Elite's proposals seen off at stormy EGM

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The Independent Online

Welsh rugby finds itself in even more of a mess this morning than it was before yesterday's Emergency General Meeting in Cardiff. After all the shouting and argument the proposal to reduce the top flight to an élite half dozen was given six of the best by the body politic of the Welsh Rugby Union.

With not a single representative of the so-called Gang of Six – Cardiff, Newport, Swansea, Llanelli, Pontypridd and Bridgend – speaking for the motion they saw their proposal, which had the backing of the WRU, defeated by a resounding 325 votes to 98 in a packed St David's Hall.

Later there were calls for the resignation of those members of the WRU's general committee, including its chairman Glanmor Griffiths, who, despite originally announcing himself opposed to the élite clubs' idea, had backed the proposal in a 16-5 committee vote in favour.

David Escott, chairman of the First Division clubs, called on all of those on the general committee who voted for the proposal to resign, including Griffiths. Paul Russell, a director of Ebbw Vale, added: "The Gang of Six say it is not about money, but rather Welsh rugby. That is the equivalent of Colonel Sanders looking at a chicken and saying, 'Trust me.'"

Griffiths insisted that his committee had not been bullied into backing the top six clubs, and said: "I have no intention of resigning."

The reduction of the Welsh Premier League would have taken place the season after next, but now the status quo prevails, with the top nine retaining premiership status. It is just what the Wales management did not want.

Now Welsh Rugby stumbles on to an SGM to be held some time next month, at which the report of the Reorganisation Working Party headed by the WRU president Sir Tasker Watkins will be put to a vote. The working party has examined a restructuring of the WRU and the club game and is thought to favour an élite of eight clubs and a professionally run union.

And it was clear yesterday that the majority of the 239 member clubs want the same, with a streamlined board of directors and a chief executive. There was even an implication of breach of WRU constitution with Penarth's Brian Morgan claiming: "We should be discussing Sir Tasker's report before anything else."

Olivier Azam meanwhile yesterday made a final call for Rob Andrew to apologise to him for accusing the French hooker of racism during the match between Gloucester and Newcastle in December. The 27-year-old is to discuss the possibility of taking legal action against Andrew if no apology is forthcoming.

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