The Cardiff Blues, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets will continue to represent Welsh professional rugby in domestic and European competition for season 2019/20 – the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) confi
New Ospreys chairman Rob Davies attended his first PRB meeting this week, joining on the PRB the chairs of the Blues (Alun Jones), Dragons (David Buttress) and Scarlets (Nigel Short), Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) CEO Martyn Phillips and finance director Steve Phillips and independent chair David Lovett. (David Lovett also secures a place on the WRU Board, to represent the professional game in Wales).
The meeting concluded that terms of the new Professional Rugby Agreement (PRA), signed by all five parties and coming into effect on the 31st January 2019, will continue to govern the operational relationship of its signatories going forward.
Work on the PRA began early – the old Rugby Services Agreement did not expire until June 2020 – and this has led to a doubling in direct funding by the WRU from c£10m to c£20m per annum over the last two seasons, excluding competition income. This is in addition to the vital ongoing financial support locally from shareholders and benefactors.
At a time of flux and huge potential change in the global rugby landscape the new PRA has already brought in the rigour, transparency and accountability required for the PRB to make the decisions necessary to take the professional game in Wales forward and put it in the best position to capitalise on the opportunities that will come as the game shifts.
There are multiple parties exploring opportunities to invest in both the club and international game and a united PRB across club and country makes Wales an attractive proposition for would be investors.
It is vital that the momentum generated by Wales’ 2019 Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam and recognition of the integral contribution to that success made by the four professional sides in Wales, acts as a springboard for all of Welsh rugby.
The PRB has been empowered and mandated by the member clubs of the WRU and its Board and is financed by the commercial inventory of the whole of the professional game.
It has the ability to act decisively and will not be deterred from the pursuit of a solution to ensure the long-term sustainability of the professional game in Wales.
The latest meeting of the PRB was constructive and positive.
The PRB has determined and agreed so far:
- We need four professional teams in order to ensure sustainable success for the Wales’ national side
- All five rugby ‘entities’ need to be successful on and off the field
- The PRB is united in its pursuit of what is best for professional rugby in Wales.
Although the PRB has previously supported the principle for a proposed merger of two teams, it has since been noted that this merger has been deemed ‘off the table’ by both interested parties.
This means that budgets have subsequently been approved and player contracting can be concluded, with an emphasis on securing Welsh talent.
It is hoped that the emotion generated by the exploration of merger options can now be translated into support for the professional Welsh teams, helping create a sustainable future for the game in Wales.
Top of the PRB’s agenda is finding a way to meet current challenges head on and it is vital that the rigour and accountability that has characterised discussions to date remains in place in the coming days, weeks and months.
As all options are explored, the PRB will ramp up consultation with stakeholders, including, but not limited to players, staff, fans, clubs, government, broadcasters and partners.
Whilst the focus is on taking the professional game forward, the PRB are unanimous in their support of the ring-fencing of funding for the community game - a vibrant club game is the bedrock of all rugby in Wales.
Finally, the PRB is currently recruiting for a further independent voting member and further commits to keeping Welsh rugby fully informed of its progress at appropriate times.