1:58pm Friday 13th June 2014
WELSH Rugby Union chief executive David Pickering has pledged to listen to the concerns of member clubs at Sunday's extraordinary general meeting but says it is time for "voices of doom to be silenced".
The former Wales flanker has written an open letter in which he expresses his regret that some are criticising the way the governing body is being run.
An EGM takes place in Port Talbot on Sunday after 43 clubs – following a campaign by former chief executive David Moffett – raised a variety of concerns, including the restructuring of the Swalec Leagues, grassroots funding and the WRU's poor relationship with the four regions.
"Be under no illusion this weekend's EGM is of massive importance to the future of rugby in Wales at all levels – from the grassroots upwards," wrote Pickering.
"The WRU needs a firm mandate from the clubs to carry on working on their behalf and represent their interests.
"Of course there are justified arguments and serious questions from some clubs which need to be answered. That has always been the case and that robust and healthy debate will always continue: this is Welsh rugby after all!
"In Sunday's meeting we will engage directly with our clubs and we will answer all and any questions that are put. I urge as many of our clubs and their delegates as possible to attend in person if they are able.
"We are happy to listen and learn from any previous mistakes, but firmly believe the WRU is well set to take rugby in Wales to the next phase."
Pickering goes on to highlight the Union's investment in the Test game – with international success bringing financial rewards.
"The Welsh Rugby Union has boosted its turnover by some 40 per cent to more than £60million a year and record breaking distributions have flowed back into the game," he continued.
"With the national squad structure properly supported and funded for the professional era the spotlight has turned onto the community game.
"We have protected the core grant through economically challenging times, increased it to £2.6million a year from this July with the Premiership distributions up to £1.5million at the same time, funded the operation of the community game by up to £4million a year and focused more than 50 staff onto grassroots rugby through development teams and a club operations unit."
Pickering feels the governing body are doing a fine job, but admitted they need to engage more with their members.
He wrote: "The core point I want to make is that Welsh rugby is being cared for and nurtured and we believe it is in good health, but can get better still.
"Ok, let me be honest and say there seems to be evidence that we could have done more listening and talking directly to the clubs.
"This year a triumvirate of myself, the president (Dennis Gethin) and chief executive (Roger Lewis) have visited all the districts and come away encouraged by the level of debate we have taken part in.
"The clubs want us to keep listening and I can promise here and now that this will be an area we will focus on in future."
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