Rugby Union: Casualties are inevitable in Wales' power struggle: The problems affecting rugby union across the board in Wales are producing dissension, division and disillusion. Steve Bale reports

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SURELY the most important thing in Welsh rugby this weekend is today's cup quarter-finals? Surely not. Even if you accept that internecine strife is endemic to the Welsh Rugby Union, tomorrow's special general meeting in Port Talbot is something different: this is a full-scale battle.

One way or another blood will be spilled when the animosity between Denis Evans, the secretary, and Glanmor Griffiths, the treasurer who resigned in December - a mixture of power struggle and personality clash - reaches its unhappy ending.

Throw in the endless ramifications of Welsh participation in the South African centenary matches in 1989 and you have a recipe for dissension, division and deep disillusion. Business as usual, you might say.

To think the WRU was wont to imagine itself the envy of the rugby world . . . Well, it is impossible to imagine the rugby unions of England, Scotland and Ireland getting themselves in such a fine mess, and the Welsh evidently do not need any lessons even from the French, the past masters at self-destruction.

Griffiths has spent recent weeks touring Wales, in American presidential style as Graham Tregidon, the exasperated WRU president, put it, canvassing support for motions which would sweep away the men who currently govern the game - and, as a by-product, vindicate Griffiths.

The clubs behind him allege maladministration by the union; Griffiths himself alleges financial irregularities and physical and administrative misconduct by Evans.

The principal business is to debate a motion of no confidence in the entire WRU general committee, followed by a second motion calling on all but a chosen few to resign. Thirteen clubs, including 11 from the Llanelli / Carmarthen area, have submitted the motions both as a way of supporting Griffiths and as a long- awaited chance to strike at the very heart of WRU decision-making.

On top of this, Griffiths is standing for re-election as treasurer, an eventuality that would create still more chaos if the no confidence motion failed, since Griffiths would face his own no confidence vote the next time the committee met.

There would then be nothing to stop his standing for treasurer again at the annual meeting in June - or the committee then to vote against him again. If this seems crazy, imagine this: if Peter Muxworthy of Dunvant Rugby Club were not contesting the election, Griffiths would be returned without a vote.

And here is another paradox. Abercynon are one of the two east Wales clubs to have lent their name to tomorrow's motions. But Abercynon's secretary, Gordon Williams, is an elected member of the WRU committee and therefore one of their targets. Bizarre.

Whatever the outcome, the hostility and suspicion generated by recent events have made the unity forged at playing level by the national team management appear a sham. But then nothing in Welsh rugby should come as a surprise. One highly respected WRU committee member told me this week that ever since he had been elected the union had stumbled from one internal dispute to another.

East v West, clubs v union, big clubs v small clubs, senior clubs v union . . . the list goes on. Now we have secretary v treasurer. As the Pugh report into the South Africa fiasco - when 10 players and six officials leapt aboard the gravy train just as it was leaving the station - emphasised, the administration is always bound to affect the playing of the game in Wales.

Vernon Pugh QC's inquiry is, prima facie, a separate issue from the Griffiths / Evans stand-off but, now that it has at last been made public, it has raised the stakes and the temperature. Its long-time non-publication implied that the WRU was trying to conceal its serious criticisms, not simply of those who had gone to South Africa or been involved in clandestinely making the arrangements but also of the way the union was widely perceived to be managed.

Which in fact ties in neatly with Griffiths and Evans. Griffiths resigned as honorary treasurer last December when the committee swung behind Evans and against him. Ever since, he has portrayed himself as a champion of the clubs against the supposed autocracy of the full-time secretary.

Griffiths subsequently circulated to clubs a detailed list of accusations against Evans which, quite apart from various financial matters, include allegations of threatening and abusive behaviour. Nor has the union let its case go by default - far from it.

The 220 member clubs and affiliated organisations have each received 148 foolscap pages including in its unexpurgated form the Pugh Report, a deeply embarrassing document which the critical clubs claim the WRU wilfully suppressed.

There are also reams of paper which seek to deal, one by one, with Griffiths's claims.

As Griffiths has latterly been subject to a High Court injunction preventing his discussing the proceedings of the WRU and its sub- committees, he has been angered that the union has seen fit to circulate extracts of minutes of meetings as part of its defence. The WRU claims there has been no unauthorised disclosure.

The man whom most people would like to hear is Evans. But as a paid official he will not be called to defend himself from the platform, whereas Griffiths, who has his admission ticket as president of Ogmore Vale RFC, will be able to speak from the floor. Either way, the debate will be in camera, the committee having on Thursday night rescinded an earlier decision to go public.

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