Welsh Rugby
Regions rejected central contracts proposal
ESPN Staff
October 19, 2012
Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis, Wales press conference, Grand Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand, October 17, 2011
WRU chief executive Roger Lewis has penned an open letter published in a national newspaper © Getty Images

The Welsh Rugby Union has revealed that the country's four professional sides rejected the chance for the entire Wales squad to be centrally contracted.

Chief executive Roger Lewis, writing in an open letter published by the Western Mail newspaper, said an offer was made in August this year in an attempt to help keep Wales' leading players in the country instead of taking up lucrative offers overseas but it was turned down by the Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Dragons.

The news comes with the Blues and the Dragons having recently indicated they would welcome financial help from the WRU in a bid to retain the services of Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate respectively. The highly-respected international duo look poised to join the likes of international team-mates Mike Phillips, James Hook, Gethin Jenkins and Luke Charteris and opt to move overseas.

Lewis has indicated that the £6.2m already given to the regions for international player release would have funded central contracts. That figure forms part of the £15m the regions currently collectively receive from the governing body.

In his letter, Lewis said: "An important fact related to the salary issue is that the WRU, on August 14 this year, formally offered to the four regions to centrally contract the entire international squad of players within Wales.

"It would have meant that the WRU would have managed players' salaries and careers, and directly we would negotiate with any player seeking to leave Wales.

"The £6.2m player release money would be retained by the WRU to fund this, and the surplus - and yes, there is a surplus - would be spent on nurturing new talent.

"That offer was not accepted by the regions. This may come as a surprise to many. But that is the contractual right of the four regions and I respect it. I have moved on.

"Subsequently, though, there have been half-baked comments in the press about dual contracts and top-up payments from people who I would think should know better.

"At this point, raise your eyes and say, 'that's Welsh rugby for you!'"

Lewis continued: "But that said, the good news I can share with you today is that we are close to creating a new partnership with the four regions which is based upon all of us working together, to sort out all of the four regions' problems, with a proper regional management board contractually underpinned and with real teeth.

"We are focused on the future and getting it right for the long term for regional rugby."

Regional Rugby Wales, the umbrella body for Wales' professional teams, issued a statement of their own in response that questioned the timing of the WRU letter and stressed that the financial problems faced by the Welsh game stretch beyond the elite level.

"We have consistently stated that until we have found workable solutions for the challenges facing the whole of Welsh professional rugby, it is our firm belief that it's not helpful to a complex process to get drawn into individual debates in public," said RRW chief executive Stuart Gallacher. "What is important is that we consider and implement the right solutions for the whole of Welsh rugby; taking into account every level of the game in Wales and how that works together.

"It is also critical at this time that our regions and all our rugby supporters are able to concentrate on an important and exciting weekend of European rugby - both from performance and commercial perspectives.

"It is our primary duty to support our players and back the energy and effort going into Welsh rugby performances on the field in Europe's top club competition; and it would be helpful, therefore, not to have any further distraction or disruption at this time from that task."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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