believes that the review and discussion on the future success of the regional rugby structure in Wales is healthy and that no stone should be left unturned to find the right solutions
RRW which represents the Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Newport Gwent Dragons and Scarlets says that all options must be examined and considered to find the best way forward for rugby in Wales.
Head of Regional Rugby Wales, Stuart Gallacher said: “We know that all four regions have a huge role to play in the successful development of the game and investment in our young rugby talent in Wales; the current success of the national squad is testimony to that.
“The regions continue to play an important role in development for the national game. The bank of expertise and experience that the regions collectively give our game is immense, and their investment in providing opportunities for up-and-coming Welsh players to test themselves in top-flight rugby is widely-recognised, respected and valued.
“Four healthy, financially sustainable rugby regions are a positive for game in Wales. We also realise that in any complex business situation, you cannot presume any one solution is the right one - there has to be a detailed examination of all options and opinions and that’s underway at present.
“We don’t have the final solution as yet –that is what the discussions and reviews are for and it’s important that we explore this fully and not pre-judge an independent process.”
Gallacher said the regions were positive about the current review and were part of the process in deciding how to take it forward.
“We’ve been in discussions with the WRU over recent months on the need to take the time to get the right model for Welsh rugby going forward; we agree that we should use all the best resources available to us, especially structured financial analysis and objective-thinking from outside the game.
“What is positive is there is an open spirit of co-operation and cohesion between the WRU and the regions in finding those solutions as well as a strong partnership between the four regions themselves, to bring in stringent new initiatives to ensure they remain financially sustainable.
“We all know the tough economic climate we are operating within, and that’s not easing – and there are challenges for all businesses in Wales currently and regional rugby does not operate outside that.
“However, it’s important that we leave no stone unturned and carefully consider every option open to us to achieve the best position going forward.
“It is only fair to the many thousands of loyal supporters of the Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Dragons, that we consider every option open to us to find a structure that improves on the successful delivery of the regional game, whilst improving the elements that need to be in place to deliver sustainability.
“If we at any level close doors before we start, then we won’t reach the best solution.”
Stuart Gallacher added that a successful national team was supported by a regional structure that is working.
“For 27 years before the implementation of structured development pathways and establishment of Regional Rugby there were no Grand Slams for Wales.
“Since the establishment of the regions, Wales has won 2 Grand Slams, World Rugby Sevens, was the talk of last year's Rugby World Cup and with the regional sides winning silverware in Europe and the Anglo Welsh competitions as well as regular Celtic League top spots and play-offs.
“Of course, in the most difficult business environment for many years, with all our customers affected by reduced disposable income - the game in Wales , both professional and amateur has many challenges ahead,” said Gallacher.
“As we all follow the Six Nations Championship that represents one of the pinnacles of the game, we should reflect on the aspects of Welsh rugby that are not just working, but the envy of many other rugby countries.”
Below is the background information supplied to the BBC Wales programme Week in Week Out in response to queries on crowds, marketing, community programmes, fixture timing and the impact of Welsh club football on regional rugby in Wales.
Each region has 16 home games a year (minus play-offs) and will market all of these pro-actively within their regional bases through a variety of means and within budgetary constraints. There is a huge commitment by the commercial teams to drive revenues and ensure we grow our crowds step by step in a market where there is a massive amount of competition for that reduced disposable income. We’re no different to any other business in Wales currently, in that we don’t have a magic wand that can offer an immediate solution, but we are taking steps to put more checks and balances in place.
There has been a greater emphasis by the four regions on using social media to interact and communicate with supporters and we’re all having to work harder and smarter in order to engage more widely with our supporters in Wales.
Current marketing via: Website, facebook, twitter, newsletters (ezines sent electronically) online, media coverage (editorial), banner advertising, bus backs, radio advertising (local), events, community activity (dovetail with ticket initiatives), signage and banner advertising near grounds, local newspaper advertising, match day ‘next game’ advertising, programmes, viral campaigns (see Scarlets virals on YouTube), exclusive ticket offers, i-phone apps, video content on web, big screens at grounds, SMS and MMS messaging.
The regions don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about ‘set marketing budgets’ as they have to be flexible in the season to adapt to the scheduling of games, results etc – and money spent it’s not a direct indication of the marketing drive within the regions – as the way we reach our audiences varies and includes community activity and ticket initiatives as well which you can’t put into a budget - however they do a lot for the money available to them for marketing – and you only have to look at the output of content from the regions both on a media level and social media context to see they are working hard to get their messages across to supporters.
As regions we are responsible with any money being assigned to marketing so the support of our media partners in competitions like BBC Wales are key in promoting games at home. We would appreciate increased support from our Broadcast partners at the BBC and S4C, particularly in previewing upcoming games.
There are plenty of initiatives in place to make regional rugby and exciting day out for the family and to encourage more young supporters into our grounds and when they are there … give them a great experience.
Cardiff Blues: Currently offering two tickets for £30 to both home and Welsh away season ticket holders. They have run 24-hour sales for Welsh regions season ticket holders ahead of their derby games giving away support in Wales more value for money at the Cardiff City stadium. The Blues have used a number of initiatives such as Regional Clubs Day, Season Ticket £10 offer for family and friends, Tesco Clubcard, Groupon, Kids for a £1.
The regions have carried out their own market research and use their current communication to get feedback weekly on what supporters want. The Cardiff Blues have formulated questionnaires, focus groups and also assist with Gareth Hall at Aberystwyth University who is carrying out research at rugby clubs around Wales.
Social media statistics – shows the engagement is there – as four regions we have hundreds of thousands of people receiving our messages.
Currently the four regions are talking to 47,000 rugby supporters on Facebook, 26,260 supporters on Twitter and more than 1.4m on the web. Do the kick-off times have a bearing on some games?
Cardiff Blues –
8,608 followers on twitter (also utilise players following on Twitter to get messages out)
16,607 Facebook Likes.
Cardiff Blues – ezine sent out to approx 24,000 email addresses
Cardiff Blues – official website 303,000 total page views in December 2011
Continued growth of social media “followers” – Twitter up 11% in December
iPhone App downloads over 10,000
SCHEDULING OF GAMES
This does have an impact on crowd sizes and for the future benefit of all broadcasters, the organisers of the competitions and the clubs involved there needs to be wider and early discussion to find better kick-off times that give the regions a fighting chance.
Equally, if fixture dates are not agreed until later in the season, it makes is more difficult to market home games.
The Welsh rugby regions are still awaiting fixture confirmation from their broadcasters for matches in April. We do not feel that the lead time is adequate to fully market these games.
Our research has indicated that kick off times are inconvenient and these are dictated by the broadcaster such as BBC and S4C.
Cardiff Blues’ biggest game of the season is against the Ospreys. It’s scheduled in for 13/14/15 April but BBC Wales and S4C can’t give the Blues a date or time of kick off which makes it difficult to market.
In the real world, everyone is in a very tough place right now , with big concerns about unemployment, consistent inflation – particularly from food and fuel , salary freezes resulting in reductions in real earnings and , in many cases actual salary cuts – in both public and private sectors. There is a great deal of concern regarding potential unemployment over and above that earnings reduction . Discretionary disposable income in particular has dramatically reduced so we must be extremely grateful to everyone who supports our games in person.
It is not as simple as to just state that the regions are getting ‘poor crowds’ across the board. Attendance fluctuates and are dependant on a whole host of factors including timing, TV scheduling , the Welsh rugby calendar as a whole , and , of course , available disposable income.
There is no doubt everyone is working very hard behind at all four regions to add value and encourage greater participation at live games – no one is satisfied with where we are . Yes we need to appeal to more people , yes we need to provide more value for our customers and yes we need to drive more revenue.
Practically , however , even on a European basis rugby crowds are disappointing and , with few exceptions , certainly not increasing.
The world today is in a very difficult place and we are in a position where real salaries, real disposable income has dropped significantly – and so whilst we have to work harder of course to find revenues and to provide value for customers, we have to button down our costs as regions first.
Linked to marketing: there are initiatives in place to work on increasing crowds and building of more for your money match day experience.
For the Cardiff Blues, their three biggest matches have all been since players returned from RWC.
Friday 18 November Cardiff v London Irish 10,358
Friday 23rd December Cardiff v Dragons 10,660
Sat 7th January Cardiff v Leinster 9,390?
Cardiff Blues: Run an Adopt a Player scheme where all clubs, including those in South Wales valleys, have access to a Cardiff Blues player to help with trophy presentations or kids coaching. They have also played friendly matches at Pontypridd and held junior coaching camps and Coach Education classes all across the region. They also send players to Schools Rugby Presentation evenings.
Note: The rugby development officers at the regions are now WRU employees - so it's important to make that distinction and recognise that their schedule is managed by the WRU not the respective regions. There are community rugby development officers in the regions working in addition to WRU development officers who organise half-term camps, festival visits, match day rugby (tag etc at half time), school visits, healthy lifestyle talks.
Wales with a relatively small population has a great choice of top-flight sport to support from European rugby to Premiership football, ice-hockey, athletics, cricket etc – it’s a competitive market place for leisure time spend.
Cardiff City and Swansea City are given their football fixtures for the whole season in July, with dates and kick off times firmly in place; they mostly play on Saturdays at 3pm nad most of these games are not televised.