Last week’s Wales Rugby League Annual General Meeting saw members voting unanimously to a number of key reforms to the National Governing Body (NGB) in a complete overhaul of its governance structures, constitution and strategy.
The changes to the constitution meant six members of the WRL Board stood down at the AGM as it was remodelled to a limited company.
Joining current chairman Brian Juliff and chief operating officer Chris Thair on the new board was ex England rugby union captain and coach Richard Greenwood who now happily resides in North Wales. Richard has been chairman and junior Rugby League coach at Rhyl and Prestatyn Panthers RLFC since 2011 and a key member of the WRL North Wales Management Group.
The long list of new measures includes adopting a new constitution, strategy, national plan, board of directors, council and membership policy.
Wales Rugby League, who are now celebrating nine years as an independent governing body, will now operating as a limited company instead of an association and will form a charitable foundation over the next twelve months.
A new limited company for South Wales Scorpions will be formed, separating them from the NGB, while three new sub groups of the WRL Board will form – the WRL Community Board, WRL Men’s International Board and the WRL Junior Pathway Board. Super League outfit Warrington Wolves RLFC have already agreed to being represented on the latter.
A driving force behind the reforms, Thair, who is coming up to two years in office said: “A number of recommendations were passed by the WRL Board in November 2013 and they were the blue print for what has been passed this week. There is a tremendous feeling of togetherness in everything we do and I’m delighted that the outgoing board members are going to stay involved to establish these new structures.
“Gerard Keenan and Martin Roddy MBE have agreed to sit on the new WRL Community Board to lead on universities and safeguarding respectively.
“Ian Curzon will establish a new Board of Directors and a limited company for South Wales Scorpions RLFC as we separate the club legally and operationally from ourselves whilst continuing to have 100% ownership.
“Idris Evans will continue his involvement with one our main focus clubs Cardiff City RLFC.
“The professional clubs’ representative in Jamie Thomas of the North Wales Crusaders will help support the establishment of the International Men’s Board and RFL representatives are supporting our new performance programmes that will fit underneath the new WRL Junior Pathway Board.
“We are a members’ owned organisation and I see the newly passed membership policy as groundbreaking for the sport of Rugby League. It will help grow participation levels, improve the sustainability of the sport in Wales and moves away from the traditional model whereby the balance of power lies with the professional game and clubs.
“Membership is now open to any club or educational establishment from Wales that regularly puts a Rugby League team in to recognised competition on an annual basis. Organisations can either become full or associate members of the NGB depending upon the strength of the organisation and their commitment to the sport.
“Everyone has an important part to play in this journey we are on and it is important we reward and involve everyone that does in a fair and equitable manner.”
Thair also praised the outstanding quantity of volunteers that have been recruited over the last two years and says that they are the lifeblood of Rugby League in Wales.
“One of the most pleasing aspects lately is the growing culture of volunteering in the sport,” he said. “We are a small NGB with only one full-time member of staff and a couple of part-time people, including myself, however virtually everything we do is supported and made possible by volunteers.
“In 2014, WRL had 27 separate delivery programmes which amongst other things included club and school competitions, coaching and match official courses, taking over and running a professional club, delivering an AASE programme and running 14 representative sides.
“The South Wales Conference is now entering its 13th season and the North Wales Conference continues to improve especially at junior level. The schools programme is growing and may be rewarded this year by at least one Welsh team appearing in a UK Champion Schools final.
“North Wales Crusaders are one of the favourites for the Kingstone Press League 1 title this season but equally pleasing is how their brand is being used to grow the community game. The Crusaders wheelchair team is thriving and their under 16s team is so far unbeaten in the North West Counties League.
“For the record, the 14 representative teams we ran in 2014 were East Wales under 14s, West Wales under 14s, East Wales under 16s, West Wales under 16s, South Wales under 16s Academy, AASE under 18s, South Wales under 19s Academy, Wales Nines, Wales under 16s, Wales under 18s, South Wales Scorpions, Wales Wheelchair, Wales Dragonhearts and Wales Men. At the heart of all these sides and everything we do are volunteers who remain committed to the cause.
“There is still much to improve upon, however the results of this week’s historic AGM point towards a sport which is continually improving, establishing good cultures and practices and has a group of people all heading in the same direction and believing in the same things. It is really exciting to be part of and very rewarding once you see the progress being made.