After it was announced in August that the PriceWaterCooper (PWC) report had been completed, it has been somewhat baffling that it has taken so long for news of its findings to be released. Indeed even now, the full report is not accessible, only snippets that have been released by the BBC.
And what does it tell us? Absolutely nothing new.
Its key point focus largely on how the regions have been managed and run in the past; and that is badly. I’m not sure there’s anyone with any knowledge of Welsh rugby that can disagree with that.
Slightly alarming is the reporting that not all the regions have up to date business plans. Considering rugby is fully professional and the regions have been in existence now for ten years it is a fact that is unacceptable.
It does go on to state however that the regions have been taking steps themselves to improve their financial situation, the self-imposed salary cap that the regions insisted on having at the end of last season being highlighted as a very good step.
It also summarises for us the fact that the regions wouldn’t have survived until now if it wasn’t for the benefactors that have effectively bankrolled them. Again this is an obvious fact and has been widely recognised in Welsh rugby for numerous years.
The roll of the benefactor is a tricky one. They quite rightly feel that they deserve some input into the running of a region seeing as they invest so heavily, but they themselves need to be careful not to interfere too much as has quite clearly happened in the past. And judging by the news coming out of the regions it would appear that a good balance is at last being struck.
The following seven ideas are all presented in the report as ways to resolve the situation:
- Status quo
- Change season structure
- Centrally contract players
- Disband regions, revert to clubs
- Reduce number of regions
- WRU takes over all pro rugby
- Form collaborative management board to enforce decisions
Clearly the status quo is not working and needs to change, the change of the season structure would require negotiation from all the home unions and is therefore unlikely to be viable. The report reveals that centrally contracting players will not work as it does not address the structural funding gap, and either reverting to clubs or reducing the number of regions would be a threat to player depth and could risk a big loss in income.
This takes us to the last two options; the WRU taking over all pro rugby, or a management board brought in to enforce decisions.
The first of these is not likely to happen due to the pressures it would put on the WRU to fund everything from grassroots up and as part of the report leaked by the BBC states it could also mean that “the WRU would potentially breach its banking covenants”.
The report quite clearly favours the options of the regions and the WRU to “adopt a closer collaborative approach”. This is hardly a revelation. The regions have been trying to work towards this for well over a year now. The report does imply that a separate management board would be needed to enforce this, yet from what has been leaked so far it does not state who they think should make up the said management board.
Welsh rugby has a history of effectively shooting itself in the foot. Indeed the only positive (for some) outcome to have come from negotiations between the WRU and Regional Rugby Wales is that of the double header regional derby organised for March. When it was announced it was revealed that it took five years for this decision to be reached.
It is quite clear that neither the regions or the WRU are capable of negotiating effectively between themselves which would make the idea of a separate management board enforcing things appealing, although how it would be set up is a serious question that needs addressing and quickly.
What is clear from the report is that both sides need to work together to improve domestic rugby in Wales. Despite poor management and past blunders, the regions have been trying to do this for the last couple of seasons. The WRU need to do what the report says and get themselves on board.