When Wales Touch Association (WTA) presented the names and branding for the Wales Touch Nationals held for the first time in April 2013, they created history by being the first sporting body in Wales to create sporting franchises with bilingual names.
Welsh-language television broadcasters, S4C use the translated version of many teams in the British Isles, for example, Caeredin when referring to Edinburgh Rugby, Caerloyw for Gloucester and Gweilch when discussing the Ospreys. Many Welsh language publications or TV and radio programmes would also use direct translations when describing Cardiff City FC’s Bluebirds as Adar Gleision or Swansea City’s Elyrch (Swans).
However, this is the first time that the owners of a brand, in this case a regional representative team, have proactively named the regions in both English and Welsh and reflected this in all of the branding.
Cyclones – Seiclonau
Rangers – Ceidwaid
Rebels – Gwrthryfelwyr
Red Kites – Barcutiaid Coch
Titans – Titaniaid
Warriors – Rhyfelwyr
A Living Language?
So why have the WTA done this and why is it important?
In Wales, around 1 in 5 people speak Welsh but the 2011 census shows that the traditional Welsh-language ‘hot beds’ where the language is the predominant language are reducing. There are many varied and complex reasons for this which won’t be covered here.
Despite the fact that approximately a quarter of school children in Wales are educated through the medium of Welsh and all children in Wales are taught Welsh as a second language in school, there are precious few opportunities for youngsters to use and develop their Welsh in their recreation time.
There are excellent organisations such as the Urdd who exist to give people opportunities to use their Welsh. However, once young people grow up and leave school, they may have limited opportunities to use their Welsh skills.
Some young people will simply stop speaking the language, seeing it as something belonging to the classroom or even worse, an embarrassment.
If the language is to survive – and the fact that it may not is a scary reality, then it’s use must extend beyond the classroom and into everyday life. It needs to be seen and heard on the street, in shops, on TV, on the radio, in gigs. In short, it needs to be normal for Welsh to be heard everywhere in Wales. Even in the areas where it’s a tiny minority, those that chose to use it should not face an uphill struggle or have to protest in order to do so.
Welsh in the Mainstream
There is some truly excellent work being done to ensure that public services and to a lesser degree, large private companies act responsibly and offer some or all services in Welsh. Some organisations such as HM Customs & Revenue have outstanding Welsh-speaking staff and it is possible to phone the Welsh help line to deal with tax matters in either language equally.
However, many of Wales’ sporting bodies have not truly embraced bilingualism and it is they that can really lead by example and encourage youngsters to not only use their unique language, but to be proud of it.
Poor Support for Welsh from NGBs
The Welsh rugby team is crammed with Welsh speakers, such as George North, Rhys Priestland, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Mike Phillips and Ken Owens to name but a few. Imagine a ‘Use Your Welsh’ campaign featuring these players. This could truly hit home with youngsters who idolize their heroes.
In fact, of the 11 National Governing Bodies (NGB) in Wales that receive over £400,000 of public funding, only three of them have a Welsh language policy. Of the 42 NGBs that received public funding in Wales, 37 of them operate English-only websites.
In fact, it is sad to note that there is currently a campaign against the Welsh Rugby Union. The WRU have been criticised for failing to provide supporters with the ability to access their services in their native language and pressure is mounting on them to communicate with their customers equally in both languages.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) are calling on the WRU to not only update their Welsh-language policy, but to operate their social media and websites bilingually, develop Welsh-medium courses and make all promotional materials bilingual.
The predicted costs for doing so are minimal but it does take some extra time, effort and patience to do so.
Amateurs Leading the Way
Compare this to the WTA; an amateur organisation that is completely self-funded and does not receive any outside grants or sponsorship. It creates very little revenue and does not employ any staff. It is run purely by volunteers whose love for the game is what keeps them putting in the hours behind the scenes.
So to decide to not only create Welsh names for the new regions, but to display them equally on the team logos is impressive and should be applauded. The WTA does not yet have a Welsh-language policy, but it’s social media streams have been posting bilingually and the will is there for the organisation to operate bilingually. The WTA’s new website is also being developed to be available in both Welsh and English.
A Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg spokesperson said:
“Sports can play an important role in promoting the use of the Welsh language and the Wales Touch Association deserves praise for this positive step. Hopefully this will set an example for other sporting bodies.”
So to the Wales Touch Association executive board, I thank you for leading the way and long may this continue so that young people can see that Welsh is part and parcel of life in Wales and is something to be proud of.
Perhaps some of the other sports bodies in Wales which receive £400,000+ a year of public funding will soon follow suit.