After the news broke today about the offer of central contracts by the Welsh Rugby Union to the regions in Wales, with that offer being refused, it’s worth looking further then WRU propaganda to see the truth of the situation.
Currently, the WRU distributes circa £15 million to the four regions in Wales, £9 million of which is the competition and television revenue earned by the regions. Approximately £6.2million is then paid by the WRU to the regions for the release of international players. For this they get twelve international matches, a thirteen day release clause pre-internationals and fitness and training sessions during the season.
This £6.2million, spread between the four regions, is then used to not only fund international players but also their replacements in the squad which will be needed when the international players are absent.
The regions have had to decide themselves to put a £3.5million salary cap in place, to simply help keep their accounts viable and for them to continue existing. They have then been forced to ask for extra financial help from the WRU to help keep their best players. This is simply due to the money in the French and English game being far too much for Welsh regions to compete with.
Here we reach the offer made by the WRU. This was to keep the £6.2million figure and use it to fund the elite player contract of the current Welsh squad in Wales. For a few simple reasons, this is not a good deal for the regions.
Firstly the cost of the elite squad in Wales doesn’t currently add up to £6.2million so the Union would be giving less money to the clubs.
Secondly the clubs would have less money to find replacements in the squad for the large periods of time the international players are away and they would have no control over approximately 40% of the salary cap.
Thirdly the Union would gain much more control over these players and as a consequence they would not only play less for their regions but would spend less time training with them too.
The WRU’s offer of central contracts can be neatly surmised by offering nothing, or even less than nothing, for a loss of control and for the regions to be put at a great disadvantage.
Roger Lewis, the Chief Executive of the WRU, had an open letter published today, and through the propaganda and blustering, it simply contains snide comments and a complete misrepresentation of facts.
There is no doubt that a re-structuring of the game was needed in Wales, but it was needed to better the European prospects internationally and domestically. The current financial model has become far too top heavy and the WRU is at a great risk due to their short term success in overlooking what it is based on; the development of the young players by the regions and not by the WRU committee members.
Whilst the WRU have been applauded for reducing their debt, it is a short term view of rugby in Wales. For example, is paying off your mortgage in record time while stunting your children’s growth, the best way of paying off the family home?
There is a real financial problem facing the regions and it needs to be dealt with now. The WRU could well be on their way to paying off their debt, in say, 10 years, but they do so at the real threat of the decline of the Welsh domestic game. In effect, they are cutting off their own source of income, because once the domestic game is gone, where exactly are their international players going to come from?
For years the regions have relied on generous benefactors and boards of directors, but it is not a sustainable way to survive. The WRU need to act, not drive away the benefactors due to the inequalities of the partnership, and offer up deals that take more than they give.