Welsh Dragon firing up again
Oct. 15, 2021 @ 0:00 UTC
Welsh Touch has returned to the playing pitch and has set its sights on finding a way to get our sport additional recognition in the UK to open up funding streams to support expansion.
The Autumn Series has seen Welsh teams return to the test match arena to take on their friends from England, Scotland and Ireland in international competition for the first time since the pandemic began.
“Things have moved quite quickly from an international point of view,” said Wales Touch Association (WTA) Development Director Neil Perkins. A stalwart of Touch in Wales, Neil has represented Wales at 5 World Cups and 11 European Championships, “I’ve got a few caps under my belt and it’s been an awesome journey. I was involved in getting Wales Touch setup from the start.” He joined Adam Collins from the Federation of International Touch (FIT) for a recent episode of Set of Six to discuss Touch in Wales.
Calling all volunteers
Wales is a country of only 3 million people and the sporting landscape is dominated by Rugby and Football. Attracting new players to the sport has long been a focus of the WTA, “Player numbers are an issue, we have been trying to push that for many years,” said Neil Perkins.
Despite this, the Autumn Series tournament has remarkably seen 25 players debut at international level for Wales. The junior playing ranks are also in a healthy state with the WTA having some success in gaining access to schools, “Juniors wise it’s positive. We’ve got youngsters coming through. We’ve run some school competitions and that’s going well. As a physical education teacher, I teach Touch at my school and we have lots of other teachers around the country who teach it.”
Of greater concern for WTA Development Director Neil Perkins is a lack of volunteers to carry out off field roles, “We are spread too thin. We need more volunteers, more people involved. It comes down to manpower.”
Recognition for Touch needs to go national
The WTA has cultivated a good relationship with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and this has led to some very positive outcomes for Touch according to Neil Perkins, “The WRU recognized us as a sport in our own right and that’s how we became accredited with the Welsh Sports Association (WSA).”
Neil believes that the Touch associations of the United Kingdom need to cooperate to achieve the same outcome at the national level, “The WSA sits underneath UK Sport. Touch isn’t viewed as being dissimilar enough from other sports to be a sport in its own right at the national level. All the UK nations need to get together and find a way to get our sport recognised because it will open up funding streams, it will open up different avenues for support throughout the UK, such as lottery funding.”
Neil Perkins also believes national recognition for Touch as a sport in its own right will help to act against the worrying trend of certain rugby bodies in the UK developing their own interpretation of Touch, “I don’t like seeing the variation of Touch. We have to get the sport recognized. If we do, it will standardise it. I want to work with other parties so we can all play the same sport. Let’s play the same format of the game. We want to help the development of the other sports but don’t hinder us by changing the rules.”