Wales Touch Association applauded for use of Welsh language

Wales Touch Association broke the sporting mould when they launched the six brand new regions that competed at the inaugural National Championships in April 2013…each of the regions were given a bilingual name.
Wales Touch Nationals Logo

 

 

Bilingual Branding

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.

% of Welsh Speakers in Wales, 2011 Census

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.

The WTA have been posting to their Facebook page for the last 18 months

The WTA have been posting bilingually to their Facebook page for the last 18 months

 

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.

What about you?  Tell us about your experiences (good and bad) of dealing with sporting organisations in Welsh.  Use the comment box below

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How Much is Touch Worth?

Our leisure time is precious and we demand that our recreational experiences are not only fulfilling but value for money.  So how much are you prepared to pay in order to play Touch and what do you expect in return?  Answer the poll and comment below

Orangutans - ail salfe / second place 2012

Touch requires minimum equipment; a ball, an area to play on and that’s about it.  However, there is a whole sliding scale of optional extras which can have a huge impact on the player’s ‘experience’ and therefore the price.

The Price of Yoga

When you look at organised fitness activities such as Spinning classes or Yoga, you would expect to pay around £5 for 45-60 minute sessions.  What you are paying for is the knowledge that you are lead by a trained instructor, using suitable, safe equipment in a suitable venue, where you can have a shower and change afterwards.

The going rate for playing 5-a-side football is similar.  To play a weekly 30-40 minute match with 5-a-side national operators Leisure Leagues, costs from £22 -£35 per team.  In other words, it’s at least £4.50 per player, per game.  For this you get trained referees, good playing facilities, weekly programmes and an excellent website with fixtures and results for your league regularly updated.

The Price of Touch Poll

Touch leagues usually charge a season fee per team rather than per head.  To keep the maths simple, let’s assume that the costs are based on 10 players playing a 10 week season.   For example, if your team fee is £250, each player pays £25 per season, which is £2.50 each per game.

Based on this, I’ve come up with pricing options and what I think are reasonable expectations based on each price.

  • Free – let’s have a chuck around on the park, no refs, no score-keeping, just for fun
  • £1 per game – let’s all chuck in a quid to pay a mate to referee games for us, games are friendlies and not part of an accredited league
  • £2-3 per game – games officiated by one qualified referee, there is a league website with fixtures and results, plus trophies at the end of the season for winning teams
  • £3-4 per game – all the above, but I want games dual or triple refereed with level 2 or above qualified refs and free playing shirt for everyone in the team
  • £5+ per game – all of the above, plus access to changing and shower facilities and maybe even a nice bar

The (Actual) Price of Touch

I’ve done a quick check of prices to play Touch in three random locations.  These are all well established leagues with many teams already competing each summer.  This is based on the most up to date prices on league websites (either 2012 or 2013).  The price is the fee per team, per season (8-10 games per season).

London (Regent’s Park) £495 per team

Summer 2013, 8 week season, playing t-shirts supplied, 40 minute games

Nottingham £375 per team

Summer 2012, 10 week season, playing t-shirts supplied, 40 minute games

Cardiff £250 per team

Summer 2012, 8 week season, no shirts supplied, 30 minute games

An interesting comparison between playing in the capital of Wales and our English counterpart.  It costs almost double the amount to play Touch in London’s Regent Park, although you do get a snazzy t-shirt, slightly longer match time and the honour of playing in the Queen’s back yard.

Priced out of the game?

To pay a few pounds to play 40 minutes of Touch in an affiliated league seems reasonable in comparison to similar activities, but it can be a barrier to some.  Recent statistics show that adults in the most deprived areas of Wales were more likely to report no physically active days each week.  Can it be true that less well off people are less inclined to take part in physical activity in their leisure time?  Is the cost of many activities the reason for this trend?

The WRU will soon be announcing their fees for 2013 Touch leagues around the country.  If they are to hit their ambitious participation targets for what they are terming ‘Leisure Rugby’, i.e. Touch, then they are going to have to consider their season fees very carefully so as not to exclude large proportions of the Welsh community – the majority of which are not currently participating in sport.

WRU Participation Officers

After all, what is preferable, a large number of people playing the game, but paying less money, or a small, elite group paying a premium?  When Sport Wales is funding the WRU to employ 14 full time Participation Officers to the tune of £400,000 over the next three years in order to bring the game to masses, surely the former is the case.

Let’s hope the 2013 pricing structure is more Hailey Park than Regent’s Park.

What about you?  What are you prepared to pay and what do you expect in return?  Answer the poll and leave your comments below