Wales Rugby
Ospreys director calls on WRU to provide more funding
ESPN Staff
October 7, 2012
Ospreys fullback Lee Byrne passes on instructions, London Irish v Ospreys, Heineken Cup, Madejski Stadium, Reading, England, January 16, 2011
Lee Byrne is one of a number of Welsh players who have moved to play in France's Top 14 © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Lee Byrne | James Hook | Mike Phillips
Teams: Ospreys | Wales

One of the leading administrators in Welsh rugby has demanded that the Welsh Rugby Union put more money into the regional game.

Mike Cuddy stepped down as Ospreys' joint managing director last week after previously using his millions to help support the region. In recent years he watched as Welsh internationals Mike Phillips, Lee Byrne and James Hook all left the club to sign big-money deals with French sides. They were moves replicated across the Principality, when Gethin Jenkins, Luke Charteris and Aled Brew all joined their national team-mates in the Top 14 and Cuddy believes more will follow unless the Union helps out financially.

"If the top Welsh players are to play and stay in Wales, it has to change," he said. "In a professional game where money talks and the sharks of France and England circle the Welsh game, there has got to be more investment by the governing body into the regions. A mere £6million of the Welsh Rugby Union's earnings are returned to the regions in real terms. The rest is merely a case of them handing on television rights for the regional game, funds that belong to the four teams involved at that level. The full findings of the Pricewaterhouse Coopers report into the state of regional rugby have yet to be revealed, but they won't make pretty reading."

Despite resigning from his role as managing director, Cuddy remains a director at the Ospreys. He is one of a growing number of voices from the regional sides to give the Welsh clubs a fairer deal. Currently Wales international are paid entirely by their clubs, but the clubs are obliged to release them for internationals and training camps. As such many clubs are refusing to renew players' contracts when they come to an end, but that in turn reduces the competitiveness of the sides.

"All we seem to get at the regions is calls for more release time to the national team for our top players, and demands that they should be paid more wages to keep them in Wales," Cuddy said. "Something has to change if Welsh rugby is to carry on competing at the top end of the professional club game in Europe. The last 10 years have been a constant battle for survival, and there is absolutely no doubt that had it not been for the backers, none of the regions could have survived.

"The (Six Nations) Grand Slam of 2005 wasn't a coincidence, and it wasn't a coincidence in 2008 and 2012 either. Yes, the players were magnificent, and yes, the Union did a wonderful job at international level, but the foundation and context was, and is, a strong regional set-up."

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