Wales in an amateur world of their own

Owen Slot reports on the poor relations left in the cold as the riches pour in

WHILE the world's leading international sides are busy signing lucrative contracts and preparing to play as professionals in a new professional game, spare a thought for Wales who are not. Tomorrow they leave on a short tour of South Africa and in a fortnight's time they will be fed to the world champions. Stand by, then, for the first major mismatch that the new order will bring us: the home team, now fully paid-up full-timers, versus Wales who have had no whiff of a contract and, finances aside, are still amateur all over.

This was confirmed at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff 18 days ago when all bar two of the Welsh squad gathered for the first time since the World Cup. The absentees were Emyr Lewis, who flew in from holiday in the West Indies that day, and Andy Moore, the uncapped Swansea forward, who was in St Lucia. Availability letters had not been sent out before the squad announcement 10 days previously and further in Moore's defence was his ignorance of the fact that he had a chance of being picked for the tour when he left for his holiday.

Moore actually offered to cut his trip short in order to return home for the next training session but both players were jettisoned from the squad. Three days later their heavy-handed treatment by Geoff Evans, the team manager, was made to look more than a little insensitive when he was missing from training as he himself was on a two-week holiday. As the Welsh rugby press and senior administrators chimed in their objections, it soon became clear that Wales had stumbled into a situation where the embarrassment levels came close to matching those reached when the side last went to South Africa.

It would take a brave historian to catalogue the Welsh catastrophies of the last decade, but the fact is that, given the changes to be made in the game, the pain will be felt far deeper every time the team or its administrators now shoot themselves in the foot. Earning possibilities are about to increase hugely, but unless teams are marketable, they will struggle to cash in.

Wales were faced with the reality of their value before the World Cup when Alan Pascoe Associates, who work in sports marketing, ended a six- month search for WRU sponsorship after the 500 companies they had approached all gave a negative response. "A number were interested before the Five Nations," said Alan James of APA, "but the more it went on, the less attractive the idea became. One problem Wales face is a lack of stars, apart from Ieuan Evans that is - and he was stripped of the captaincy." This was confirmed in April when Just Players, a company formed by the leading Welsh players to capitalise on their marketability, went into receivership. Playervision, the England team's equivalent, has a six-figure annual turnover.

The problem is not lost on Vernon Pugh, chairman of the WRU. "If rugby does follow a line where there is a commercial connection to playing success, then it is not good for our players," he said. "They understand that if results don't improve, then what they can expect to earn won't improve by much."

What the Welsh can expect will be upwards of pounds 20,000. This is paltry next to, for instance, the England players' expected payroll, but Pugh explains that this is down not only to poverty of results but also to the fact that Wales is the poorest of the four home unions and there is a shortage of big companies to finance a package.

As the inevitability of professionalism has increased in recent years, Wales always appeared to be one of the most likely beneficiaries. Payment to players, it seemed logical, would prevent them having to defect to rugby league. The tragedy of the present ill-health in Welsh rugby is that this argument no longer applies: pounds 20,000 is a tenth of what league tends to offer, a threatening fact since the rival code does at present have a number of the most talented Welsh youngsters in its sights. As Pugh said: "I've little doubt that someone who is offered a big package will still go."

A trip to South Africa is hardly a solution. Victory would have the sponsors running to sign up and secure the future. The most likely outcome, though, is that the pros will stuff the amateurs and scare the money even further away.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine