Rugby Union: Welsh still have to cross the great divide

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The Independent Online
IT WOULD be pleasant, in the wake of Wales's win over England, to imagine Welsh rugby pulling together in common cause, writes Steve Bale. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth: the Welsh Rugby Union hopes to get its blood-letting over and done with at a special general meeting, which will be held during the week beginning 28 March.

The SGM, originally demanded by a group of clubs but now called by the union itself (which thereby controls the agenda), has been put off so as to avoid any clash with Wales's progress through the Five Nations' Championship. This will not make it any less contentious.

At issue will be the clash between Denis Evans, the full-time secretary, and Glanmor Griffiths, who recently resigned as honorary treasurer and has since mounted a very public campaign against Evans, culminating in an HTV programme on Thursday in which the WRU ill-advisedly refused to participate; and the report by Vernon Pugh QC into the participation of 10 Welsh players and six officials in the South African Rugby Board centenary celebrations of 1989. Pugh alleges that one, unnamed, player received pounds 30,000.

The South African business has diverted attention from the Griffiths-Evans affair, but yesterday the WRU launched a counter-offensive against the former treasurer by assassinating his character as clinically as Griffiths has attempted by alleging financial impropriety and abusive and threatening behaviour against Evans.

WRU officers, bracing themselves for a no-confidence vote against the entire general committee, want to streamline the union into a more business-like, executive-led organisation - which would mean committee men voting themselves out of a job.

'Glanmor Griffiths the personality is now an irrelevance,' Jonathan Price, the WRU marketing executive who took a leading role in yesterday's Arms Park press conference, said. 'Every problem brings with it an opportunity. Glanmor Griffiths was a problem but he has now gone; what we now have within the Welsh Rugby Union is a real opportunity. The key to that successful future lies in the reform of the WRU structure, a structure that must provide adequate channels of communication between club and union. At present they do not exist.'