STATEMENT FROM REGIONAL RUGBY WALES
RRW, on behalf of the four Welsh Regions, confirms that the Regional businesses remain unable to commit to extend the existing Participation Agreement with the WRU by the deadline of 31st December 2013.
Whilst the Welsh Regions, their players and coaches, investors, sponsors, supporters and communities take great pride in their contribution to Welsh Rugby at all levels of the game and remain totally committed to working with the WRU to secure a sustainable and competitive future for professional Rugby in Wales, at this point the WRU remains unable to confirm;
The existence and structure of any European/Cup Competition for the period 14/15 to 18/19
The income and distribution from any such competition over the period
The number of teams participating in the Pro12 league for the period 14/15 to 18/19
The income and distribution from the Pro12 league over the period, or even the confirmation of a main sponsor
Consequently, the basic definition of “participation” within the legal agreement cannot be confirmed. So the WRU are demanding that the Regions legally commit to their operating costs – without committing in turn to the competition incomes that are their obligation under the agreement.
The WRU do not and could not run their business in such circumstances and neither can the Regions. The WRU hold full responsibility under the Participation Agreement for the Competition platform and TV rights of the Regions and it is astonishing that they have put the four businesses in this position as a result of failing to fulfil their obligations under the agreement, despite having almost two years to resolve the issues involved. As it stands, the Regions do not believe the Participation Agreement reflects the changes and demands of the modern game.
As a result, the position the Regions currently face is that;
10/32 games are not confirmed for 14/15 season in just 8 months time – 31% season total
Season ticket and match day ticket incomes cannot be confirmed
Sponsor contracts and income cannot be confirmed within contractual deadlines
Playing kit, merchandise design, orders and income cannot be confirmed within contractual deadlines
The total income currently at risk for the 14/15 season alone amounts to a possible £16m across the four Regions and they are unable to confirm any form of robust business plan and financial forecast beyond May – in just five months time.
At the same time, it is very clear that massive increases in the TV revenues being achieved by the Club game in Europe will dramatically increase the funding gap between the Regions and clubs in France and England over the next five years; well beyond the reach of any potential increases in attendance or commercial revenues; whilst the funding provided to Irish and Scottish teams from their Unions remains significantly greater than that in Wales.
Recognising these stark facts and as a direct result of the position they have been placed in, RRW and the Regions have had no choice but to consider every alternative to secure a truly sustainable future for regional rugby in Wales.
Therefore, RRW and the Regions re-affirm their commitment to the Rugby Champions Cup under the aegis of Six Nations, which will generate a guaranteed £12m additional funding across the four regions over the next three years and help reduce the funding gap compared to the French, English, Irish and Scottish clubs.
A solution must be reached by the end of January 2014. Should this not be possible, the Regions will have no choice but to pursue further competition options immediately.
Having secured this position, the Regions are now able to plan positively based on these options, rather than the destructive alternative of massive cost cutting that they would have no choice but to undertake due to the £16m risk they currently face as part of the existing agreement.
It continues to be the absolute intent and strong desire of RRW and the Regions to work with the WRU in progressing such a positive position for the next five years of professional Rugby in Wales, or indeed to discuss any proposals WRU themselves may have that could provide an even stronger platform for sustainable and competitive professional rugby across Wales.
Without change, professional rugby in Wales will fall further and further behind the rest of the European game.
The Regions’ passionate commitment to developing world-class players in Wales, their investment in infrastructure, development networks, rugby intellect and experience to support Welsh Rugby success is absolute. It is this commitment, together with their role in promoting and celebrating the rich heritage and history within the regional and club game that they seek to protect.