Professional Rugby Board apologises for ‘stress’ caused to Welsh players by contract dispute
Professional Rugby Board chair Malcom Wall has apologised unreservedly to Welsh players for the “stress and real discomfort” caused by the current contract dispute.
A new six-year financial agreement between the Welsh Rugby Union and Wales’ four professional regions – Dragons, Cardiff, Ospreys and Scarlets – has not yet been signed off in writing after months of discussion.
The regions are braced for financial cuts, but no playing budgets have been finalised for next season, so no contracts can be offered in writing.
The situation has led to a threat of strike action by Wales players, leaving the upcoming Guinness Six Nations clash against England in jeopardy.
Speaking on the BBC’s Scrum V programme, Wall said: “We’ve been working on a long-term secure and sustainable funding model for frankly too long.
“I absolutely recognise the fact we haven’t got that funding model in place is having an impact on ability to offer contracts and I unreservedly apologise on behalf of the PRB for the stress and real discomfort that players obviously feel.
“We will push very hard to complete this, but it is complex. We’re trying to put a six-year framework in place that will total over £315million.
“It has been very complex, we are very close to it. We’ve got a long-form documentation, we now have to go through the page turns and make sure that it’s fit for everybody’s purpose.
“These aren’t excuses because I’m genuinely upset and feel very personally that I’ve not done what I should have done as chair of the PRB in getting us to the place we want to be with this long-term funding agreement and therefore the ability to remove the uncertainty from people not having contracts.
“But we are pushing hard to try to build something that is secure and sustainable for some time.”
It is understood that the players want a place at PRB board meetings and the removal of the contentious 60-cap rule, whereby a player plying his trade outside the country cannot be picked for Wales unless he has made at least that number of Test appearances.
They are also concerned about contracts that have fixed-variable elements accounting for 20 per cent of salaries.
Wall said that Gareth Lewis of the Welsh Rugby Players’ Association (WRPA) had been invited to be an “observer and contributor” to the PRB and that an announcement on the 60-cap rule was due in the next few days following an accelerated review.
He added: “With regard to the fixed and variable, we still believe it is the right way to go forward and we are arranging with the WRPA this week to hopefully conduct a town hall (meeting), or more than one, with players in order to better explain the reasoning behind that.”
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