World Rugby

Welsh Rugby Union: Clubs Vote For 'Momentous' WRU Changes

Welsh Rugby Union: Clubs Vote For 'Momentous' WRU Changes

Welsh Rugby Union to undergo major changes as clubs meet in extraordinary general meeting in momentous development for the Six Nations country.

Mar 26, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Welsh Rugby Union: Clubs Vote For 'Momentous' WRU Changes

Welsh Rugby clubs have voted in favour of major changes to the governance of the game in the country. 

At a meeting in Port Talbot an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) was held, and 282 clubs were invited to vote on the proposed changes to how the game is run. 

In order to exact the changes, there needed to be at least 75% of votes which was easily met, with 97.2% voting yes to the changes. 

In total, there were 173 delegates who attended the EGM, whilst 79 proxy votes were received. 

Of the 252 votes, 245 were in favour of the resolution, with seven votes against it. 

Speaking at the vote, Welsh Rugby Union Chairman Ieuan Evans called the result ‘momentous’, saying ‘it will go down in Welsh Rugby history’.

In terms of the changes that will be coming into effect are designed to modernise the WRU to include more expertise, knowledge and diversity to help run a business with a nearly £100m annual turnover. 

The primary changes will see changes to the board structure, which in its current guises is made up of 12 directors with eight voted into position by the clubs, including the chair, three appointed independent members, including the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) chair with the final place taken up by the chief executive. 

The changes will now double the number of independent members (INEDs) on the board from three to six. This includes the introduction of an independent WRU chair for the first time, alongside the PRB chair, in addition to four separate independent members. 

The rise of independent members means the number of elected national or district members will be halved from eight to four. 

The WRU can now redress the gender imbalance, with an ambition that at least five of the 12 board members are women, including one of the top two jobs - the chief executive or chair. 

Catherine Read, one of the three independent non-exec directors alongside PRB chair Malcolm Wall and Henry Engelhardt, is currently the only female member of the 12-person board. 

In summary, the new look board will be as follows:

  • CEO and an independent chair. 
  • Four independent non-exec directors (INEDs).
  • Chair of the Professional Rugby Board (also an INED on appointment) and an elected or appointed or elected representative for the women's game.
  • Four elected national and district council members, including the chair of the Community Game Board. 

Speaking about the changes, Evans said: "I'm delighted with the support members have shown for the Board's recommendation today.

"We now have a line in the sand from which we intend to move forward purposefully, swiftly and better prepared to serve Welsh rugby's needs. 

"This is another historic day in the 142-year history of the WRU. 

"From this moment on, we will be much better equipped to overcome any challenges we may face, and I thank all members for giving us the tools to do a better job on their behalf. 

"The repercussions of a positive vote today are nothing short of momentous, and I am genuinely excited about the latent potential of our national game at all levels. 

"Members have taken the opportunity to pay something forward of huge significance to our great rugby-playing country's children… and its children's children. 

"We will draft in the very best talent to help our elected Board members. Each with a genuine and heartfelt interest and love for our game. 

"But also with the business expertise, varied skills and acumen to see Welsh rugby soar." 

Speaking about when the process of completing the changes will be done, WRU acting chief executive Nigel Walker: "We hope to complete the process for change by December this year, but the first steps will be taken immediately. 

"We need a new chair in place first, and the recruitment process for INEDs, and of course any potential new CEO, will follow from there, with a natural stage at our AGM in November where the composition of our elected members will evolve due to a number reaching the end of their terms of office. 

"This is just the beginning of a journey which will see the trust and faith of a nation in Welsh rugby restored and revitalised. 

"There is a lot of hard work ahead of us, but this is a genuinely uplifting moment in the history of our game." 

Whilst the changes are a major step forward for the WRU, they remain under investigation by an independent task force led by former judge Dame Anne Rafferty concerning the culture within the organisation. 

Written by Philip Bendon