‘WRU and clubs have been paying salaries their businesses cannot afford’
The Welsh Rugby Union has this evening addressed the dispute over players’ contracts which has resulted in Welsh players threatening a strike ahead of the Six Nations game with England.
WRU interim CEO Nigel Walker met with senior members of the Wales squad to clarify the current position, but warned: “The cold facts are that the WRU and clubs have been paying salaries that their businesses cannot afford.”
The WRU statement read:
Professional Rugby Board (PRB) members, the Welsh Rugby Players Association (WRPA) and Wales’ players have been engaged in ongoing contract negotiations since January, against the backdrop of a PRB commitment to honour all existing contracts.
Welsh Rugby Union interim CEO Nigel Walker met with senior members of the Wales squad this afternoon (Wednesday) to further clarify the current position, following verbal agreement of a new six-year deal for the professional game in Wales and the signing of a ‘heads-of-terms’ document, and has committed to maintain open dialogue to resolve individual concerns.
The PRB accepts that current discussions are complex and nuanced and that terms offered may not meet the immediate expectations of all individuals involved but, as has been evidenced in other countries, rugby finances are stretched and the professional game in Wales is determined to live within its means.
The PRB’s stated collective aim is to achieve sustainable success for the four professional club sides in Wales. Under the current agreement reached this will mean a salary cap for the 2024/25 season which is in line with most competitors (the cap for season 23/24 will be higher because existing contracts will be honoured).
“The new agreement offers a complete funding package to the professional game in Wales, but it does come with financial limitations which will directly affect salary negotiations,” said PRB chair Malcolm Wall.
“The cold facts are that the WRU and clubs have been paying salaries that their businesses cannot afford, so the new agreement establishes a new framework for contract negotiations.
“There is a stipulation that all current contracts will be honoured, but these businesses must return to a sustainable footing in order for the success we all crave to follow.
“The average salary of a Welsh professional rugby player under the new framework will be around £100k-per-year.
“We are confident that our salary packages are in line with the UK market. The PRB accepts that some better funded English and French clubs are paying more, but this is where we must set the mark of sustainability in Wales.”
The new six-year agreement reached includes provision for a new approach to international player release, a salary cap and a formal framework for contract negotiations across all four professional sides and the national squad.
There is no room for manoeuvre when it comes to the overall budget available for player contracts.
“We have absolute empathy with the professional players in Wales and are hugely grateful for all that they do for our national game, just as our regional sides are for the commitment of their players” added interim WRU CEO Nigel Walker.
“We know we are not in an ideal situation, but it is incredibly important for the whole game in Wales for us to get this next step right.
“We must get this right and if that means taking time to do so then that is the way it must be.
“Throughout all our negotiations our duty of care to our players in Wales has always been of paramount importance and that is why we have developed a solution around current contracts, which has been in place since the New Year.
“The next step is to confirm the deal and confirm these contracts and we will be moving as swiftly as we possibly can to that point.”
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