Scratch a Welsh international rugby player and invariably you find a village boy or girl who learned their craft in such community clubs as Beddau, Abercraf or Trebanos. The rugby club caricature of boozey blazers has been displaced in recent generations by large and complex community networks of volunteer coaches and organisers. My own village club of Pontyclun has 350 players each week – all ages above seven years with teams for men and women – all supported by parents, friends and community activists.
A decade ago we ‘regionalised’ Welsh rugby, creating professional structures based largely on our coastal cities. The regions have proved unsustainable, lacking the support once generated by their former constituent clubs – expenditure far exceeds income. The answer of the Welsh Rugby Union is now to move from regionalisation to nationalisation with elite players being contracted to the national team.
Is this the prescription of the Williams Report on Welsh public services? Ignore our communities, first regionalise, then nationalise. It will be a nation with no roots, no ability to nurture talent or engagement. It will wither.