Some of the questions from our members in the recent Crys16 meeting with the Scarlets management (once again thanks to Simon Muderack, Phil Morgan and Jon Daniels for their time, openness and honesty) got me thinking more generally about where the game in Wales is heading or where the game wants to be. The Scarlets meet the management meeting coincided with some comments in the press from regional coaches around the state of the game in Wales so I thought I’d try and find Welsh rugby’s goals, objectives, targets etc.

Spoiler alert – I didn’t find much.

We’ve all got aspirational goals for the teams we support, whether that’s the Scarlets winning the Champions Cup in the next decade, your local club moving up through the leagues or Wales lifting the Webb Ellis Cup. Taking the first example of the Scarlets winning the Champions Cup that’s our goal, sport is generally the same as business, you have SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-specific) goals and you then put a plans in place to achieve those goals, measuring your performance against key indicators as you go.

Using the Scarlets winning the Champions Cup within the next decade, that ticks the box for the goal to be Specific, Measurable and Time-specific, that leaves us with whether it’s Achievable and Realistic, which is where things like player development/quality/availability/performance come into it which is linked with income through ticket sales, compensation for player release, competition income, TV money etc. All of these things require collaboration and aligned goals with the WRU’s goals.

The same applies to any team at any level in Wales, for example if you’re a division 3 club who’s goal is to get to division 1 within 5 years, you need to know that the league structures won’t change for 5 years, that there will be promotion and relegation, that participation in the game will remain consistent allowing you to field a team and so on and then you can start working out what you need to do as a club to achieve you’re goal. This shows how the WRU dictates where the game in Wales is heading and without clear direction from them it’s pretty much impossible for any teams within Wales at any level to set their goals and work towards them with any real confidence.

So all roads lead to Westgate Street to find out the plan for Welsh rugby and to see if we’re on track.

In 2017, the WRU released a 30 page Strategy document which referenced the usual things around culture, values etc. with a couple of headlines like a mission: TO DEFINE WALES & TO UNITE COMMUNITIES, and a purpose of: MORE PEOPLE, MORE OFTEN, WITH MORE ENJOYMENT AND MORE SUCCESS.

We’ve also had some goals/measures in the document:

On the pitch
• More people playing rugby
• More games being played in more formats, more often
• Wales men world ranked in top four
• Wales women world ranked in top ten
• Wales 7s world ranked in top eight
• Regional teams consistently in Pro12 top six and European QFs
• Enable rugby to be a year-round sport

Off the pitch
• More people supporting, coaching, refereeing and volunteering
• More digital engagement
• More stakeholder satisfaction
• More investment in the game
• More generations and more diverse volunteer base to secure the future of our game
• Engaging in programmes to help Wales to become a more active nation
• Working with other sports to extend the provision of all-weather pitches
• Be true to rugby’s values and provide role model leadership

Some of these goals from the strategy document resemble what you’d hope to see as goals/measures, things like world ranking targets and more people playing and supporting the game. Disappointingly though these goals, target dates and the results have never clearly appeared in the WRU Annual Reports, with only key performance indicators (KPIs) being referenced. Without target and goals, KPIs aren’t particularly useful, take running for example. If you wanted to win the London Marathon, your main KPI is your pace, but unless someone tells you your current pace and what pace is needed to win a marathon knowing your pace is the KPI is pretty pointless, you don’t know where you are or what your aiming for, let alone how to get there.

That brings us onto the WRU’s current KPI’s which are as below (and have been for the past 7 years according to the Annual reports):

Participation in rugby
• Participation levels in Community Rugby; including men’s, women’s and junior members An analysis of the Group’s performance against these measures is shown in the “Community Report” section of this Annual Report.

Rugby performance
• Success of the National Squads – men and women
• Performance of the four Welsh Regions
• Performance of the Group’s age-grade teams An analysis of the Group’s performance against these measures is shown in the “Performance Rugby” section of this Annual Report.

Financial performance
• Generation of sufficient earnings before interest, depreciation, amortisation, allocations and exceptional items (“EBITDA”), over the medium term, to fulfil the Group’s principal activity and primary objective
• Number of and attendances at international rugby matches featuring the Welsh team at Principality Stadium
• Provision of consistent and affordable levels of funding to clubs and affiliated organisations to allow them to implement long term plans to fulfil their objectives

What you’d expect (or hope anyway) to see somewhere is what the target is and what the target dates are. Under Participation it points to the Community Report, so we jump to that section in the 2021 Annual Report and find a lot of numbers littered throughout the text, things like 1,018 CPD sessions ran from 2018 to 2021 with 7,515 coaches engaged. So is that a good number? Well we’ve got no idea really because we don’t know what the target or outcome was, did they plan on doing 500 sessions or 5,000 sessions? Was the end result more Welsh based players getting into regional academies or less? Was that the outcome they hoped for?

This theme is consistent throughout the WRU annual reports for the last few years, big numbers and increased percentages are everywhere but without knowing the goals and targets, we don’t know whether these numbers are good or bad, or what they mean in real terms. The same applies to the financials in the Annual Reports, it gives us the numbers for the current and previous years, for example commercial income went from £15.4m in 2020 to £20.2m in 2021, but is that good or bad? What was the forecast for that year? Did they achieve their goals? What’s the forecast for the next few years?

The WRU’s purpose (taken from the Annual Reports) remains what it was in 2015 which is: ‘to promote rugby and to encourage more people to engage with the game, more often with more enjoyment and more success’. I’ve skimmed through the last 5 annual reports (all 538 pages) and can’t find numbers anywhere to see if the WRU is achieving its purpose. How can measuring engagement and success be so difficult to decipher? What was your target and what did you achieve?

Maybe I’ve missed something, with the last few Annual Reports averaging over 100 pages each and covering a plethora of initiatives, activities and areas of Welsh rugby with numbers and stats largely within text I may well have not been able to join all the dots, or maybe these details do exist and sit with the WRU board and WRU National and District Council Members, but wouldn’t it be nice to see them in the Annual Reports in a nice clear and concise manner?

This next bit may not be of much interest (or the previous bits, apologies if so!!) but I searched for a few key words in the last Annual Report and this is what I got:

Goal = Used twice, once in reference to a drop goal and once to get victories (how many we don’t know) against the top teams in the world.

Mission = Not used.

Vision = Used once, when referring to the late great John Dawes’ perceptive vision of rugby.

Target = Used once for targeting content in the games locker.

Forecast =  Used 8 times, just to say there’s plenty being done but without any actual forecasts.

Objectives = Used 7 times, pointing us to things like success and performance with no measures against them.

The word ‘more’ is used 54 times, and somehow I’m feeling shortchanged.

Categories: Crys 16 Board

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