To be in or out

There were once a few friends or maybe we should call them acquaintances who all liked to play football. They all had their own teams and played with slightly different rules.  A few years back some of them realised that it was more fun to play each other as it got a bit boring and they didn’t really develop their game on their own so they invited some other teams to organise a common place where they all could play together.

This of course meant that they had to play according to the same rules and that took a while to sort out. It also meant that some didn’t have everything required to follow the new rules so everyone in the group had to chip in to help those teams out with pitches, kits or whatever was missing. In all the teams felt that yes it cost a little but we get more out of it as we now can improve our game by looking at them to see what they do better, we can sell or buy stuff to/from the other teams that they/we need to get better.  As a group we get better and improve the game for everyone.

After a few years other teams around the area saw that this seems to a pretty decent idea and wanted to join. More different rules and strange habits to incorporate into the game but why not. The first group of teams had realised that if we don’t keep growing at some point we will stop  improving as we all know the  other teams to well.  Again this cost a bit of money as suddenly there were more ideas to take into consideration and if we all wanted to improve we needed to play with the same rules. However, they came to the conclusion that some rules the teams could keep when they played among themselves as those was things they were used to and they didn’t really make a difference.

The membership fees increased and people in of team started to grumble a bit saying we did well on our own. However, they didn’t realise that the new pitch in their little village actually came from the membership money as well as the new better footballs,  that the fact that you no longer could tackle someone so they broke their leg actually was a result of having to change the laws to agree with everyone else.  They suddenly had more than 2 makes of football boots to chose from and the kits came in all sorts of colours.  They did like the new additions to the club house menu  as well…..  All this because there were more teams involved and they could share information and ideas with each other. Yes it came with a cost but it also came with lots of benefits. After all they had been allowed to keep the rule of playing with short sleeves until Christmas though they had to let some other stuff go.  But the important bit was that because they were in the organisation  they had their say! The other teams could not make  new rules without listening to them.

A few more years went by and more teams joined without much fuss. However, suddenly there were quite a few teams who joined that in some aspects weren’t on the same level as the others.  Most of the teams thought this was fine, by helping each other we will all improve, the game will improve with more, better players and this will make us even stronger against other similar organisations or big teams out in the world.

Again there were costs to get these new teams ready to take part in the game on the same conditions as everyone else. Some got there quicker, some took longer and places in our area were still getting new football pitches but people didn’t notice so much because the voices complaining about other teams getting pitches were louder than the ones saying look we got a new pitch as well.  Why is it that the voices complaining about what they didn’t get are always louder than the ones saying “look what we got”?

Some of the people who were complaining thought it would be better to leave the common organisation. We always did well on our own before and can still do it. We also have a good friend with many teams and  though he lives quite far away we can play with him. It will be cheaper that way.

The good friend, though still a good friend, says well, we rather prefer playing with many teams in one go. It’s much easier, we know exactly what rules to play to as they are all in one organisation. It makes it cheaper for us, we don’t need to change things around all the time. We can still play you but it will be to our rules and you will have to pay for any extra costs. You can’t really say much about that as we are big and you now actually are quite little…

The other teams in the organisation say more or less the same. We don’t want you to leave. You have been with us for a long time and we have learnt a lot from you. You have been part of shaping us to what we are and though we all, like you, have had to compromise at times at least we have had our say. However, if you leave you won’t have a say any longer and if you want to play with us it will be to our rules and you paying for any extra costs. You were a big team once but now there are many big teams and as an organisation we are much bigger than you.

We want all the teams in the organisation to improve and get better as we know this will improve all of us, help us compete against the other big players out there. For this to happen there is cost involved but in the long run we will all benefit, especially the poorer teams. The organisation says to the grumbling team ” you only seem interested in winning not improving as that would come with a cost.   You rather stand outside with no influence over the game than share the cost for all to improve.” There will be a time when you stand outside, you no longer win, you have no influence on the rules of the game and the costs will become higher and higher to keep up. But it’s your choice……..


That time of the year

When all the 6 week rugby fans appear.

Yes they do annoy me. But the ones who annoy me the most are the ones who say “we love rugby but we have no region to support so we support Wales”. The second bit is so much rubbish!!  I can understand the ones who only support their national team as that will be the case in any sport.  There will always and should be a bit of extra interest in the national team . Also who doesn’t watch odd sports during the Olympics just because their country is doing well.

Let me tell you a story

I grew up in north Sweden in a football loving family but since 2006 I live in Swansea. I grew up playing football myself, watching my brother play, hanging around the teams my dad coached.  I watched the local top team, division 3 at the time, and the senior men’s team in my club.  But I still had a favourite team in the Swedish top division because I enjoyed watching their style of football. I was 14 the first time I quickly passed through that town (which is 1 1/2 hours away by plane) on my way to play a football cup in Denmark. On top of that I had a favourite team in the English top league and still have, Liverpool FC. I was 41 the first and so far only time I have made it to Anfield.  I wish I could go more but every Saturday morning I coach my son’s U10s team and every Sunday morning I coach my daughter’s u14s team so it’s a bit tricky.   I have been to the odd Swans game as I love football but I only have so much time (and money)

When we moved to Wales and Swansea both my husband and I started to follow rugby. We started with Wales as the 6Nations are easily accessible. However as the love for the sport grew we wanted more.  We started to go and watch the region our area belonged to which was Ospreys. At the start we knew some of the players from Wales but some we had no idea who they were. I chatted to Justin Marshall and his wife at the school quite a few times before someone told me who they were. In the beginning, we used to bring a blanket for our youngest so he could go to sleep during the evening games.  However, quite quickly when we started to follow the Ospreys by being season ticket holders we got to know  who all the players were. We enjoy watching the young players coming through as well as watching the established players.  We enjoy it because we love the game of rugby and  by following the region we can  follow and support rugby on a day to day basis.

We also follow Wales, go to the odd game as they are too expensive and because of Roger Lewis I decided not pay for a ticket during last few years (managed to win 5 free tickets over the years).  But just watching Wales is very much a part time affair and if you like us love rugby it’s not enough.  From my background you should realise that I have much respect for grassroots and I do understand to a certain extent people who only watch their local club. I say to a certain extent because after all, for me, if you love the game I think there naturally is an interest to watch it played at a higher level. A season ticket with Ospreys is VERY affordable so price can’t be an issue compared to watch Wales.

Now to the important bit, we do this without being born in Wales. Our families are not from here, we are not in any way connected with the region before we moved here because of my husband’s job.  Some people are born into supporting a club/region but it is NOT a prerequisite!!! It can be a choice. If you decide that you don’t want to follow a region it’s your choice, it doesn’t have anything to do with “there  being no region for you”.

I don’t know how many Swans supporters who I have spoken to who has a second team in Premier League as they grew up when Swans played in a lower league and then chose a Premier League team to support. I have a favourite team in the Top 14 etc..

The regions will not succeed without the grassroots and Wales will not succeed without the regions. So if you are professing your love for rugby and say you support Wales but there is no region to  support you are not really a supporter of the Welsh National team either.  (And yes I do watch my local rugby team every now and then.)

Biting v headbutting or shit v skit

The Suarez saga has once again made me reflect on what value we put on actions and words. How they can vary, a lot, in different countries. I am honestly interested in why some consider biting so much worse than a headbutt, elbow towards the head just to give examples of fouls that happen off the ball so to say.

I remember when my eldest child was around two, there was a girl who used to bite. Her mother watched her and did all she could to get her to stop but it didn’t really help. Other children would hit out which was considered “normal”. At the time it seemed really bad that the girl was biting but why is it worse to bite someone than hit someone? In years gone by a bite could make us quite ill but these days tetanus injections and other types of medicine keeps us quite safe.

However following social media it is apparently much worse to bite someone that headbutt, tackle someone so they break a bone, elbow someone in the face, the list goes on. I really would like to know why? The pain and injuries that the other fouls can lead to are much worse. Why does biting make people so upset? I honestly don’t know! I am not condoning it in anyway but it has made me wonder on what grounds we judge? Physical injury? Career ending?  I have no problem seeing it as bad but why worse?

A different example but for me on a similar vein is swearing. In UK my kids come home from school saying sugar, honey, ice and tea as saying shit is BAD!  They then make a game out of it to get around the taboo. In Sweden, my native country, we use skit = shit an  auxiliary sentence modifier that emphasizes the meaning of an adjective eg skitbra which means “very good”.  Swearing in Sweden is generally not considered as very bad but more of a stage children/ teenagers go through. Many continue to use some swear words but again more looked upon as modifiers in the sentence. The use of four letter words are an issue mainly among the young as we get older we look upon the use as childish and uneducated. We generally don’t take offence as much as we judge the person using the word. Obviously there are situations where it can cause problems say if alcohol is involved and other issues are present causing tensions.  Another sport related word that I have learnt is really bad in the UK is “cheat”. I can’t even find an equivalent in Swedish.

Obviously there is a different view on swearing in the UK and in Sweden. I am sure there are loads of similar example from other countries. It is clear that we add values to words and actions, positive or negative,  differently. From what I have read in social media the main outrage regarding the Suarez bite has been in the UK. I haven’t read the media in other countries so I can’t say for sure that this is the case but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. In Arabic countries men hold hands to show affection and friendship, in Western countries this would not happen.

So if anyone has an answer please let me know, all I have seen so far on biting is that it’s worse just because and I shouldn’t have to ask……



Wales and rugby

The EGM has yet to take place but unfortunately I don’t think much will change. The clubs are intimidated by the WRU and some have  been promised things that are yet to happen so few are prepared to rock the boat. This is unfortunate as if they all the clubs talked to each other and rocked the boat it would surely capsize and we would hopefully start again with something better, well could it be worse…

For me twitter has been of interest over the last  few months when these issues have been more in the spotlight. Personally I took the decision 2-3 years ago not to hand over any of my money to the WRU. Two main reasons for this

1. The 4th Autumn International.  Do I need to say more? Gatland says he needs the players at least 2 weeks before a match to prepare. The WRU and Gatland wants a 4th AI that gives the regions less than a week to prepare for the European Cup.  Then Gatland criticises the regions for not performing in Europe…..

2. An interview  with Roger Lewis a few years back saying that Team Wales is the future of Welsh Rugby. No Roger, grassroots are the future of Welsh rugby as that is where your players will come from. As a grassroots coach I would feel betrayed by the WRU. Volunteers in all sports  (I coach football) spend many hours a week, sometimes in horrible conditions as there is no optional roof on our pitches,  making it possible for Wales to field a team not just this year but in years to come. But sorry grassroots rugby coaches what you do is not part of the future.

However, there is one thing  that some clubs have taken as a reason/excuse to stay faithful with the WRU and blame the regions for all ill.. that confuses me…

Compensation for players that they have developed and in their eyes,  the regions steal from them!?

So if I get it right, there are a number of clubs out there who think that they can have a professional rugby team in their town, village? They think they can find the sponsors build a stadium say  Parc Y Scarlets size..keep a business of that size going?

Also this said compensation that they want, I have been wondering where it will come from and the only solution I can see is that they want a transfer system like in football.  During two transfer windows any player can be bought regardless of contract as long as you pay enough money for him. This is the difference, in football the clubs/regions are paid for a player as long he’s under contract and from this payment compensation to the players’ previous clubs is paid is some cases. At the moment most professional rugby players will see through their contract and then sign a new contract which might be with another club. If so their previous club/region is not paid as the player is not bought as in football. There have been a few early release compensations paid, eg George North but they are few and far between.  So my conclusion can only be that they want rugby to be more like football as they would then be able to receive compensation…Because as we all know money doesn’t grow on trees and any form of compensation costs.

I have written a blog before where I talked about  the relationship between clubs and regions, Regional Rugby – Thoughts, so just a recap now. For me a local club would aim to have minis, juniors and a senior team. Some local clubs might be able to field teams in all age groups some not, but the aim is there. I can’t see that it should be the aim for every local club to have their own professional team, that just doesn’t work, anyone disagree?  This means that the professional tier will cover more than one local club while at the same time being the local clubs’ top tier. It is theirs, so when a player goes on to play professionally, maybe starts in the academy, they have reached the local clubs top tier!

Unless of course the local club rather keep the player, as they get no compensation, not encouraging him to reach his full potential as a rugby player which for some could be playing for Wales….









DAVID PICKERING is one of the most powerful men in Welsh rugby.

As chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union, the former international plays a key role in the running of an enterprise with an annual turnover of £61 million pounds.

But the performance of many of the other businesses he’s been involved with has been disastrous.

A raft of companies have gone bust — costing the public purse more than £4 million in unpaid taxes.

He also has personal county court judgments against him for unpaid debts.

One creditor has even taken a charge against his Cardiff home.

But Pickering has a new game plan.

He’s embarked on a career as a developer in West Wales with a reported half-share in a major industrial estate.

But aRebecca Television investigation reveals that all is not what it seems…


ONE OF David Pickering’s oldest companies is about to go under.


View original post 2,248 more words

Parent and coach

Last week a dilemma came up. I was asked if I would be willing to help out as an assistant coach with an U10 boys team next year. My son is the same age but plays for another club so that would mean moving him as well. He is a very decent football player so most local clubs would be very happy to have him.  With three children and one car we have to be at the same place on a Saturday morning though.  What to do?

As I have an UEFA B-licence I have invested a lot of my time to become a coach, I have done this as I really enjoy it.  I was helping out somewhat with my son’s current team but they were not really interested in my input as a coach, I was just another adult at the training sessions as the group is very big.   The way they decided to do things was not the way I would have done at all so I decided to leave as more parents had come forward to help anyway. Now there is another team interested in what I can offer.  (Both teams have coaches with leader’s awards but there are no C-certificates or B-licence coaches involved.)

I have decided to let my son do a few training sessions with the new team (he knows a few players there from rugby) and then let him decide what he wants to do, at the moment he wants  to stay with his old team. I do find it frustrating standing on the sideline not being able to say anything when I see things in training or in a match that could easily be coached and improved upon. I am a good parent though and keep quiet 🙂  However, maybe it’s good for my son to be coached by someone else (I already coach him once  a week in an independent academy). I also coach three teams already so better for me as well?   

There is also the issue that one team has a working club organisation behind it (his current team) while the other has a few teams but only in a few age groups.

Oh well, enjoyment for the little one is the main thing really so I will leave it to him. He will be playing rugby this weekend even though I have been told that there will be scouts at his football game from Swansea City. At the moment he wants to be a rugby player and in his blue scrum cap and number 7 on his back he’s doing really well. His favourite player is Justin Tipuric whom he tries to learn from and I am happy with that! 


Welsh Exodus

(Another oldie)
I was born in Sweden but have now lived in Wales for around 7 years. Football was the sport with which I grew up and that which I played for many a year. However, moving to South Wales, I couldn’t avoid Rugby Union, it was everywhere.I started off by watching Wales and was soon interested in regional rugby. The Ospreys are now my team and I get as much pleasure going to watch them at the Liberty Stadium as I did watching my local ice hockey or football team back home in younger days. I love match days at the Liberty and Millennium Stadiums, the expectations before a game, as well as the atmosphere around and in the stadium. I came late to rugby and still have much to learn, so love every minute of it. When it comes to rugby I am Welsh – if Wales played Sweden in rugby (highly unlikely!), I would support Wales.Over recent years, we have all heard the rumours about players being offered highly lucrative contracts to ply their trade in France. Last year saw James Hook, Lee Byrne and Gavin Henson sign contracts with French teams (though Henson returned). Regan King is another player who left Wales after 6 years for what I would assume to be a more financially rewarding contract than that on offer from Scarlets? This year we know that Luke Charteris is on his way. Aled Brew is also on the rumour list as well as a few others. Adam Jones has gone against the grain and decided to stay with the Ospreys.Do I mind? No, not really. I can understand that from the player’s personal point of view that it makes sense. I would even go as far as saying that it could be beneficial for the national team of Wales, at least in the short-term. My views on this issue are based on experiences in Sweden, a relatively small country with 9 million inhabitants. This makes it bigger than Wales with its 3 million inhabitants, but still not large by any standards.
Swedish football clubs could never compete with the big European clubs for the best Swedish football players. They leave to further themselves both professionally and financially. This has long been the case. It started in the 1950′s with the well know trio of Gre-No -Li (Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm) all of whom went to ACMilan.

Other well known players have left Sweden with prominent names including Glenn Strömberg, Glenn Hysen, Tomas Brolin, Fredrik Ljungberg, Henrik Larsson, Patrik Andersson, Olof Mellberg and, of course, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Sometimes when the Swedish national team plays, there are no players on the pitch who currently play in Sweden. Still, in 1994 Sweden came third in the World Cup, so success can come even in these circumstances.The fact that the best Swedish players leave is something we accept and live with. In many ways it probably improves the quality of Swedish football as many of these players return to Sweden either to end their playing careers or as managers, bringing with them experience and new ideas. This is why I say that Welsh rugby can benefit from players leaving for foreign climes and bringing new ideas and concepts to Wales.However, there is a major difference that must be accounted for. In Sweden, football has a sustainable base of players, in that there are around in total 200,000 registered players. There is no risk of shortage in the player pool. In Wales, however, there is a total of 50,557 registered rugby players, compared with England’s 2,549,196 or New Zealand’s 137,835, this despite being a country with a mere 4 million inhabitants.
Wales do not have a huge base of players with which to work, so the local clubs require all the help available to get young kids into the game and retained. This is why I say that the player exodus is good only in the short run. I have been to a presentation night with my little boy and seen what the presence of ‘big’ names can do for the younger players.I saw the happiness in my little boy’s eyes when he came to me shouting “Tommy Bowe is here!!” When prizes were handed out, there was a clear order in terms of whom the boys wanted to accept their prize from. Tommy Bowe first, Dan Biggar second and finally the local boy, Ben Lewis. Lewis, as a local youngster, has made it into the Ospreys squad, but in the eyes of the kids, that will never be the same as having played for Ireland, the Lions or Wales.I do think the Welsh Rugby Union need to think about their aspirations in the long run. Today, ‘Gatland’s law’, summarised by the quotes of the Welsh coach:-“The location of a player outside Wales will be a significant factor in determining whether he is selected for the national team.”“This is a common sense reminder to Welsh players that the ideal will be to play for a Welsh region.”“Playing for a region will allow them to be available for all Wales training and playing requirements and will safeguard their development and care.”“Given that we do not have the pool of players that other countries have, it is questionable whether we can say every player who plays outside Wales cannot play for Wales.”

In other words, it doesn’t stop the ‘big’ names from leaving Wales, they will be picked anyway. However it probably stops the rest if they want to play for Wales. As shown at the presentation night at my local rugby club it is the ‘big’ names that attract interest. Without players like James Hook and Lee Byrne playing in Wales where the younger generation has the chance to watch them on TV or live, I fear the absence of ‘heroes’ will make the situation for the local clubs much harder in terms of attracting new players.

In the long run I think it will be harder for Welsh rugby to keep a sustainable player base if the good players are free to leave without any repercussions, with others certain in the knowledge that a move will mean their no longer playing for Wales. I think that the WRU need to think long and hard about this. There are many other implications around this issue that impact the regions, not least the stance of Warren Gatland, but that’s for another day. This year has also seen an added condition with a salary cap put in place for the Welsh regions. The repercussions from this are yet to be seen.