Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Wakefield Rugby Football Club Limited


  1.1  This memorandum has been prepared in response to Press Notice No. 16 of Session 1998-99 dated 11 May 1999.

  1.2  Wakefield RFC is a member of the Rugby Football Union ("RFU") and currently competes in the Allied Dunbar Premiership—Division 2, and accordingly is a member of English Second Division Rugby ("ESDR").

  English Second Division Rugby Ltd ("ESDR") is the representative body of the member clubs of the Rugby Football Union which participates in the Allied Dunbar Premiership Division 2. ESDR has two representatives on the Board of English Rugby Premiership ("ERP") and one representative on the council of the Rugby Football Union ("RFU").

1.3  Brief Description of Wakefield RFC

  Wakefield has been playing rugby for 98 years and currently organises amateur rugby at all levels from aged 15 upwards. The 1st XV squad, however, are a mixture of professional and semi-professionals who are rewarded by way of a combination of some or all of the following:

    —  employment contracts;

    —  win bonuses; and

    —  appearance money.


  2.1  Professional Rugby Union. A sport that people are compelled to watch.

  2.2  Quality of Games. Equal sides playing at the top level. High level of skill and professionalism.

  2.3  Supported by Public. Good crowd attendance, good quality stadium with car parking, access, catering etc.

  2.4  Watched by TV Viewers. Available for committed fans and casual viewers.

  2.5  Strong Corporate Support. Facilities for corporate hospitality and professionally organised.

  2.6  Which Competitions Fit the Bill. World Cup, 6 Nations Rugby, European Cup, Allied Dunbar Premiership.


  Wakefield RFC are willing to submit their accounts for the last two years on request.

  3.1  It is generally accepted that professional Rugby Union at club level is not sustainable at present levels without the support of one or more of the following:

    —  the allocation of nationally negotiated sponsorship monies;

    —  deep pocketed investors who seek to secure a franchise for the future professional game;

    —  individual emotional investors; and

    —  other sponsors.

  3.2  Wakefield RFC has since the advent of professional rugby made cumulative operating losses of approximately £500,000.

  3.3  The principal reason for the unsatisfactory present state of affairs arises from a number of factors, including:

    (a)  the desire of individual clubs to survive at elite level until there is a more realistic structure for professional rugby;

    (b)  player aspirations to maximise earnings given their short playing life;

    (c)  administrative and financial chaos within and between the governing bodies in the United Kingdom;

    (d)  with few exceptions, unattractive and outmoded grounds and stadia; and

    (e)  management infrastructure.

  3.4  Star players—should not be dual paid for international duties, have right of release and club compensation package in case of injury etc. "Fair deal for all".

  Player salaries cap suggest 50 per cent of previous season's income. Need to establish a clear criteria.

  3.5  The main point here, surely is that until there is a stable working relationship between and within the unions, sponsorship cannot be exploited to the full. No commercial sponsor wants to be seen to be involved in failure or to have his marketing opportunity changed or restricted by events or bodies outside their sphere of influence.


  4.1  Wakefield RFC have excellent relationships with Super League Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, in fact we have a non-trading agreement with them to develop a new stadia on the outskirts of Wakefield. Learn the lessons from Super League that overpaid players ruin the market. In our area players, spectators and commercial sponsors all have options between the codes.


  5.1  Both Wakefield RFC and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats have urgent need to improve facilities.

  5.2  We refute the viability of using soccer stadia — restricted dead ball areas, danger of narrow touch line areas, but very valid example McAlpine Stadium housing RL and soccer also Rugby Union one off matches and World Cup. Also more pitch hours due to surface development gives more opportunities to play mid week evenings. Popular for spectators and sponsors.

  5.3  We suggest the establishment of a national network of small (say up to 8,000 capacity) modern facilities for multi-sporting occasions, including rugby.


  6.1  We deplore the discouragement of contact sports in schools and the benefits of team activities and social tolerance that comes from rugby.

  6.2  We recently entered into an agreement with Sportsmatch/Trackwork funding of professional rugby coaching into local schools.

  6.3  We as a club are developing coaching of junior and youth sides.

  6.4  Governing bodies should fund development officers and academies directly through Premiership clubs Divisions 1 and 2.

  6.5  The need for professional clubs to be involved in the whole life cycle of rugby and not distance itself; otherwise there will be no succession. Funding from RFU to go to duties that meet their criteria, ie develop ground facilities and investment. One of the biggest tasks ahead of us is to increase participation at all levels, eg Touch Rugby Competitions. Leagues to create the structure for players and clubs to reach the highest level possible.

  6.6  The need for transparency and continuity between all levels of rugby. Suggest revamp completely development and academy rugby to have defined age groups.


  7.1  We do not know how a Super League franchise system works but it should not be ruled out for a professional game at the top level although it may be viewed as a closed shop to increase the level of investment in the game, there may need to be considerable safeguards put in place to justify the investment in facilities and management structure.

June 1999

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Prepared 14 December 1999