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Angry Russell brands PRPW 'Gang of Six' RUGBY UNION: Vale chairman attacks moves for 'closed shop'.

Byline: ANDY HOWELL Rugby Correspondent

EBBW VALE chairman Marcus Russell last night branded the new Premier Rugby Partnership of Wales the "Gang of Six" and accused it of being an "arrogant, odious, selfish, self-preservation society."

Russell, manager of the rock band Oasis, blasted the PRPW and questioned its motives in a programme article for the Steelmen's Parker Pen European Shield match with French club Montauban last night.

He claimed the six members of partnership - Bridgend, Cardiff, Llanelli, Newport, Pontypridd and Swansea - were attempting to form a closed shop and urged the Welsh Rugby Union to reject its demands to cut the number of top-flight clubs from nine to six.

Russell warned Ebbw Vale would resist the plans through every method available. He wrote, "Initially I supported the idea of the PRPW, on the understanding it would follow the format of its English Premier League counterpart, and include all premier clubs and players in partnership with the Welsh Rugby Union.

"This would have enabled professional rugby in Wales to have a forum and organisation that could effectively represent the interests of all professional players and clubs in Wales, while at the same time meeting the legitimate requirements of the WRU.

"But this Gang of Six has expressly excluded Ebbw Vale, Neath and Caerphilly. The Welsh version (PRPW) amounts to little more than a crass example of a self-preservation society formed by a few selfish clubs.

"By excluding Ebbw Vale RFC, it seems to be a thinly veiled attempt at undermining the viability and stature of our club in the professional business of rugby union, in the hope that one day we will simply go away.

"It has been formed with an arrogance that is odious, and a logic which is baffling.

"The PRPW has been ominously silent on what criteria should be used to decide which businesses would survive a culling of the top clubs in Wales.

"One assumes they do not intend to be turkeys voting for Christmas.

To date the only public face of PRPW has been an Englishman, Damien Hopley, (leader of the English Players' Union and a director of PRPW).

"Hopley has reassured the Welsh rugby public international players based at PRPW clubs will not be withdrawn from the upcoming Wales internationals.

"Let's hope we're not going down the road of the players being used as cannon fodder in a divisive battle of PRPW clubs versus the WRU.

"It is not the first time that there have been manoeuvrings off the field to try and eliminate or undermine Ebbw Vale RFC.

"We were unceremoniously dumped from the Heineken Cup three seasons ago and last season a number of Welsh premier clubs tried to get the rules changed in mid-season to ensure more than one club was relegated from the Premier League, (almost certain to include Ebbw Vale at that time).

"However moving the goalposts in mid-season, against vigorous opposition from Ebbw Vale RFC and the WRU proved too difficult a task for them.

"We feel a partnership between all players, clubs and the WRU is a logical way forward. We see no evidence that reducing the number of professional clubs will have any benefit for Welsh rugby, at international or club level.

"Our message to those who campaign for a reduction in the number of clubs is also quite simple.

Stop attempting to belittle and undermine the status of our club when you peddle your arguments."

CAPTION(S):

ONTHE ATTACK: Ebbw Vale chairman Marcus Russell who resents the move to cut the top league to six clubs
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 27, 2001
Words:590
Previous Article:Cull provides the points for spirited Steelmen; PARKER PEN SHIELD: Ebbw Vale 16 Montauban 5.
Next Article:Victory stroll for British as the French are outclassed; RUGBY LEAGUE: France 12 Great Britain 42.

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