Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon, a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol

Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee

01/02/2024

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Alun Davies
Delyth Jewell Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Hefin David
Llyr Gruffydd
Tom Giffard

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Abi Tierney Undeb Rygbi Cymru
Welsh Rugby Union
David Chapman UKHospitality
UKHospitality
Huw Llywelyn Davies Cyn sylwebydd rygbi
Former rugby commentator
Nigel Walker Undeb Rygbi Cymru
Welsh Rugby Union
Professor Richard Haynes Prifysgol Sterling
University of Stirling
Seimon Williams Awdur 'Welsh Rugby: What Went Wrong'
Author of 'Welsh Rugby: What Went Wrong'

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Lleu Williams Clerc
Clerk
Rhea James Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Stephen Davies Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:31.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:31.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da. Hoffwn groesawu'r Aelodau i'r cyfarfod hwn o'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon, a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol. Oes gan unrhyw Aelodau fuddiannau i'w datgan? Dwi ddim yn gweld bod. Felly, fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen. Dŷn ni wedi derbyn ymddiheuriadau gan Carolyn Thomas y bore ma.

Good morning. I'd like to welcome Members to this meeting of the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee. Do Members have any interests to declare? I can't see any. So, we move on. We've received apologies from Carolyn Thomas this morning.

2. Hawliau darlledu rygbi'r Chwe Gwlad: sesiwn dystiolaeth gydag Undeb Rygbi Cymru (1)
2. Six Nations rugby broadcasting rights: evidence session with the Welsh Rugby Union (1)

Fe wnawn ni symud at eitem 2. Dŷn ni'n edrych ar hawliau darlledu rygbi'r chwe gwlad. Yn gyntaf, buaswn i'n hoffi croesawu ein tystion o Undeb Rygbi Cymru. Fe wnaf i ofyn iddyn nhw gyflwyno eu hunain ar gyfer y record.

We'll move to item 2. We're looking at rugby broadcasting rights for the six nations. First of all, I'd like to welcome our witnesses from the Welsh Rugby Union. I'll ask them to introduce themselves for the record.

I'll go to you first, Nigel. I'll go from left to right.

Nigel Walker, executive director of rugby at the Welsh Rugby Union.

Thank you. I'm Abi Tierney. I'm the chief executive at Welsh Rugby Union.

Thank you, both, so much for making the time to come in and talk to us. Firstly, could you talk us through, please, how, as you see it, the market for sports rights has changed since the listed events regime was first introduced, and how that's developed?

As you probably know, I worked for BBC Wales for nine or 10 years and I was the person responsible for negotiating sports rights, so I do have a little bit of experience. I wouldn't describe myself an expert—a little bit of experience. I think, over the years, the last 20, 30 years, if you want me to talk over that period, sports rights have become more valuable, certainly. If you look at 10 years ago, there was an upsurge, particularly in football. Sports rights—the fees paid have gone through the roof. In more recent times, it's become more difficult, and the market has become more difficult. Football is still bucking the trend—at least the Premier League is bucking the trend, not all the football, but the Premier League is bucking the trend—but other sports have found it much more difficult over the last five or six years in particular. 

There are more players in the market, depending on your sport. We've been through Sky, we've been through BT, we've been through TNT. TNT were BT until recently, effectively. And then there are other players like Amazon and Netflix. And you'd think that it would be more vibrant and the sums would be getting bigger and bigger and bigger year on year, but, because of the economic headwinds that are there, it's become much more difficult. Certainly, our experience in rugby over the last two or three years in particular, selling sports rights, whether it'd be the autumn internationals, whether it'd be the United Rugby Championship, whether it would be premiership rugby in England, whether it'd be European professional club rugby, there's a downward trend, and the offers being made over the last 12 months in particular are showing a 30 per cent downturn on what those organisations were able to secure three or four years ago.

The only thing I'd add—that's a great summary, and we were just talking about it this morning—is how people are consuming their content and media. I was trying to remember the last time I actually watched something that was live, and it was probably over Christmas, maybe. We watch it on demand, we watch it when it suits us, and that has also changed the dynamic. We were looking at some stats where 5 per cent, year on year, the live tv viewing has been dropping and people are choosing to use much more flexible demand-driven tv. So, that's another dynamic. 

No, no, and, actually, the last thing I watched live was sport. But it changes the—

The overall ecosystem though, in terms of how people choose—. So, if you take something like—. My children watch the National Football League now in a way that they wouldn't have been able to previously, and it's provided in a way that they can access.

09:35

The FA Cup would be on its knees if it wasn't for the BBC and ITV broadcasting it, wouldn't it?

The FA Cup's an interesting one, and I'm hesitating, because football's not my game, in theory—

No, but we all saw the decline of the FA Cup from the days that we will remember, growing up in the 1970s—

—when it papered Saturday, the build-up and all of that sort of stuff, breathless people walking along streets talking to other breathless people. It's not the same, is it?

And if I could bracket us together, when I was a child, FA Cup final day started at 9 o'clock—

—but it was virtually the only live football game on tv at that time, if you compare it with today, which is why the FA Cup has struggled. The premiership clubs, the big hitters, the top eight or 10 clubs, they don't even field their strongest side until they get to quarter final, semifinal, final stage. So, lots of things have changed over the years, and I would say we're in a perfect storm at the moment, and that's why we need to tread carefully.

Nigel, you'd said to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee that public service broadcasters need to be competitive, but you said that does not necessarily mean outbidding their opponents. Could you talk us through, please, how else you think that they could bid in a competitive way?

I'll start, and I'm sure Abi will supplement what I say. Public service broadcasters have reach, and although so-called linear television isn't the slam dunk it was 20 years ago, 30 years ago, the year that we were talking about, it still has greater reach. If they are must-see moments, you're likely to get an audience in multiple millions on free-to-air television, and that's why it's such an attractive proposition. The balance we must strike is between that reach and pounds, shillings and pence, because if you go totally for reach, the discrepancy between what you could get between free-to-air and pay tv is so large you won't make it up, so you get greater reach, but the money won't go as far, and, when you look at the extent of our programmes, we need a certain level of income in order to fulfil our obligations with those programmes.

I have nothing to add to that.

Ocê, fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen at Llyr.

We'll move on to Llyr.

Diolch yn fawr. Bore da, bawb.

Thank you very much. Good morning, everyone.

I could ask you what do you think the role of Welsh rugby at six nations, particularly, is to the national life of Wales, but I think we're all agreed on its significance. But I was looking at the criteria for listed events from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and it lists an event that's

'generally felt to have special national resonance'.

Well, there's no doubt that six nations rugby and Wales games in that respect tick that box;

'an element which serves to unite the nation,'

and we all come together in a way that we rarely do when it comes to the rugby;

'a shared point on the national calendar'

it's been heavily trailed already, hasn't it, the match on Saturday, every morning for the last week, they've been speaking of little else, and of interest to those who don't—not solely of interest, that's what I was trying to say,

'not solely of interest to those who follow the sport in question.'

Well, there are people who will watch Wales in the six nations and not watch any other rugby throughout the year. So, given that it ticks all of the boxes, surely that tells us that these matches really should be accessible to everyone on free-to-view television. You can't argue against that, can you?

Do you want to—?

Do you want me to—? I think it goes back to Nigel's point on the balance here, and the fact that, actually, we've got to balance the continued investment in Welsh rugby, for which we're heavily reliant on the money that we get from media rights. A significant amount of the money that goes to front line, community, regions and the national game comes from that. So, we absolutely need to strike a balance between the assessment on what reach we need to give with the investment in the game, because, without this investment, we would really struggle to continue to survive as a union.

So, how do you strike that balance, then, because it isn't easy, is it? We all want, and you would want, rugby to be freely available and accessible to everyone, but you also want the money that comes with potentially not allowing that to happen. There will be an impact, will there not, on participation levels if rugby goes behind a paywall—the more rugby you watch, surely, the more people play it.

09:40

There is a correlation between those two things, absolutely. I think it's worth saying, first of all, we're not responsible for the list, to state the obvious, because I think it's important to state that. If that list were drawn up today—it's been in existence for quite some time and it hasn't changed for quite some time—I'm not sure its composition would be the same. Even though it wouldn't be my decision, it's worth stating that. And what we're not saying—he says, thinking very carefully—is that we are going to select, as part of the six nations negotiating team, a pay-per-view broadcaster. What we are saying is that, if you take that off the table, you take the tension and the competition out of the market, and that would make it really difficult, because then the free-to-air broadcasters would know that they could pitch at a level that we would be forced to take without the competition, and then we’d have the things that you’re talking about—the sort of things that you wouldn’t want to see happen would happen as an unintended consequence, and that’s our position.

Yes, and that's reflected in some of the written evidence that you've provided, and I think it is important that people understand, I suppose, the value of that tension. But there is no getting away from the fact that, if rugby goes behind a paywall, then we've seen in other sports, haven't we, an impact in terms of participation levels, in terms of public interest and in terms of an impact on other sources of revenue as a consequence of maybe diminished interest and involvement. 

Hello—can you hear me now?

There you go, sorry about that—

As Nigel said that is the—. You've really captured and summed it up there; that's the balance we're going to need to strike. I think the other important point is that the money that we get from this is also invested in increasing participation and access by investing in the community game and in our player pathways et cetera. So, it is that fine balance between the two—it’s very difficult.

Ocê, diolch. Fe wnawn ni symud—.

Okay, thank you. We'll move on—.

Oh, yes, Tom. You come in and then we'll go to Hefin. Tom.

Sorry, I'm just curious to pick up on that point you mentioned about almost having that leverage, if you like, in terms of broadcasters knowing that the event is listed and therefore needs to be free-to-air. Surely, you must have some degree of evidence that sporting events that are already listed don't garner the kind of commercial income that you're looking for. So, have you done a cost analysis on the impact that the FA Cup final or the World Cup final would have on the ability to gain that? Have you got a figure that you've worked out that perhaps we would be losing x amount if we lost that leverage?

The simple answer is 'no'. It's such a fluid market and it changes, or, at least, in the last three or four years, it’s changed so quickly. We haven’t done that analysis. But when we—'we' as part of the collective—put the rights on the market, which will happen some time in 2024—I don’t think the date has been specified—when we get the bids, that’s when you will do the calculation: you’ll work out what it means today so that you’re making a decision based on actual data and actual evidence.

Can I just add to that? Thank you. What we do know is that we've currently been negotiating for the autumn nations series, so, when Malcolm—Nigel—was describing the challenges within the market, we have been really feeling that there. So, we know how difficult the market is, so that's actually given us some really good evidence base for what we're going to be facing when we come with this—. I know they're different, but it's still rugby and so we understand some of the challenges.

09:45

Yes, I understand that. Sorry, just to pick up on what you were saying there, Nigel, you would assess that when you got those bids in and you'd be able to see that difference. Presumably, when the current six nations rights were negotiated, there would have been offers in that negotiation period from premium, if you like, broadcasters, or pay-to-air broadcasters: (a) were there, and (b) can you give us a flavour of how much, perhaps, over and above the free-to-air offer they would have offered?

I wasn't employed by the union at the time, but I understand there was at least one offer, possibly two offers, from pay tv broadcasters, and the decision was taken that the difference was not enough to make up for the reach. And that's the equation that we talked about earlier.

Okay. And I know that Alun wants to come in before we go to Hefin, but before that, quickly, when you were assessing those bids, it wouldn't necessarily be that you'd go to the highest bidder, you'd be making lots of different calculations, not just in terms of cost, but different types of values.

That's correct.

And it might be a combination of bidders as well, so that we get a good balance, a good mix.

Like when ITV and the BBC—. Yes, okay. Thank you. We're going to go to Alun and then I'll come to Hefin. Alun.

Yes, I just want to come back on something that Nigel mentioned, the correlation between access to sport in terms of the viewers and also their participation and the rest of it. And that's quite an interesting correlation, isn't it? Because you're right, and I think we all get a bit dewy-eyed, don't we, when we talk about the six nations and all of this; my speech yesterday was all about the 1980 game that I saw against France, for the first time. And it's easy just to go down that route, I accept that. But if we look at what happened with cricket, I think cricket is a really interesting example. I've just renewed my membership at Glamorgan, and I've got junior membership for my son, to take him there and I say, 'Sit down, watch this now', and he's got zero appreciation of it—zero appreciation of cricket. He hasn't seen a game, essentially, because there hasn't been the access on tv. And I'm thinking: do we want a generation of children to potentially grow up where international rugby union isn't a fixture in their lives? And you were one of my heroes, Nigel. Sitting here with you and Ieuan last year, I was in a terrible state. [Laughter.]

Don't soft-soap me. [Laughter.]

But you're in danger—. Yes, I think, obviously, the money is important—and I think Abi's letter yesterday was a very important letter and I've got no issue with any of that—but the price you pay is the loss of those icons and the loss of that place in our life. There must be other grandmothers like mine for whom that is a fixture, and she's waiting; she's up at 9 o'clock in the morning, she's had her toast, she's waiting for kick-off. And you lose that fixture in your national life, and then you lose the icons, you lose the role models, you lose the sense of who we are, and then rugby union loses far more than it gains in terms of the payments that it receives from a potential broadcaster. Now, I accept that broadcasting is completely different to when we were growing up and playing, and the rest of it, that's all absolutely the case, but there's still a sense of the nation coming together. 

And I think that the value of it, that's something that Hefin's going to want to go into as well. 

I think it's difficult to argue against the case that you make, and it's certainly a point that would be on the table and considered at that time. And if—and it's a 20 ft high 'if'—the decision was made to go to a pay-per-view broadcaster, outside of highlights being on terrestrial television, which would be one key thing, the way that young people consume their sport would also be taken into consideration. So, could there be clips on YouTube, on Facebook? And I'm not an expert in this area, but would there be other ways of providing the sport that we love, the competition that we love, to younger viewers, and not-so-young viewers? That would be a consideration.

One-word answer: yes.

Diolch. Oh, sorry, Abi, did you want to add something?

I think it's how we tell those stories, isn't it, about the role models, because Nigel was also one of my heroes, and to be sat next to him—. I think it's the stories we tell, and I use the example of NFL; my kids love Mahomes, having never seen an NFL game, because of the stories that are told using Netflix, using—. So, who are our future heroes? And I think we've got to think much more creatively about how we invest in some of that storytelling in a really powerful way, because we all need our heroes.

09:50

Thank you. Diolch. Fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen at Hefin.

Thank you. We'll move on to Hefin.

I'd like to come back to the point Abi made in a second, but first of all, can I just clarify: how influential is the WRU over UK Government policies? If you went to the UK Government and changed your view, would the UK Government be more receptive?

An interesting question. I think one of the things within the six nations that's really important to think about is that we're part of a collective there, and, you know, we work really closely with our counterparts. So, for us to kind of—. I'm not sure how much influence we would have if we were unilaterally to do that, No. 1, and unilaterally to do that without the support of our other shareholders—

But if, collectively, the six nations' unions said together, would that be influential over the UK Government?

I think it absolutely would be, but I also think, having had the conversations, we would struggle to survive as a tournament, so it's kind of quite hypothetical from that perspective.

Okay. So, it's pointless trying to persuade you to change your mind and to change the Government's mind, then?

I don't think it's the right thing to do. I think we've got to work on how we get the right balance, yes.

Okay, that's fine. Then I'll try some emotive arguments, in that case. I was in school with Huw Bevan; our mutual friend Huw Bevan was my games teacher, and he kept me as far away from rugby as possible, and I was glad. But it was when I was a little bit older, it was 19—. I'll tell you the day, it was 19 February 1994, and a certain Nigel Walker and Scott Quinnell were scoring in the Wales versus France game. I happened to walk past the telly my dad was watching, and I think it was actually Nigel Walker's try, I sat down and started watching, and my love of rugby began at that moment—at that very moment. It was by chance it was on tv, and if it hadn't been on tv—and my dad certainly wouldn't have paid for Sky—I wouldn't have got any kind of love for rugby at all, certainly from that point. So, if we're going to inspire young players—and also, I would add, Huw Bevan still didn't want me in the rugby team—if we're going to inspire young players to engage, surely those chance opportunities need to be there, and, effectively, you're working that out of the system.

I was only seven in 1994, by the way. [Laughter.]

It's a good argument, and I'd just refer you to the answer that Abi gave a moment or two ago: if the decision were taken, we'd just have to work incredibly hard to create heroes and heroines in different ways, and to bring the appeal of the championship to as wide an audience as possible, by being creative and innovative, and that's all—

I'm not even thinking of those heroes that Abi mentioned, I'm actually thinking of the players who play for Pontypridd or Caerphilly or Bargoed; you know, they would be inspired in the same way. We're already struggling with numbers of male players and that's just going to impact it, though, isn't it?

Yes, and I—. We'll reiterate. I don't know if any of you watched Full Contact. Yes. So, that's last year's six nations series on Netflix. Episode 4 has a particular focus on Wales. The stories that come out of that about, you know, the players, about those inspirational stories, I think are really powerful. And that's where we've got to get really creative and get that balance right, because that's kind of how younger generations are choosing to consume a lot of their sport, as well as walking past. So, it's providing so many different entrances in, so many different opportunities that are beyond—and include—but are beyond walking past your dad on that Saturday afternoon.

You can see the cultural issue, though, can't you? I mean, Squidge Rugby is what I consume for my information on rugby these days; it's a fantastic site. But when I'm going to watch it, when I'm going to watch the game, I'm going to Gilfach Workmen's Club tomorrow—sorry, on Saturday—to watch the rugby there. We used to go to the stadium; I can't afford to do that any more. And the problem we've got there is that if rugby is going behind various different paywalls, that workmen's club can't afford to pay for public broadcasting rights within their club from a range of different broadcasters for different sports. And the regular sport watched there is football, therefore, they're only going to be able to afford that. They won't be able to show the six nations in Gilfach workies. That has a huge impact on the hospitality sector, particularly that lower end that is the co-operative sector, which is really reliant and supports those lower income people who want to watch rugby just next door, in the workmen's club next door.

09:55

We're going to be violently agreeing on some of this. We recognise that and that will absolutely be part of our consideration, looking at the number of different players in the market as we go through the bidding process, and trying to make sure that we're not making that access too complicated or unaffordable.

Well, put it this way: if you go for Amazon, it's not going to be shown in the workies, because they can't afford it.

As I say, that is the kind of thing that we will need to consider really carefully as we go through the process.

But it isn't reliant on what you consider, because Sky Sports are their broadcaster of choice because they show the Premier League. They can't afford another subscription. It really is that simple. And Gilfach, then, loses the main place people go to watch the rugby.

I think it's important to say, and this is a repeat, that we're not advocating that the best thing for rugby is to be behind the paywall. That's not what we're advocating. What we're saying is: if you remove the prospect of a pay tv bidder or bidders, that will reduce the eventual figure that we then have to work with. That's our argument, and I think it's important—. I don't think there's too much disagreement around the table here.

Okay. I think there probably is, or there will be, when the committee meets in private session. And the final thing is: the impact of this will have an impact on those people on lower incomes disproportionately. That's undoubtedly the case, isn't it?

We will repeat: our intention is to strike the right balance and ensure we get the best possible investment into Welsh rugby, because the other thing we want, for people who are watching it, whether it's in their home or whether it's in the club, is we want successful rugby. We want rugby that has great players, that has fantastic games to watch, and to do that we need to be able to have the money to invest in rugby at all levels, and that's what we really want to achieve through this process.

Okay, diolch. Just before we move on to Alun, could I check—? Would your principal concern of this proposal be the idea of it only affecting the Wales games? Would you be less concerned if all of the six nations—? I know this is a hypothetical within a hypothetical, but would that be less of a concern?

The fact that it's collective, it's one and the same thing for us. The six CEOs will sit down with the CEO of six nations rugby. They will assess the bids and they will come to a view, and it will be for the entire tournament—a range of broadcasters for the entire tournament. Has that answered your question?

I think if it was only Wales, we would take—. I can't imagine a world in which the other five nations say that if we get a lower bid, we would have to take our full share of any impact of that. It would disproportionately impact Wales if it was only Wales as well. So, both of those things are really challenging.

Okay, thank you.

Gwnawn ni symud ymlaen at Alun.

We'll move on to Alun.

I completely accept that. I've got no issue with that. I've no issue with the argument you're making either, as it happens. I think the tension there is clear, and it is a part of the negotiation, and I think moving the six nations onto a list of protected events would have an impact on the market value. I don't disagree with your analysis on that at all.

I think where the conversation sits is somewhere about the place of the game in the country and the community. Nigel, you remember from your time at the BBC the enormous viewing figures for rugby union, and when I worked at S4C, I was looking down the overnight figures and it was always rugby. Whenever there was a game played, it was rugby. I guess that remains the same. The regional games are now on Friday and Saturday, and I watch Ebbw Vale on a Thursday every so often. And it's fundamental to what the broadcasters in Wales require in order to maintain their business models as well. So, there is an interest there from the broadcasters to maintain the integrity of that service. I don't think the tension is immediately affected in that way, because, without Welsh rugby, I can't see either S4C or the BBC maintaining their reach numbers. So, I think there's a pressure on them as well. 

So, we're looking at how do we build the game, and I think there is a joint interest in that; I don't think there's any disagreement there. And, for me, one of the things I found really surprising earlier, to go back to last year, is there were very few people, Nigel—when you were sitting here a year ago—there were very few people out there supporting you. And you must have felt it. And I was thinking, why is that wall of silence around the WRU at this point, because it's been one of the most significant institutions throughout my life, long before this place existed? And I think there's a sense of the game, perhaps, moving away from people, and, as Hefin indicated, the cost—if I was to take my child to see Scotland on Saturday, you're looking at, probably, £200 or something for that, and then you're going to buy drinks and the rest of it. You're looking at an enormous cost to watch the game. I recognise the reasons for that; I don't have any issue with it, as it happens, although I do worry about it. When you take the game to another sphere again, you break another link with the people who sustain it, and the people who were standing on the bank in Ebbw Vale on Saturday watching the Neath game. You're breaking that link again, and my concern is for the long-term future of the game.

10:00

And it won't surprise you to know that we are very aware of the points that you make. We are cognisant of the fact that we need to re-engage in some areas. You referred to when I was here 12 months ago. It was a lonely place, and it was a lonely place for a while. The Welsh Rugby Union is not the only national governing body of sport that finds it difficult to engage with those it should do. We were in a strategy day just yesterday, where the entire executives were sat around the table talking about issues such as the one that you raise. We know we need to move further. We know there are some fans, some potential fans, who are either not in love with the WRU, or have fallen out of love with the WRU, and are not happy with some of the decisions they have made, and don't feel that they're communicated with well enough. All of these things were discussed. All of those things are on the table. And I think what you will see, and supporters, or potential supporters, throughout this great land of ours will see, is a change. It's going to take a while. 

The change has started. When we were here last week, we talked about some of those changes. But it goes beyond governance. It goes beyond understanding the audience we're trying to reach at all levels, irrespective of background or class, or whether they were brought up in Bala or Bangor or Cardiff—I'm not going to go through every single town in Wales. [Laughter.] That doesn't matter. But we feel it deeply, and we know we've got a special place in the hearts, the lives of people in Wales, and outside of Wales, and we take that responsibility incredibly seriously. I'm going to stop there, because I could go on. I don't know whether you want to add—.

I completely accept the points you make. I was in Brussels last week, so I wasn't able to be here, but the impression I've gained, reading the paperwork, and watching what's gone on over the last year, is that you're right, there has been a significant change in the WRU, and that, I think, is to be welcomed by everybody because we want you to succeed. We want rugby to succeed. And I think that's something that unites us all in the Chamber, even. 

So, the question is: how does that happen? I was interested, Abi, in your words in the letter you wrote to the committee—I think you said 'devastating' impact on Welsh rugby. That's quite a word to use over an issue about sport rights. And I'd be grateful if you could run through what you think that impact would be, and why you used that word. 

Yes. Let me just build slightly on Nigel's point as well, because one of the things—. I chose to come and do this job because rugby matters more in Wales. You know, it really, genuinely—

It genuinely does. And so I carry that heavily, actually, but in a way that I really understand that, and we need to do better, and we need to rebuild the confidence and the trust and the engagement, and that’s absolutely the No. 1 priority, and was right at the heart of the things that we talked about yesterday.

So, if I give you an idea of just how important the media rights are, and I've put some numbers in here. So, our total revenue is approximately £90 million a year, and our media rights revenue has been, on average, about £20 million, and of the money that goes outside of the stadium and our staffing costs and everything, three quarters of our spend goes into what I would call community and regional games—that's about £62 million. So, you can see what an impact losing even a small amount of that £20 million is. And that is against rising costs across the board, with the inflation that that's driving. So, if we were to get less in that media revenue, that's less money we can invest in Welsh rugby. And it's not a small amount of our revenue, and we had the conversation last week about the impact of our loans and all of those things—we would struggle to survive. So, that's why it's devastating. And, actually, I used that word—. I did think about that word, but I can't think about any other word. When I worked in the commercial sector, if I was looking at that, and I was thinking that, even losing 20 per cent, 30 per cent of that would mean massive impact across the game.

10:05

Look, I fully understand any commercial operator would not want limitations on what they can negotiate and their negotiating position. I completely accept that. I have no issue with that at all. But the £20 million figure you quoted is a figure that, at the moment, is being delivered by free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters, largely. So, there's no reason to believe that you would lose 20 per cent or 30 per cent of the current figure. The point where I accepted Nigel's point earlier is that the potential for growth would probably be affected. So, you wouldn't see the growth in the future, and I accept that. I think that's a reasonable argument to make. But it's difficult to argue that you'd see it going backwards from where it is today.

I think our argument is, if we were to move onto the A list, the tension would be taken out and therefore they would bid, potentially, lower because they wouldn't have to be competing. So, that's the challenge, so that's where you could lose it.

The pressures that we discussed earlier, on BBC and S4C in our context in Wales, are still great. Nigel.

Yes. What I will say is, when ITV, Channel 4 and BBC appeared before the select committee in the House of Commons, they talked, quite graphically, about the pressures that they were facing, and the suggestion was that they wouldn't have the moneys that they had three or four years ago, and that's what it's based on.

Nigel, nobody appears before a parliamentary committee and says they've got too much money.

I understand that too.

It is one of those things. Okay, I appreciate all your points. So, where do we go? Because as representatives—it's one thing that does engage the public, and the public care. They care deeply about Welsh rugby, and they care deeply about their ability to access it. Now, where do we go from here? I understand the points, and Steve Phillips made this point when he was in front of committee some years ago, because there are different demands, aren't there? Now, we've all been in the west car park in Twickenham before a game, and it's a very different experience to walking down Westgate Street and Church Street into the stadium. It's a very different environment. We've made that fantastic walk down to Murrayfield to watch a game. We've all done that. It's a different experience again, it's it? And I'm thinking, where are the needs of the average Welsh rugby fan and how do we protect those? In the way that Hefin was speaking about Gilfach, I can name a series of clubs and pubs in Tredegar and Blaenau Gwent who are in the same position, who rely on Saturday to fill the place up, and they want to see it. But I can also think of the people who won't be in the pub watching it. The older population will be sitting at home, who've been reading the papers, waiting for the game, the team announcement and all of that, the build-up to the match, and who desperately want to watch it. They were watching the under-20s game on Friday, and then looking forward to the game on Saturday. And now we've got the women's six nations. I went to my first women's game last year—I thought it was fantastic, really good, and it's great to see the game building up. My daughter loves rugby union; she wants to see those new heroines and heroes. Where do they go?

10:10

I think, firstly, all of that will be part of the bidding process. So, thinking about how do we, you know, best value, in the overall sense of the word, the rugby ecosystem, in the bigger sense, and that is about that reach, plus investment, and that will be the bidding process. And allowing us to go through that bidding process, bearing in mind that bigger picture you've described, is the freedom that we need, to be able to play to, I think, get the right balance between the two—of everything you've said—because rugby really matters, and it matters to so many people, and we need to get that balance right.

And the only thing I'd add to that is, we're aware that rugby needs to be visible, but it needs to be viable, and international matches, some would say, are expensive, but they're not all priced at the same level.

So, we've tried to be creative in what we've done. So, for example, if you're a family and you wanted to go and watch Italy—. I'm not being naïve to say everybody could afford to take their family—that's not what I'm saying—

—but it's more affordable than a family going to see Wales play England, for example. And if you look around the UK in particular, I think the prices that are charged to go to the national stadium are competitive, they're on a par, and cheaper, in some cases. I'm not—

And one of the things I was really pleased to see—and I'm new, so I'm looking at this data for the first time—is as a result of some of the work that Nigel and the team have done, to really look at the ticketing prices, and the demand, we've seen a really significant increase in family and under-17s coming to this six nations series, because of the concessions we've put in place, so it's great to see that, actually. We're managing to reach those new generations.

It's a different crowd to the old five nations crowds, I accept that, and it's great to see. You know, you hear the voices, the children's voices, in the stadium on the second tier, in an autumn international game—I think that's all fantastic. My worry is the isolation of the game, and my worry is what happened to cricket.

And we are aware of the potential pitfalls—

I know. I'll leave it at that. We could talk about this all day.

Diolch. Abi, as you were saying that, I was just thinking, how many weeks into the role are you now?

This is my fourth week, so three and a half.

So, in those four weeks, you've appeared before us twice, so you're going to start to think that that's like a regular thing: 'Oh, and when am I going to be before the culture committee next?' We do appreciate it. Thank you.

Thank you. I just wanted to stick on the point Alun was making, about the importance of international rugby and the various other strands. I know we had a discussion last week about the finances of the regions and so on. Do you think Welsh rugby is too reliant on the broadcasting revenue from the six nations? Does it need to diversify as an income stream, so that it's not overly reliant on the need for a larger income stream from there?

It was really interesting, because diversification was one of the things we talked about in the strategy day yesterday, and I think finances are not sustainable at the moment. So, looking at how we can grow our revenues is a really important part of our strategy, going forward. Whilst also, actually, really focusing on what our core purpose is, which is to provide access and engagement with rugby across the broadest reach we possibly can. So, it's absolutely—. We need to make sure we've got a strong—

So, actually—

Yes. So, is some of it diversification or is some of it growing revenues in different ways? So, thinking about, at the moment, we've seen, actually, a drop in the numbers of people who go and watch regional games, so how can we work collaboratively—and I've had some really positive meetings with my regional colleagues—to support them in a way that enables them to have really strong teams and great offers there, because that, actually, will increase the overall sustainability of the game? So, some of it's about diversification, some of it's about growing the fan base, engaging and extending the fan base for people that wouldn't usually engage and go and watch a game in their region. So, that's one example.

I think you've seen some of the things that have been done. One of the things we're looking at is how can we encourage people to come to the stadium for longer at games—what does that look like. What does that family offering look like is another example. So, there are lots of different ways. We're talking a lot to the merchandising. There are so many different things that we can do, but it's all about growing that revenue in a sustainable way, but that it doesn't take away from it's such a big portion of our revenue, that doesn't mean we're asking the Welsh population to spend more money on other things as well. So, it's just that balance. But that hopefully gives you some idea.

10:15

I appreciate the point about the regions, and I don't want to get—

The women's game is another great example.

Sorry, I should have had that right at the top. So, we've seen the growth in women's sport, we've seen—. And there have been some fantastic reports on how much that is growing. So, that's another. So, diversification in that way as well is really important—and Alun mentioned that.

On the regions, just before I move on, I think you've got four individual problems, probably, across the four regions. I don't think there's a regional fix-all approach. When I've been to see Ospreys games in a quarter-empty Liberty Stadium, it's not a great experience, if I'm honest. And then I walk into the club shop, and three-quarters of it is Swansea City merchandise—and you mentioned about merchandising—and the Ospreys stuff is at the back, and it doesn't always feel like there's the parity. I know there's a wider discussion about whether that's the best location for the Ospreys in general, and other regions will have their own opinions. But I think it speaks to a malaise in the interest levels of the people of Wales, and the actual difference we've talked about already, between international rugby, six nations rugby—people really, really care. And it feels like they don't really care as much, frankly, about the regions. Is that a fair assessment?

I wouldn't have characterised it in quite that way, but I know the point you're making. And to Abi's point, it's not the Ospreys' problem, it's not Cardiff's problem, it's not the Dragons' problem, it's not the Scarlets' problem, it's our problem—our problem. And that's the way that we've entered into discussions, certainly in recent weeks, during my time as interim CEO, because we need the whole of Welsh rugby to be successful. And you've highlighted some problems, or potential problems, at the Ospreys. They've got a new CEO; he's got good ideas. We're going to support them, to the best of our ability, to make sure that we have international rugby that is successful—that's men and women—and that the regional game, and all that supports the international game, has a better chance of being successful too.

Thank you. I just wanted to go into the commercial negotiations aspect. You've both talked about the importance of rugby. I think, Abi, you put it best when you said, 'Rugby matters more in Wales'—that's why you're in this job. Because the way in which six nations rights are negotiated across the six participants in the tournament, how can you ensure that that bespoke voice of Wales is fed into that, so that you're not coming at the highest bidder, which might be a more material concern to us in Wales, in a way that perhaps some of the other nations wouldn't think?

That's a really good question, Tom. Nigel has been involved in this longer than I have. But we are a shareholder of the six nations, and I sit as a member of the six nations board. I will be absolutely making sure our voice is heard and that we're punching well above our weight in that process. And I've been given that assurance in terms of the level of engagement we will get from the six nations team. It isn't done over there to us, we're very much round the table as part of those discussions, right the way from what is the assessment and the criteria going to be for assessing the bids, right the way through to then engaging and choosing which ones strike the right balance. So, we'll be very much part of the conversation.

But from hearing the evidence you've given so far, I think there's an acceptance that the free-to-air offer brings that additional visibility, and that's very, very important, because of the place rugby holds in Wales. But if you've got five other nations that are more interested in the financial number at the end of it, that's really difficult for you as a sole voice to counteract that, isn't it?

Yes, it will be difficult. But talking to my peers around the table, I would say that they are facing similar challenges. I think rugby matters more in Wales, hence we're having this conversation with you, but I think everybody is aware of that balance between the reach—. We had some really good and, I think, constructively challenging conversations with our six nations colleagues leading up to this in terms of how important it was we do that. It will be challenging if there's a different perspective, and we'll need to go through that process. 

10:20

And I think if you look at the written submission from Tom Harrison, chief executive officer of Six Nations Rugby, and you look at our submission, there's not a great deal of difference between the two, and we didn't sit in a room and draft them together. They are aware of the significance of a free-to-air offer that is at the right level, and what that will bring. What they are saying, which is the same as our argument, is that it should be left to the Welsh Rugby Union and the six nations to make that decision because they are best placed to make the right decision for our sport. 

I wonder if at this point the record will show that Alun just mouthed the word 'cricket'. [Laughter.]  

I'm a member of Glamorgan as well. I sit in the stands; sometimes I feel very lonely. We don't have the following, at least partly because the exposure has been lost, and you don't want to feel that same loneliness when you watch a game of rugby, do you?  

I think Llyr wants to come in before we go back to Tom. 

Okay. We'll go back to Tom and then we'll come to Llyr at the end. 

Diolch. You mentioned Six Nations Rugby. I wanted to ask about CVC Capital Partners. CVC is a hedge fund that owns a 14.3 per cent stake in Six Nations Rugby. What influence does CVC have on decisions regarding a broadcasting deal? 

As a shareholder in Six Nations Rugby and as part of the board there, they have a representative on the boards. They will be part of the conversations, but they will be a partner in that; they won't have an overly higher or—. They've got a percentage share. So, they're part of the process. 

But their interest will be in getting the best money deal, right? They haven't got the same investment as you would in growing the game in Wales. So, they've clearly got a voice there around the six nations table. 

I'd counter that—. Sorry to cut across you, Abi. Because I sat around that six nations board table, had numerous conversations and been part of numerous conversations, and they actually want to grow the game, because they understand that if they grow the game, the revenues will increase and they're more likely to get a return on their investment. So, they're not in it for short-term gain. I've not seen any evidence of that in my time around that table. 

I agree with that. I've been heartened, actually, in the short time—. I'd totally echo what Nigel said there. 

Thank you. That's reassuring. 

A allaf ofyn am hawliau darlledu yn yr iaith Gymraeg? Ydyn nhw ar werth ar wahân i'r hawliau Saesneg, neu ydyn nhw yn yr un package

Can I ask about the broadcasting rights through the medium of Welsh? Are they on sale separately to the English rights, or are they part of the same package? 

They'll be part of the same package, and as you'll know, certainly where six nations is concerned, S4C have been a partner, but in other negotiations where S4C have not been a partner, we have been able to secure Welsh language rights through the red button. I'd like to reassure the committee of our commitment to the Welsh language and our understanding of the importance of the Welsh language, and that certainly will not change during these negotiations. 

Dwi'n gwybod bod chi'n gyfarwydd â'r model sydd gan yr FAW gydag S4C, ac mae'n edrych fel bod rhyw fath o relationship positif rhwng y ddau o ran gemau pêl-droed Cymru yn yr iaith Gymraeg. Ydy hwnna yn rhywbeth pwysig i chi rydych chi'n moyn gweld yn y dyfodol o ran hawliau iaith Gymraeg, neu a oes rôl ydych chi'n meddwl—? Rydych chi wedi sôn am y red button—beth yw'r flaenoriaeth pan mae'n dod i'r iaith Gymraeg? Ai gweld mwy yn digwydd ar S4C ydy hi, oherwydd dyna gartref, os ydych chi'n moyn, yr iaith Gymraeg yng Nghymru, neu ai'r flaenoriaeth yw cael yr hawliau mas, a bod rhywbeth yn digwydd yn Gymraeg, ond y ffordd mae'n digwydd, mae hi lan i'r broadcasters?

I know that you are familiar with the FAW's model in terms of S4C, and it looks like there is a positive relationship between both organisations in terms of Wales's football games through the medium of Welsh. Is that something that is important for you and something that you'd want to see in future in terms of rights through the medium of Welsh? You talked about the red button, for example—what is the priority when it comes to the Welsh language? Is it seeing it being broadcast on S4C, because that's the home, if you will, of the Welsh language in Wales? Or is it the priority to get these rights out there, and that something will happen through the medium of Welsh, but the way that it happens is up to the broadcasters?

10:25

Again, we need to be careful about talking about a broadcaster, as valued as S4C is in Wales. I'm going to stick to the Welsh language and there being an offering in Welsh of Wales games, whether that be on S4C or through the red button. So, for a person who would rather consume their commentary through the medium of Welsh, it's our intention to make sure that offer is always there.

Diolch. Mae yna bedwar munud ar ôl, ond mae gan Llyr gwestiwn supplementary. Fe wnawn ni fynd at Llyr.

Thank you. There are four minutes left and Llyr has a supplementary question. We'll go over to Llyr.

Diolch. There's a danger, I think, that we think that either it's free-to-air or it's behind a paywall, and of course there are arrangements that have been made in the past for non-PSBs to actually make certain moments or matches accessible to a wider audience for free. So, I'm sure you will agree that this is part of the mix and part of your considerations. The US Open final, I think, was simultaneously broadcast on Channel 4 and behind a paywall. So those, I imagine, would be some of the considerations that you'd be keen to pursue as well.

One hundred per cent, yes.

It may be a combination.

Yes. And to what extent would you be pursuing that, then? Because there are certain games—. And clearly it's the games that have the biggest financial or revenue-generating value to yourselves that are the ones the public would like to see, I suppose. So, there's another tension there, isn't there, in terms of you maximising revenue without forcing or asking for those to be available more widely as well. 

It's a really good question. It's difficult to know until we see what the different permutations are, and that balance will constantly—I just want to assure the committee—be at the front of our mind, which is how do we get the best value for money here whilst ensuring the greatest reach. And that's the exam question as we go through that process. And there may be some innovative things that come up through some of the bidders that we can't foresee here, but that will be the exam question, and it could be a whole combination of different models there. 

Diolch. Unless Members have any final questions—I don't see any—

Predictions? Oh, I think that that's a fool's game. 

All I would say is it was a really good strategy day yesterday, with huge amounts of hope and optimism in the room, and thank you so much everybody around the table for your support. Certainly we are ready for what will be a fantastic six nations. There you go—I'm hedging my bets. 

I'm sure there will be plenty of highs and lows at the six nations.

Wonderful. Well, I am sure that we would all want to wish pob lwc, the very best of luck, to our teams. We're really excited for what the next few weeks are going to bring. Thank you both, Abi and Nigel, for being so open with us, for talking us through the nuances of this issue. We really appreciate it, and really appreciate your time, and, Abi, the fact that you have now made your second appearance in your first four weeks in the role. We really do appreciate it. 

I'll have a break for next few weeks, Chair. Thank you.

Diolch yn fawr. A transcript of what's been said will be sent to you so that you can be sure that it's a fair reflection of what has been said in the meeting. But thank you very much indeed.

Diolch yn fawr iawn am eich amser. 

Aelodau, fe wnawn ni fynd mewn i egwyl am 10 munud. 

Thank you very much for your time. 

Members, we'll go into a break for 10 minutes. 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:29 a 10:42.

The meeting adjourned between 10:29 and 10:42.

10:40
3. Hawliau darlledu rygbi'r Chwe Gwlad: sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda rhanddeiliaid eraill (2)
3. Six Nations rugby broadcasting rights: evidence session with other stakeholders (2)

Bore da. Croeso nôl. Dŷn ni'n symud yn syth ymlaen at eitem 3. Dŷn ni'n dal i edrych ar hawliau darlledu rygbi'r chwe gwlad, a nawr dŷn ni'n cynnal sesiwn dystiolaeth arall. Fe wnaf i ofyn i'n tystion i gyflwyno eu hunain ar gyfer y record. Fe wnaf i fynd at dystion yn yr ystafell yn gyntaf. Fe wnaf i fynd at Huw, yn gyntaf.

Good morning. Welcome back. We're moving straight on, now, to item 3. We're still considering the six nations rugby broadcasting rights, and now we're having an evidence session with other stakeholders. I'll ask the witnesses to introduce themselves for the record. I'll go to the room first. I'll turn to Huw, first of all.

Huw Llywelyn Davies yw'r enw. Dwi'n gyn-ddarlledwr ar y gêm ac yn ymwneud â'r gêm nawr ar lawr gwlad. Dwi'n llywydd ar glwb rygbi Pentyrch yn y cyffiniau yma.

Huw Llywelyn Davies, former broadcaster on the game and involved in the game now at grass-roots level. I'm president of Pentyrch rugby club in this area. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dave.

Thank you very much. Dave.

I'm Dave Chapman, the executive director for UKHospitality in Wales—that's the trade association for all of the hospitality industry, really. 

Good morning. My name's Professor Richard Haynes. I'm a professor of media and sport at the University of Stirling in Scotland. 

Bore da. Seimon Williams ydy fy enw i. Dwi yma fel blogiwr ar chwarae rygbi ac fel awdur y llyfr Welsh Rugby: What Went Wrong?.

Good morning. I'm Seimon Williams. I'm here as a blogger on rugby and the author of the book Welsh Rugby: What Went Wrong?.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Fel roeddwn i'n dweud, does dim rhaid i bawb ddod mewn ar bob cwestiwn, ond os dŷch chi eisiau dod mewn, os dŷch chi eisiau jest dangos i mi.

Fe wnaf i ddechrau drwy ofyn: sut ydych chi'n meddwl bod y farchnad o ran hawliau chwaraeon wedi newid ers i'r drefn bresennol o ddigwyddiadau rhestredig gael ei chyflwyno'n gyntaf? Sut mae pethau wedi datblygu dros y blynyddoedd hynny yn y farchnad?

Thank you very much. As I said, you don't all have to come in on every question, but do raise your hand if you do want to respond.

I'll begin by asking how you think the market in terms of sports rights has changed since the current listed events regime was introduced. How have things developed over the years in the market itself?

Dwi ddim cweit yn deall y cwestiwn, sori.

I don't quite understand the question, sorry.

O ran sut mae'r farchnad—. Os oes mwy o—. Wel, dwi ddim eisiau gofyn leading question, ond sut mae'r ecosystem wedi newid o ran—? Dwi'n ceisio meddwl sut i ddweud hyn yn y Gymraeg.

In terms of how the sports rights market has changed, if there's more—. Well, I don't want to ask a leading question, but how has the ecosystem changed in terms of—? I'm trying to think about how to word this in Welsh.

How the ecosystem has developed since the listed events regime was first introduced.

Os yw hwnna'n gwneud sens.

If that makes sense.

O safbwynt rygbi yng Nghymru?

From the point of view of rugby in Wales?

Ie, o ran unrhyw bwysau sydd wedi newid—unrhyw beth fel yna.

Yes, in terms of any pressures that there are, or any changes.

Yn y dyddiau cynnar, wrth gwrs, dim ond darlledu rhad ac am ddim oedd ar gael, oherwydd y ddwy sianel, BBC ac ITV, bryd hynny, ac oddi ar hynny, wrth gwrs, mae'r deinamig wedi newid yn llwyr gyda'r cwmnïoedd niferus bellach y mae'n rhaid talu amdanyn nhw. Mae hynny'n golygu, dwi'n credu, fod llai o bobl yn gwylio rygbi ar y teledu a bod hynny yn andwyol, mewn ffordd, i'r gêm yng Nghymru, oherwydd mae yna gysylltiad rhwng y nifer sy'n gwylio'r teledu a'r nifer sy'n chwarae. Ac mae tystiolaeth criced, er enghraifft, yn dangos—ers i'r BBC golli hwnnw a bod e wedi mynd i Sky—fod llai o bobl yn chwarae, neu llai o bobl ifanc yn chwarae criced. Felly, mae yna gysylltiad rhwng y ddau beth, dwi'n credu.

In the early days, of course, it was only free-to-air broadcasting that was available, because the two channels, BBC and ITV, were the players at the time, and the dynamic has changed entirely since then with numerous companies now that must be paid for. That means, I think, that there are fewer people watching rugby on television and that has a detrimental impact on the game in Wales, because there is a link between the number watching on television and the number who play and participate in the game. The evidence from cricket, for example, demonstrates that, since the BBC lost the rights to that and it went to Sky, there are fewer people, and fewer young people in particular, playing cricket. So, there is a link between the two, I think.

10:45

Diolch am hwnna. 

Thanks for that. 

I think that Professor Haynes wanted to come in. Richard. 

Yes. So, historically, a form of listed events has existed since the 1950s, actually, although the legislation in 1996 kind of gave that belt and braces. And I suppose sports broadcasting for decades was considered to be a public good. It was non-exclusionary, it was non-rivalrous, everybody could watch it. But, today, of course, as has been mentioned, most sport—live sport, that is—is behind the paywall—what economists would call a 'club good'. So, unless you pay to be in the club, you don't get to see it. 

One thing I'd say from 1996—. Obviously, Sky Sports began in the early 1990s and used sport, as Rupert Murdoch said, as its battering ram for a new era of television. And I think, in many ways, that equation continues. But one thing I think you'd say for audiences of sport is that that idea of paying for sport has been normalised. It's kind of common ground that if you want to watch the sport that you're interested in, then most likely you have to pay for it. But, of course, that raises lots of questions about ability to pay and so on and so forth, which we may get into later on. 

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Jest eisiau gwneud y pwynt oeddwn i am natur sut mae chwaraeon yn cael eu darlledu, ac o ran rygbi mae'r ddarpariaeth yna yn reit fractured mewn ffordd. Hynny yw, does yna ddim un lle i ffeindio gemau. Felly, os ydych chi eisiau gwylio gemau sydd yn rhad ac am ddim, maen nhw'n eu rhoi nhw ar y BBC ac S4C ac yn y blaen, ac ITV. Ond os ydych chi eisiau gwylio'r Bencampwriaeth Rygbi Unedig, ma hwnna ar Viaplay; os ydych chi eisiau gwylio gemau clybiau Lloegr, maen nhw ar TNT; os ydych chi eisiau watsio Cymru ar daith yn yr haf, mae'r rheini ar Sky; ac os ydych chi eisiau gwylio gemau hydref Cymru, mae'r rheini ar Amazon. Felly, dyna un o'r problemau, dwi'n meddwl, yw bod y ddarpariaeth mor fractured. Neu os ydych chi eisiau gweld y gemau i gyd, mae'n rhaid i chi gymryd allan sawl tanysgrifiad i sawl darparwr gwahanol. 

Mae yna drafodaeth, dwi'n meddwl, ynghylch y ddadl o gwmpas y ddêl newydd. Mae'r chwe gwlad wedi bod yn ei ddelio fe mewn gyda gemau'r haf a gemau'r hydref. Mewn un ffordd, fe allai hynny efallai wneud pethau'n haws i bobl allu ffeindio'r gemau yma os ydyn nhw i gyd yn yr un lle, o ran gemau rhyngwladol.

Thank you, Chair. I just wanted to make a point, really, about the nature of how sports are being broadcast, and in terms of rugby, the provision is fractured, really. That is, there's no one place to find the games. So, if you want to watch the games that are free, they're on the BBC and S4C and so on, and ITV. But if you want to watch the United Rugby Championship, it's on Viaplay; if you want to watch England's club matches, they're on TNT; if you want to watch Wales on tour in the summer, they're on Sky; and if you want to watch Wales's autumn internationals, they're on Amazon. So, I think that's one of the problems, the fact that the provision is so fractured. Or if you want to see all the games, you have to take out many subscriptions with different providers. 

There is a discussion, I think, in terms of the debate about the new deal. The six nations have been dealing with it with the autumn games and the summer games. In one way, that could make things easier for people to find the games if they're all in the same place, in terms of international games. 

Diolch am hwnna, Seimon. 

Thank you for that, Seimon. 

Dave, how affordable are sports subscription packages for hospitality businesses in Wales?

At the moment nothing is affordable for our industry. We've got really difficult times persisting from March 2020 until now and a succession of serious hits from COVID through to inflation, energy and food and drink inflation. The latest inflation figures show, I think, 2.9 per cent, but 6 per cent food and drink inflation is within that. And the effect of all of the economic pressures on our customers means that we can't really lift prices to be able to accommodate the soaring costs that are coming underneath. The margins are squeezed everywhere and that means that at the very best at the moment most local pubs, for instance, are now finding livings, but they're not actually making much profit. They can't reinvest and they can't take steps that might be available to them to try to draw more customers in, such as taking out subscriptions if they're really that close. 

First of all, there are specialist pubs that do that, and you'll be aware of that. There'll be sports bars and places that would want to bring in the type of customer that wants to see that and stays there for a number of hours watching a succession of games, perhaps. But local pubs don't tend to go that far and we're really not in a position to be able to extend the offer at the moment, just because things are really tight. And I should say at this point that, if there was any support and opportunity to be able to take business rates back to 75 per cent relief from where they were last year, from the 40 per cent that has now been put into the Welsh budget, in the few weeks that we've got between the draft and final budgets, the industry would be really appreciative of that, and it would make a huge difference over the coming year.

10:50

Can I say, I fully accept the point that you make about the difficulties facing the sector? We've all seen a decline, and I've been in more empty pubs recently than I've been in in my life before; it's very striking, the changes that are taking place at the moment. So, that makes sport more important. You've described—. I was reading this morning about people taking part in this dry January thing, which is alien to me, but it means that there is less public socialising, shall we say, and the rest of it. So, that makes sport, I would have anticipated, more important—so, that sort of event provision. I can't imagine that I'm alone in having watched a rugby match or a football match or something in a pub. It's a great social occasion and I would have thought that all hospitality venues, shall we say, would be looking towards a programme that includes, you know, we're talking about the six nations here, but we could be talking about other games as well, in the future.

It's very important—you're quite right. I think it's one of those occasions where I don't have to provide much empirical evidence to Members because you've all got your own experiences of how this works. And you're quite right to say, as well, that the community factor is probably as important to Welsh people as the perpetuation of the economic surroundings for their local pub—the chance to get together. There is a unique atmosphere in our pubs when these things happen. But I must come back to the economic factors. I haven't got any definitive research, but I've done some checking around with different businesses and I can give you some quotes that might highlight what you're saying, really: a single pub, a 70 per cent turnover improvement; 80 per cent in another one; one pub said that it's absolutely essential for them and it goes up 100 per cent when it happens. The 2019 figures that I've been given by members of the industry on the free-to-air competition was that there was a 40 per cent increase in beer sales during that, and the six nations have similar things.

I really do want to emphasise the importance of our industry as a special case for this, where we play a part in the culture, the community of Wales, in every single part of Wales, in every constituency in Wales. We are the third biggest industry in the UK, economically, but there are very few industries that touch every part of every nation in the way that we do, and help to create that. So, there is no doubt that, if it was free to air, there would be many, many of our establishments that would benefit. And, in the current environment—and I can't see the environment changing dramatically over night and there are always other things that could affect it over the coming time—it's the period between January and March that's really critical to pubs' survival. You will have seen—. I mean, we've got 10 per cent more pub closures than England in Wales. I think you will have seen the impacts of the current squeeze hitting, particularly in the early days of January and going forward, following the Christmas and new year season, which is traditionally a chance for us to get some money in and some protection for the year. It's this period now that is particularly relevant and that's when the key six nations comes in.

Let me play devil's advocate, because if, for example—. You've given the evidence that I think committee will accept without any issue at all. So, if the six nations, for example, goes behind a paywall and there are people who, for whatever reason, be it financial or other, aren't willing to pay for that, it might well be of benefit to some of your members, because we will have to go somewhere where it's being shown, somewhere public. So, you'd go down to a pub usually, wouldn't you, to go and watch, in the same way as, occasionally, I watch Premier League football on a pub tv, because I don't have—. I've just got the Cardiff City package, so if I want to go and watch any other game, I'd have to go to a pub to watch it, and I wouldn't necessarily make the choice to go to a pub if the football wasn't on. So, it might well be that your sector could be perhaps the only sector, if you like, to benefit from the six nations going behind a paywall.

10:55

You're proving to be a member of incredible discernment—dry January being neglected and a Cardiff City sponsorship is something else. [Laugher.] You're right, but, of course, what I think it demonstrates is the huge scale of our industry and it's very often considered to be leisure or an afterthought in the economic table, but we are so important and so diverse, that, really, all repercussions will vary across the industry. There will be people who will benefit; there'll be others who will lose. But, in the main, most pubs and most communities would have pubs without that specialist facility and I think that's something that the broad numbers of our members would appreciate. But we're obviously ultra supportive of all our members, particularly those who are able to find a niche and a unique selling point that will help them to keep going in the current climate.

Thank you, Dave. I know that Huw wants to come in on this, and Richard and then I've got Hefin, who wanted to ask a question as well. So, I'll go to Huw first and then to Richard. Huw.

Byddwn i'n ategu'r hyn a gafodd ei ddweud—ategu beth ddywedodd Alun. O’n profiad ni yn ein clwb bach ni ym mhentref Pentyrch, mae mwy o bobl yn dod i wylio pan fydd y gemau ar sianeli rŷn ni'n gorfod talu amdanyn nhw. Mae’n rhaid cofio bod y gêm yng Nghymru efallai yn wahanol i'r gêm yn Lloegr a’r Alban, a'i bod hi'n perthyn mwy i'r dosbarth gweithiol, ac ei bod hi'n perthyn mwy i'r dosbarth canol yn y gwledydd eraill. Felly, mae llai o arian ar gael i'r cefnogwyr rygbi, ac, erbyn hyn, mae mynd â theulu i wylio gêm yn fyw—gall hynny gostio £500, £600 i rywun, ac mae hwnna y tu hwnt i boced lawer iawn.

A hefyd, o ran y sianeli rŷn ni'n talu amdanyn nhw, mae yna rai sy'n methu ei fforddio fe; mae yna rai sydd yn gwrthwynebu'r egwyddor hefyd o orfod talu. Byddai llawer yn dweud y dylai’r gemau fod ar gael i bawb. Felly, rhwng hynny i gyd, o'n profiad ni—. A phe buaswn i'n siarad gyda’r trysorydd nawr sydd gyda ni ym Mhentyrch, mewn un ffordd byddai fe'n croesawu’r ffaith bod y gemau yma'n gorfod mynd ar sianeli rŷn ni'n talu amdanyn nhw, ond dyw pob tafarn a phob clwb ddim yn gallu fforddio hyd yn oed i gael y sianeli yma. Fel y dywedwyd, mae’r gemau’n cael eu darlledu ar gymaint o sianeli gwahanol ac mae'n costio tipyn o arian mewn man cyhoeddus i gael pedair neu bum sianel rŷn ni'n gorfod talu amdanyn nhw. Ond i'r rheini sy'n gallu talu, sy'n gallu ei fforddio fe, mae yna elw i'r clwb yn sgil y ffaith bod pobl dyw e ddim ganddyn nhw gartref, maen nhw'n dod i'r clwb, ac mae hynny mewn un ffordd yn cynyddu’r teimlad cymunedol sydd yn ein gwahanol bentrefi ni.

I would endorse what was said—I endorse what Alun said. From our experience in our little club in Pentyrch, more people come to watch when the games are on channels that we pay to view. We have to acknowledge that the game in Wales is different to that in England and Scotland, and that it is more working class here and more middle class in the other nations. So, there is less money available for rugby supporters, and, by now, taking a family to watch a game live could cost around £500, £600, and that is beyond the pockets of many people.

And also, in terms of the channels that we pay for, there are some who can't afford it; there are some who are against the principle of having to pay. Many would say that these matches should be available for all. So, between all of those aspects, from our experience—. And if I spoke to the treasurer that we have in Pentyrch, in one way he would welcome the fact that these games have to go on pay-per-view channels, but not every club and pub can afford even to have these channels. As was said, the games are broadcast on so many different channels that it costs quite a lot of money in a public area to have four or five channels that we have to pay for. But for those who can afford it there is profit for clubs as a result of that—if people don't have it at home, they come to the club, and in one way that does increase the community feeling in our different villages.

Diolch am hwnna. Fe wnawn ni fynd at Richard a wedyn Hefin. Richard.

Thank you for that. We'll go to Richard and then Hefin. Richard.

Thank you, and I'd concur with the things just said there. So, there are two interrelated things here: one that was mentioned about the fragmentary nature of sports rights and the way that you can watch sport. A bit of research was done in Scotland for Scottish football fans, where, if you wanted to watch every single format of either club football or international football, it would cost a Scottish football fan about £53 a month with the various subscriptions—that's just the sports-related subscriptions. Many households just can't afford that, honestly, in this current climate.

The issue about pubs and public spaces is also important for, 'Well, where would young people go?' Some pubs might well let young people into pubs, but it's still an environment that has a generational divide, so you're starting to exclude certain audiences from watching live sport once it goes behind a paywall, either because the household can't afford it or because it's in a public space that is not really conducive for young people to attend and watch the sport. So, the issue, really, around free-to-air sport, and rugby in particular, which we're discussing today, is fundamental, really, it's about access and how people can access it and at what price point—so, going back to the idea of the listed events, which supports that public good argument that sport is an important part of culture and society, and sharing the ups and downs of your national team is actually quite an important part of identity and connecting people in particular ways. So, access to that is very valuable.

11:00

I'd like to pick up on what Richard said there and perhaps put it to our media experts. The WRU was pretty clear that—. Can you hear me, Chair?

Just at the beginning of your sentence we couldn't, but we can hear you now okay.

Yes. So, I'll put it to the media experts. The WRU was pretty clear, they aren't going to shift on this, and the six nations committee looks to be hugely influential on UK Government approaches. So, we need a plan B. I'm just going to concentrate—. Richard, I know you made the point about domestic viewing, but I'm thinking about hospitality. Would a plan B—? Given that the fragmented nature of the subscription services means that no pub could possibly affordably subscribe to everything, certainly not Gilfach Workmens Club, which is where I'll be watching on Saturday, and the various workies and institutes across the Valleys communities in which I live, would it be better then to push for a deal, perhaps even regulation of subscription services by the UK Government across the UK, so that a single fee and point of offer is made to hospitality services at a subsidised level in order to make sure that all sport is available to watch at those venues?

I think that's a really interesting idea. There was a slightly different amendment proposed to the Media Bill by, again, a Scottish MP who is quite vehement in trying again to open up free-to-air access to Scottish qualifying games in football, but the same principle applies. I think the idea that—. I suppose, coming back to the governing bodies of sport, the argument about going behind a paywall is that it increases commercial income, which then trickles down the pyramid to grass-roots sport. But, of course, the flipside of that is that the visibility of the sport also decreases, and, if you can't see it, you can't be it, in a sense. And, again, I know Welsh rugby at the grass roots is very strong, or has been historically, but it potentially gets undermined if people can't view the elite level of the game in their communities. So, the idea of public funding for sport that's supporting the ability to watch sport, but also how then that feeds into just the visibility and the participation in sport at grass-roots level I think is a very valid argument to discuss.

The mechanisms for that obviously might be quite complicated in some respects—different sports would make, again, different claims for how that public money might be spent in the circumstance. But I do think that regulation needs to step in here to, in a sense, balance the playing field, because I think the danger is—. Because the other dynamic of all this in a global sense is that football, soccer, is by far the most dominant sport—. Sky have just done a new deal for the English Premier League and with English league football as well, and are going to show over 1,000 games a season, going forward. So, other sports are just getting pushed out, and following the model that football has done is not necessarily the best model for all governing bodies to follow, I think. And I think rugby maybe needs to take a look at that in terms of what's the benefit for itself in terms of growing the game and the passion for the game and so on.

The game is growing worldwide. Across Europe, there are more people playing rugby, arguably, and in African nations as well; obviously, there's a world cup forthcoming in the United States. So, the global growth of the game is there, potentially, but at its roots—which arguably Wales is—some of the commercial decisions could really undermine the value of the game in that nation, if they're not careful, by doing strange deals that just exclude people from watching it. 

[Inaudible.]—of time, so we will have to move on very soon to Llyr, but Tom wanted to come in just on one of the points that you were making.

Sorry, can I just come back to you, Professor Haynes, on the point you were making there about football—the 1,000 games a season, the record deals, the growth of the Premier League? The interesting aspect to me at least is there's clearly a demand or a willingness among many people to pay a premium for what they see as a premium product, which would be the Premier League, and with football being the most popular sport. Is there evidence that people are also willing to pay for what they might see as secondary sports, if you like—which, everything is, frankly, behind football?

11:05

I don't have the evidence for that. I think cricket was mentioned earlier, and I think what cricket has had to do is continually experiment with the format of the game of cricket into a shorter format to make it more exciting and entertaining. And we might come on to the discussion that, for younger generations of viewers of sport, or fans of sport, live sport is not always the kind of content that they want to consume. Again, Ofcom evidence suggests that, that younger viewers or younger fans of sport use different forms of content, either through social media or other streaming services, and other kinds of narrative about sport. So, Drive to Survive, for example, for Formula 1, has definitely grown the sport, particularly in the United States, amongst younger viewers.

So, again, governing bodies looking at their sports rights perhaps need to look a bit broader around what kind of content they're producing and who it's for. Live sport remains the premium and that's probably where people are most likely to want to pay, but there are, as we now know, lots of other platforms for delivering content. So, it really is about coming up with the right mix for any given sport that really showcases the value of the sport, the entertainment factor of the sport and so on and so forth, that keeps the appeal going. And it's a complicated balance; I'm sure you've heard that from the Welsh Rugby Union themselves.

Seimon, oeddech chi eisiau dod mewn ar hyn?

Seimon, did you want to come in on this?

Ie, plîs. Diolch, Cadeirydd. Ie, jest eisiau dod mewn yn gyflym iawn ar y drafodaeth o gwmpas criced, achos dwi'n meddwl mai yna canfyddiad bod criced wedi diflannu fel pwnc trafod ar lawr gwlad ac mae yna dystiolaeth anecdotaidd o hynny. Mae'n anodd iawn ffeindio pethau; roeddwn i'n dreifio lan o'r de Dydd Sul ac yn trio gwrando ar y criced ac roedd e'n cuddio bant ar talkSPORT 2, ac mae hwnnw'n amhosib i'w gael yng nghorllewin Cymru yn y car wrth ddod. Dwi'n meddwl bod yna sefyllfa lle mae yna ddiffyg visibility, ond hefyd dwi'n meddwl bod yr ECB a Chriced Cymru wedi rhoi rhaglenni yn eu lle i lesteirio'r math o effeithiau negyddol yna.

Felly, os ydych chi'n edrych, dwi'n meddwl, ar y bar cyfranogiad, mae nifer y dynion sy'n chwarae wedi syrthio ers 2005, ers iddyn nhw fynd tu ôl i'r wal dalu yna, mae nifer y blant yn weddol gyson, ac mae nifer y menywod sy'n chwarae wedi cynyddi’n sylweddol. Ac felly, beth mae'r ECB a Chriced Cymru wedi gorfod ei wneud yw bod yn greadigol iawn a dod â mathau gwahanol o gemau mewn. Maen nhw wedi creu'r Twenty20, maen nhw wedi creu The Hundred ac yn y blaen. Dyw e ddim yn griced traddodiadol i efallai pobl draddodiadol sy'n licio criced tri-dydd, pump-dydd, beth bynnag, ond mae yna ffyrdd o ddod rownd hyn. Felly, dyw'r pictiwr o gwmpas criced ddim cweit mor glir a bod y gêm wedi diflannu a dyw pobl ddim yn dilyn y gêm rhagor; mae e'n fwy cymhleth na hynny, dwi'n meddwl.

Yes, please. Thank you, Chair. Yes, I just wanted to come in very briefly on the discussion around cricket, because I think that there is a perception that cricket has disappeared as a discussion topic on the ground and I think that there is anecdotal evidence that might suggest that. It's difficult to find things; I was driving up from the south on Sunday and I was trying to listen to the cricket and it was hidden away on talkSPORT 2, and it was very difficult to access in the car in west Wales. So, I think there is a lack of visibility there, but I think the ECB and Cricket Wales have put programmes in place to try and mitigate those negative impacts.

If you look, I think, at participation, the number of men playing cricket has fallen since 2005, since it went behind the paywall, the number of children has remained consistent, and the number of women playing cricket has increased significantly. So, what ECB and Cricket Wales have tried to do is be very creative in bringing in different kinds of games. They've created The Hundred and Twenty20 and so on. It isn't traditional cricket for those traditionalists who like those three-day or five-day tournaments, but there are ways of overcoming this. So, the picture around cricket isn't as clear as that the game has disappeared entirely and people don't follow it anymore; it is more complex than that, I think.

Bydd yn rhaid inni symud ymlaen, yn anffodus. Fe wnawn ni fynd at Llyr.

We'll have to move on, unfortunately. We'll go to Llyr.

Ie, diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd, a bore da, bawb. Does yna ddim amheuaeth o arwyddocâd pencampwriaeth y chwe gwlad o safbwynt ymwybyddiaeth neu fywyd cenedlaethol Cymru, ond roeddwn i'n edrych ar y criteria mae'r DCMS yn eu defnyddio ar gyfer pennu ddigwyddiadau chwaraeon sydd yn cael eu gwarchod ar gyfer darlledu cyhoeddus, ac mae'n ddweud fod yn rhaid iddo fe fod â phwysigrwydd cenedlaethol arbennig—wel, does dim amheuaeth ynglŷn â hynny yn y cyd-destun yma—fod e'n elfen sy'n uno'n genedl—wel, mae hynny'n digwydd mewn ffordd dyw bron iawn dim byd arall yn llwyddo i'w wneud, byddwn i'n tybio, yr adeg yma o'r flwyddyn—fod e'n bwynt a rennir ar y calendr cenedlaethol—wel, rŷn ni'n clywed am bobl yn dod at ei gilydd ar benwythnosau adeg yma o'r flwyddyn yn benodol i weld y gemau yma—ac nid yw o ddiddordeb i'r rhai sy'n dilyn y gamp o dan sylw yn unig—wel, mae hynny'n wir hefyd; mae yna bobl sydd byth yn gwylio rygbi mi wnawn nhw eistedd lawr i wylio Cymru'n chwarae ym mhencampwriaeth y chwe gwlad. Felly, mae'n ticio'r bocsys yna i gyd, a'r cwestiwn fan hyn yn ei hanfod i fi yw: tra bo'r undeb yn dweud bod yn rhaid inni gael y cydbwysedd yna rhwng exposure, access a refeniw, oherwydd arwyddocâd cymdeithasol, diwylliannol, economaidd—rŷn ni wedi'i glywed am y diwydiant lletygarwch—y pencampwriaeth, oni ddylwn ni fod yn ddweud doed a ddelo fod y chwe gwlad yn cael ei gwarchod o safbwynt darlledu gwasanaeth cyhoeddus?

Thank you very much, Chair, and good morning, all. There's no doubt as to the significance of the six nations in terms of Wales's national life, but I was looking at the criteria that the DCMS looks at in terms of listed events, and it says that it has to have special national resonance—there's no doubt about that in this context—that it is an element that serves to unite the nation—that happens in a way that nearly nothing else does at this time of year—that it's a shared point on the national calendar—well, we hear of people coming together on weekends at this time of the year specifically to view these matches—and that it's not solely of interest to those who follow the sport in question—that's true as well, because there are some people who never watch rugby who will sit down and watch Wales playing in the six nations. It does tick all those boxes, and the question here, in essence, for me, is: while the union says there is a need to strike a balance between exposure, access and revenue, because of the social, cultural, economic significance—we've heard about the hospitality sector—of the championship, shouldn't we say that the six nations should be protected in terms of public service broadcasting?

11:10

Dwi'n cytuno'n llwyr â beth oedd Llyr yn dweud am bwysigrwydd hanesyddol a phresennol y gêm i'n diwylliant ni fel cenedl. Yr un peth dwi ddim yn siŵr amdano yw rŷn ni fan hyn yng Nghymru yn trafod y peth, ond oes rhaid cael cydsyniad ar draws y gwledydd i gyd cyn bod hyn yn cael ei weithredu? Neu a fyddai Cymru yn gallu mynd mas a chael cytundeb eu hunain o ran rygbi lle mae Cymru yn chwarae? Mae hynny wedi digwydd gyda phêl-droed, oherwydd mae S4C a'r gymdeithas bêl-droed wedi llwyddo i gael y gemau pêl-droed diweddar ar deledu di-dâl. Felly, ydyn ni yng Nghymru yn gallu ceisio trafod pethau yn fan hyn fel un genedl, neu oes rhaid cael cydsyniad ar draws y gwledydd i gyd?

I agree entirely with what Llyr said about the historic and current importance of the game to our culture as a nation. The one thing I'm not sure about is that we here in Wales are discussing this issue, but do we have to have consent across all of the nations before this is implemented? Or would Wales be able to go out and come to its own agreement on rugby games involving Wales? That has happened with football, hasn't it, because S4C and the football association have succeeded in getting the recent football games on free-to-air television. So, can we in Wales seek to discuss these issues here as one nation, or do we have to have the consent across all of the nations?

Byddai hynna'n rhywbeth byddai San Steffan yn gorfod penderfynu. Mae San Steffan wedi awgrymu, os oedd Llywodraeth Cymru yn teimlo'n gryf am hyn, y bydden nhw'n cymryd hynna i mewn i ystyriaeth, achos er bod darlledu ddim wedi'i ddatganoli, mae chwaraeon wedi'i ddatganoli. Dyw e ddim yn hollol glir, ond maen nhw wedi dweud bydden nhw'n cymryd hynna i mewn i ystyriaeth yn sicr, felly dydy'r drws ddim yn gaeedig, dwi ddim yn meddwl.

That would be something that Westminster would have to decide. Westminster have suggested that if the Welsh Government felt strongly about this, they would take that into consideration, because even though broadcasting isn't devolved, sport is devolved. It's not completely clear, but they have said that they would take that into consideration, certainly, and therefore the door hasn't closed, I don't think. 

O safbwynt y Gymraeg, byddai fe'n beth da pe baem yn cael y gemau felly wedi eu canoli ar S4C unwaith eto, fel sy'n digwydd gyda phêl-droed. Byddai mwy o bobl yn gwylio, felly, yn y Gymraeg, ac fe fyddai hynny'n beth da, dwi'n credu.

In terms of the Welsh language, it would be very good if those games were shown on S4C once again, as happens with football. More people would watch through the medium of Welsh, and that would be a good thing, I think.

Diolch, Huw. I think Richard's hand went up marginally before Seimon's, so shall we go to Richard first and then to Seimon?

I support the idea that, yes, the six nations as part of our cultural heritage across all parts of the UK is very much valued by many people across the country, watched by millions, obviously, when it is free-to-air, and it has been free-to-air. When you look at the other sports or events on the listed events, the six nations really should be on there.

I suppose the challenge, regulatory-wise, and particularly if you have specific Wales clauses in the listed events, is that, obviously, broadcasting policy regulation remains a reserved matter for Westminster. If a deal was done for S4C, it still would be available in Scotland and England and Northern Ireland to view on some platform or other, so it becomes very complex about how to slice this pie in ways that work for all.

Fundamentally, the structure of the regulatory area around broadcasting is one of the things that is creating this problem, really. The fact that sport is devolved is also complicated, because again, the amendment put in for the media Bill, which wasn't successful, had underlying it the idea that if governing bodies lost some of their commercial income by being free-to-air under the listed events, governing bodies of sport or the Parliaments and Governments of the devolved nations could receive funding to support the grass roots and that income lost. 

That, again, raises whole questions about the Barnett formula and how that would work and so on and so forth, so it's really, really complicated. The regulatory regime of broadcasting creates this scenario where it is difficult. I think if the Welsh Parliament were able to make its own listed events, the six nations would be the first thing on the list, I'm sure, for obvious reasons. That's the fundamental problem here, at root, and in terms of siphoning off one nation within the listed events, although it was recommended by the David Davies independent review of listed events in 2009, the mechanisms for that to work are very difficult, I think.

Forgive me, and I know that Seimon wants to come in as well, but there is a precedent, of course, with there being a different situation—. I think that Llyr probably was about to make this point—forgive me, Llyr. But with Scotland, with the Scottish FA Cup, there's a recognition within the legislation that there's a particular resonance. I'm having Alun gesticulating at me in the room implying it isn't quite the same thing, but there is that precedent there.

11:15

That's true, yes. I think anything is workable. I think the question about the S4C thing—which might have been not necessarily a listed events thing, but a commercial decision that the six nations could make, that, like with the football, a minority language channel could have access to showing coverage—is the idea that, also, it would still be available elsewhere in the UK, which, again, for the rights holder might be something that would stop them doing it. Welsh football games against whoever across Europe, or in qualifying games, is not likely to be as popular as six nations games of rugby, where all four home nations are involved. So, yes, there are issues there, commercially, around that idea. 

Fe wnawn ni fynd at Seimon, ac wedyn fe wnawn ni fynd yn ôl at Llyr. 

We'll go to Seimon, and then we'll go back to Llyr. 

Diolch. Roeddwn i am wneud y pwynt am gyllid ac effaith hynna, ond roeddwn i jest eisiau gwneud pwynt cyflym am ddarlledu yn y Gymraeg. Dwi'n meddwl ei bod hi'n hollbwysig, beth bynnag sy'n digwydd, bod yna ddarpariaeth Gymraeg ar gael yn agored. Yn ddiweddar, mae Amazon wedi darparu dau ffrwd, fwy neu lai yn union fel ei gilydd, yn ystod gemau'r hydref—roedd hwnna i'w weld yn gweithio'n reit dda. Ond mae'n rhaid iddo fe fod ar gael ac yn hawdd i'w gyrraedd, ac o safon hefyd. 

Dwi jest eisiau mynd yn ôl i bwynt Llyr gynnau am pa un ai, doed a ddelo, y dylai'r chwe gwlad gael ei symud i grŵp A. Dwi'n meddwl bod rhaid i ni fod yn ymwybodol iawn o effaith posib hynny ar y gêm ar lawr gwlad trwy leihau gallu'r undeb i greu'r incwm mae nhw ei angen i gefnogi'r gêm. So, mae'r holl beth yn holistig—ie, mae'r gêm yn mynd i fod ar gael, os ydy e'n cael ei symud i grŵp A. Ond rŷn ni'n gweld yr effaith ar yr undeb rygbi; maen nhw'n brin iawn o arian ac maen nhw angen cynyddu'r incwm sydd gyda nhw. Mae gyda nhw adroddiad Rafferty ac yn y blaen; mae nhw'n gorfod ymateb i hwnna, sy'n mynd i gostio arian iddyn nhw wneud. Ac felly mae hwnna'n rhywbeth sy'n fy mhryderu i.

Rŷn ni'n gweld llai o incwm yn dod mewn, sy'n golygu bod llai gyda'r clybiau proffesiynol i wario, mae chwaraewyr yn mynd i adael, mae yna lai o amser paratoi yn mynd i fod. Rŷn ni'n gweld chwaraewyr yn dweud eu bod nhw ddim ar gael i Gymru—er eu bod nhw dal yn gymwys—sy'n chwarae yn Ffrainc a Siapan, ac yn y blaen. Mae hynna'n gwanio'r tîm cenedlaethol, sydd yn debygol o leihau'r llwyddiant. 

Ac, wedyn, wrth gwrs, rŷn ni eisiau'r arian i gefnogi gêm y menywod hefyd. Mae yna lot o fuddsoddi wedi mynd mewn i hwnna ar hyn o bryd. Ac, wedyn, mae'r undeb, ar hyn o bryd, yn rhyw fath o 'ring-fence-io' arian sydd yn mynd i'r gêm gymunedol. Felly, o symud o gategori B i gategori A, mae yna risg, dwi'n meddwl, bod yr incwm yn cael ei leihau, felly bod y buddsoddiad yna i bob un haen o'r gêm yng Nghymru yn lleihau, ac felly yn gwanio'r gêm, a gwanio'r linc yna yn y boblogaeth ar y cyfan a'r gêm.

Thank you. I was going to make a point about finance, but I just want to make a quick point about broadcasting in the Welsh language. I think it's vital, whatever happens, that there is Welsh provision available and openly. Recently, Amazon has provided two streams, exactly the same, during the autumn internationals—that seems to be working well. But it has to be accessible and easy to reach, and of good quality. 

Just to go back to Llyr's point on whether the six nations should be moved to group A, I think we need to be very aware of the impact on the grass-roots level and the possibility of reducing income for the WRU. So, yes, the game is going to be available if it's moved to group A, but we see the impact and the shortage of money. They need to increase their income. They've got the Rafferty report and they've got to respond to that, and that's going to cost money for them to do so. And, therefore, it's something that concerns me.

We see less income coming in, which means that the professional clubs are going to spend less, players are going to leave, there'll be less time to prepare. We've heard people say they're not available to play in Wales, even though they're eligible—those players who are playing in Japan and France. It weakens the national team, and is likely to reduce that success element.  

There's a lot of investment currently, and the union currently is sort of ring-fencing money that goes to the community game. So, in moving from category B to category A, there is a risk that the income is reduced, and the investment in every layer of the game in Wales is reduced, and it weakens that link between the population and the game. 

Doeddwn i ddim o reidrwydd yn dadlau o blaid yr agwedd doed a ddelo, ond dyna yw'r tensiwn sylfaenol fan hyn: ydy hwn o arwyddocâd mor sylweddol bod rhaid i bethau eraill, er gwaethaf, efallai, y byddai yna oblygiadau, ddim mor eithafol ag y mae rhai'n awgrymu, ond pwy a ŵyr—.  Mae hwnna'n densiwn, onid yw e?

A jest i ymateb i Richard, wrth gwrs, o ran yr arwyddocâd a'r pwysigrwydd cymharol o safbwynt y chwe gwlad yng Nghymru, o gymharu â gwledydd eraill sydd yn rhan o'r twrnament, dwi'n meddwl mai hwnna sy'n bwysig fan hyn. Hynny yw, fe glywon ni gan y BBC bod 65 y cant o gynulleidfa teledu Cymru wedi gwylio gêm gynta'r chwe gwlad llynedd neu'r flwyddyn gynt, sy'n llawer iawn uwch nag unrhyw ran arall o'r gwledydd sy'n cystadlu. Felly, hwnna yw'r peth, onid e—y gwahaniaeth cymharol, y diddordeb cymharol sydd fan hyn yng Nghymru.

A gaf i, felly, jest ofyn un cwestiwn byr arall? Dwi'n ymwybodol bod amser yn mynd. Rŷn ni wedi sôn am griced a'r effaith—af i ddim ar ôl hwnna efallai—ac, eto, y trade-off yma rhwng cael yr arian i fewn, ond, efallai, colli'r gynulleidfa boblogaidd i raddau. Ond mae yna ryw hanner ffordd ar gael fan hyn, onid oes e? Achos rŷn ni'n gwybod bod yna ddarlledwyr wedi prynu hawliau, ond sydd wedi cytuno, wedyn, i ddarlledu elfennau am ddim ar YouTube, neu gyda phartneriaeth gyda sianeli eraill. Roedd yr US Open, y rownd derfynol, ar Sianel 4, er enghraifft. Fyddech chi yn meddwl, efallai, bod hwnna'n cynnig rhyw ateb sydd yn ticio'r ddau focs rŷn ni'n trio eu cyflawni fan hyn. Pa mor ymarferol, a pha mor gyffredin yw hwnna? Dyna beth rwy'n gofyn. Achos dyw e ddim yn digwydd yn aml. 

I wasn't arguing in favour of that come what may attitude, but that's the fundamental tension: that this is of such fundamental importance that other things, despite the implications, which perhaps might not be as extreme as some suggest, but who knows—. But there is a tension there, isn't there?

And just to respond to Richard, of course, it's the significance and the comparative importance in terms of the six nations in Wales, as compared to the other nations that make up the tournament, that I think is important to remember here. We heard from the BBC that 65 per cent of Wales's television audience watched the first game of the six nations last year or the year before, which is far higher than any other of the nations that compete. So, that's the thing—that comparative difference, and the comparative interest in Wales. 

May I ask, therefore, one brief question? I know that time is against us. But we've talked about cricket and the impact—I won't pursue that again—but, in terms of this trade-off between getting the money in and losing that popular audience to an extent. But there is a halfway house here, isn't there, because we know that broadcasters have bought rights, but have agreed to broadcast elements for free on YouTube, for example. The final of the US Open was on Channel 4, for example. So, would you think that that would offer a response that would tick both boxes that we're trying to achieve? How practical and how common is that arrangement? Because it doesn't happen often. 

Pawb yn meddwl. Roedd Huw eisiau dod i fewn yn gyntaf, ac wedyn mi wnaf ddod at Richard.

Everybody's thinking. Huw wanted to come in first, and then we'll go to Richard. 

11:20

Ydy Llyr yn awgrymu yn fanna bod rhai o gemau'r chwe gwlad yn cael eu darlledu?

Is Llyr suggesting there that some of the six nations matches are broadcast?

Efallai, wrth werthu’r hawliau, eu bod nhw'n dweud bod yn rhaid i gemau cartref Cymru, er enghraifft, fod ar gael am ddim ar ryw fath o blatfform.

Perhaps, in selling the rights, that they say that Wales's home matches should be available on some sort of platform.

A fyddai derbyniad i hynny ar draws y sbectrwm—dwi ddim rhy siŵr—bod rhai ar gael, yn enwedig rhai Cymru? Er, fel roeddech chi'n dweud, mae Cymru'n wahanol, oherwydd mae trwch y boblogaeth fan hyn yn dilyn rygbi, a dyw hynny ddim yn wir am Loegr a hyd yn oed yr Alban. Ond dwi mewn cyfyng gyngor, yr un peth â phawb arall, ar hyn. O bwyso a mesur, ar y naill law, yr effaith andwyol os nad yw'r gemau ar gael i bawb, ond ar y llaw arall, yr ochr ariannol sy'n cael ei phwysleisio gan Nigel Walker a'r prif weithredwr cyn hyn, mae'n anodd iawn cydbwyso'r naill yn erbyn y llall a phenderfyno p'un o'r ddau yna sydd bwysicaf i ni a'r gêm.

A dyw'r syniad gawson ni gynnau fach fod y gêm yn iach ar lawr gwlad yng Nghymru ddim yn wir. Mae llai yn chwarae. Os edrychwch chi ar benwythnos o rygbi yng Nghymru, mae tua 20 gêm yn cael eu gohirio bob penwythnos achos bod timoedd yn methu cael digon o chwaraewyr i ymgymryd â’r gêm. Felly dyw’r gêm ar lawr gwlad ddim yn ffynnu i'r graddau mae rhai pobl yn credu y mae hi. Felly, ai arian sydd eisiau, neu exposure, fel ŷch chi’n dweud? A dyna'r dilema i bawb, dwi'n credu. Os ydy Senedd Cymru yn penderfynu neu yn pwyso am gael y gemau yma yn rhad ac am ddim, faint o obaith sydd o lwyddo yn hynny os nad yw’r gwledydd eraill yn cytuno, a hefyd bod bwrdd Undeb Rygbi Cymru ddim yn cefnogi’r hyn mae'r Senedd yn ei ddweud?

Would there be a reception to that across the spectrum—I'm not quite sure—that some are available, particularly Wales games? But as you were saying, Wales is different, because a lot of the population here follows rugby, and that's not true in England and even Scotland. But I am in a quandary on this, as many people are. When you balance the negative impact that would arise if the matches weren't available to all, but on the other hand, the financial aspect, which is emphasised by Nigel Walker and the chief executive before our session, it's difficult to strike a balance and decide which one of those is most important to us and the game.

And the idea that we heard that the game is healthy at grass-roots level is not true. Fewer people are playing. If you look at a weekend of rugby in Wales, about 20 matches are postponed because teams can't get the players to play. So the game at grass-roots level isn't thriving to a level as some people think it is. So, is it funding that's needed, or exposure, as you say? And that is the dilemma for everybody, I think. If the Senedd decides or presses to have these games free, what hope is there of succeeding in that if the other nations don't agree, and also that the board of the WRU don't support what the Senedd are saying?

Dyna rai o'r cwestiynau mae'n rhaid inni eu pwyso, wrth gwrs.

Those are some of the questions that we'll have to consider. 

Oherwydd mae'r pwyllgor yn Llundain wedi troi'r cais i lawr unwaith, onid ydyn nhw? Ac felly, mae eisiau i Gymru wneud pwynt positif, cryf iawn, i gael y gemau yma ar gael am ddim. Ond os ydy Undeb Rygbi Cymru o bawb yn gwrthwynebu hynny, mae'n mynd i fod yn anodd dros ben, dybiaf i.

Because the committee in London have turned it down once. So, Wales needs to make a very positive and strong point to have these games free. But if the WRU objects to that, it's going to be very difficult, I would say.

Diolch, Huw. Dwi'n gwybod—

Thank you, Huw. I know—

Can I come in there, Chair, because my question's related to that?

To Huw and the experts: have we got any chance whatsoever of persuading the WRU to change their minds, and, subsequently, perhaps, even the six nations committee? 

It's going to be very difficult, isn't it? The commercial side of rugby is increasingly complex because of the type of investments that are going on there. As we know, CVC have invested in a whole range of different levels of rugby, internationally and locally, in the six nations. So, you've got private investment wanting to get a return on that investment. So, that's one immediate commercial challenge, which maybe is behind some of the conversations or pronouncements that the WRU make. But their principal job, really, though, is, as you say, growing the grass roots of the sport, because if you haven't got that pipeline of talent, the national team will flounder at some point because there aren't enough people playing.

So, I think, in terms of the challenge, other nations probably would support, in terms of politicians anyway—there seemed to be quite a lot of cross-party support in the house the other day regarding this, in terms of listed events. But the Government's view seems to be, 'Well, governing bodies know best. It's their commercial priorities that come first', so they won't touch it. That's the sticking point, isn't it?

One of the equations in all this is that I would argue that if more eyeballs are watching the content, on whatever platform it's on—whether it's on traditional television, streaming services, social media, you name it, wherever that is—if there's more content available to view, that is more opportunity for sponsorship, advertising and other forms of commercial revenue.

One of the biggest forms of commercial revenue for streaming services in particular is data—data about who's watching what, when, and where. A lot of that isn't shared publicly, but for the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Apple and so on, part of their business model really is about the data behind who's watching what. And so, sport needs to wise up to that, that they have a stake in that game about how that data is used for commercial purposes. So, arguably, the more people watch content, the bigger the value of that data, for them, and the market is around sport. Sports marketing is a huge multibillion-dollar industry; it's huge and global. So, I think that's all in the mix. It's very, very complex, of course. But I think that is part of an argument that could be made to the rugby unions, to say, 'Well, look, can we help you in thinking through broader commercial opportunities by keeping the game free-to-air, as many people watching it as possible, supporting the grass roots, through that visibility, at the same time, enable you to grow the commercial opportunities in different ways?' Because visibility can be across different platforms, different kinds of narratives and storytelling to different generations of people—that, for me, is a win-win. But at the minute, I don't think that's the way in which the current Westminster Government is viewing this at all.

11:25

Diolch. Seimon, oeddech chi eisiau dod i mewn cyn inni symud ymlaen?

Thank you. Seimon, did you want to come in before we move on?

Plis. Diolch. Jest yn gyflym iawn, dwi jest eisiau mynd nôl at gwestiwn gan Hefin, dwi'n meddwl—sut y byddai rhywun yn gallu perswadio Undeb Rygbi Cymru i newid eu safbwynt nhw, a dwi'n meddwl bod yna ddau beth y byddai'r Senedd a Llywodraeth Cymru, efallai, yn gallu gwneud. Un ohonyn nhw yw i wneud i fyny unrhyw wahaniaeth rhwng y cytundeb fyddai'n cael ei sicrhau trwy fynd i gategori A ac aros ar gategori B—mae'n debygol o ddod â llai o incwm i'r gêm yng Nghymru, ac felly byddai'n opsiwn i wneud hynny i fyny, efallai drwy roi grantiau i glybiau cymunedol ar lawr gwlad, y math yna o beth. A'r ail beth, wedyn, wrth gwrs, rhywbeth sydd wedi bod yn y newyddion dros yr wythnosau diwethaf, yw'r benthyciad mae Llywodraeth Cymru wedi'i roi i'r undeb, sydd yn cefnogi'r clybiau proffesiynol, y pedwar rhanbarth. A dŷn ni wedi bod yn clywed bod eu dyledion nhw ar hyn o bryd, y pedwar clwb, yn golygu bod yna tua £2 filiwn y clwb, sef £8 miliwn, yn diflannu o'r gêm yng Nghymru i ad-dalu benthyciadau—ddim i gyd o'r benthyciad gan y Llywodraeth, ond mae yna lot o arian yn diflannu o'r gêm, ac efallai byddai yna lai o bwysau, efallai, ar yr undeb i gynyddu'r incwm maen nhw'n ei gael, petasai yna ryw ailnegydu o'r benthyciad yna.

Yes, please. Just very briefly, I want to return to the question from Hefin in terms of how one