Former Wales captain and British & Irish Lion Michael Owen has joined the Valleys Rugby advisory board as it continues with its crusade of bringing professional rugby back to the Valleys.
The 41 capped player, who captained Wales to its first Grand Slam in 27 years in the 2005 tournament, has agreed to join the board and support Valleys Rugby with its campaign of creating the ‘People’s Region’.
Pontypridd-born Owen represented his home team from the tender age of 17 where he played alongside his heroes such as Neil Jenkins, Paul John and Dale McIntosh. The highlight of his Pontypridd career was the 2001-2 season which saw this promising young team deliver by winning the Principality Cup and reaching the final of the European Challenge Cup.
He then went on to represent the Gwent Dragons, Wales, the Barbarians and the British & Irish Lions before being forced to retire from rugby when playing for the Saracens in 2010 following persistent knee injuries.
Since his rugby career, Owen has achieved a business and sport degree at the University of Hertfordshire alongside a coaching career at Hertford RFC.
A passionate Valleys man, Owen will accompany Valleys Rugby on its imminent meeting with the WRU where it seeks to gain support to develop the region, infrastructure and players.
On joining Valleys Rugby Owen said: “The future of rugby in Wales cannot be dictated by financial considerations alone. Rugby is a part of our heritage and our communities and everyone involved in the game must recognise that and work to sustain the game within those traditional communities. The success and support of Pontypridd RFC and the public interest in the concept of Valleys Rugby are both evidence of the demand that is out there for a return of top flight rugby to the Valleys heartlands. The WRU must recognise that too, and deliver a blueprint for change that would revitalise the game in this traditional community.”
Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Owen Smith, said: “Michael is a Valleys Man and a great Valleys rugby player. He understands our communities and the value they attach to having professional rugby return to its Valleys heartland. That’s why I’m delighted that he he’s joined the Valleys Rugby team to show his support for great clubs like Pontypridd RFC and the wider valleys rugby community.”
Nigel Greenaway, who is partner at Berry Smith Solicitors and behind the campaign, said of Michael’s appointment: “It is great to have someone of Michael’s stature join the board to help us with our efforts. As a renowned and respected player and a passionate Valleys man he will be a real asset to our team. We have now revised and restructured our business plan and look forward to meeting with the WRU over the next few weeks to drive forward with our ambitions.”
Since plans were unveiled for Valleys Rugby at Sardis Road in April, Valleys Rugby has sparked a lot of interest from the local community and former players. In the last two months, the committee has signed up former Wales international Adrian Hadley and secured official kit supplier, Macron, who have agreed to supply kit and merchandise for the proposed region.
The business model for Valleys Rugby outlines a new type of structure for a region in Wales, where community ownership and engagement is key to its vision. The ‘People’s Region’ is aiming to generate annual subscriptions of £100 from fans, alongside commercial sponsorship and funding from the WRU and Local Authorities.