Saturday 29 January 2011: Ponty Till I Die
I've been thinking a lot about Regional Rugby the past few weeks.
I had a conversation with someone about it, and it's only when you say things out loud, that sometimes you realise the ridiculousness of it all!
He asked the simple question, why doesn't anyone go to watch regional games. You have teams packed full of star players.
I said the answer is this:
First you have a set of four teams (was five), that no one really wanted formed, other than the money men and the WRU. No one had any identity to these new outfits. They were dressed up as "regions" when in reality they are the four super clubs the WRU had wanted all along. Cardiff, Llanelli, Swansea and Newport. Coincidently, and conveniently, the four cities of South Wales. You immediately alienated rugby hotbeds of the Rhondda, Gwent and the Maesteg Valleys. In fact, if you were above sea level, you were a non starter.
Then you set up a league that was fairly meaningless, no one took too seriously other than the "derby" matches between the national teams. Add to the cost by playing in Ireland and Scotland, further dilute it by adding Italian teams years later.
Next you move all the team from the grounds steeped in history to soulless stadia located on the outskirts of the city you play in, and surround them with a shopping centre. Remember to charge the earth to sit in a cold half empty ground. Further discourage anybody willing to drive half an hour away from where they live to see their home team, by making sure the kick off times are at the maximum inconvenience, and by also having the game televised, so they could save themselves the journey and watch it in the warm, with beer at price that doesn't make you shake your head. At no time consider a Saturday afternoon kick off!
Plug the gaps in the season with even more meaningless cup competitions, and field weaken teams against other weakened teams from England.
Finally, play in the one tournament that means anything in the whole non international calendar, go out in the group stages, despite various "plucky" performances. All stand around as a collective, shake your heads, and issue such statements as "never mind, it will be better next year!"
And that my friend, I said, is why all the crowds went!
This blip is a picture of a Grogg. From the world famous Grogg Shop.
It is of Nigel Benzani, Captain of Pontypridd RFC! My team! My club! My town! My first and my last sporting passion.
In 1996 we won the Swalec Cup. It was the stuff of legends! The stuff of dreams! The little upstart of a club up the Taff! The greatest day I have ever had as a supporter! Those days were taken from me. Burned on the bonfire of some grand idea. But they can never take the memories .. and those memories burn brighter than any bonfire made from vanity!