Report proposes to create one Welsh professional area

Players from four Welsh regions at the launch of the United Rugby Championship at the Principality Stadium
Four players from Wales participated in the United Rugby Championship launch at the Principality Stadium

A report on Welsh rugby suggests that one Welsh region should be eliminated from the 2023-24 seasons.

The four professional sides of Wales are Ospreys Cardiff Scarlets Scarlets and Dragons.

The report was requested by the Professional Rugby Board (PRB), which oversees the game in Wales and has members from all four regions as well as the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).

The PRB will review the proposals at its next meeting on 11 May.

Oakwell Sports Advisory Consultants wrote the report, which included four recommendations or options. One of these is reducing a particular region.

Another suggestion was to fund players in a different way. According to the current arrangement, the WRU contributes 80 percent of the wages to top 38 domestic athletes and the region the remaining 20%.

Plans are also in place to create a new Welsh Professional Game agreement and a centralised commercial body.

These recommendations could be simply ignored by the PRB.

Six key findings are included in the report. These include that the WRU's commercial performance is comparable to its peers, that investment in the pro game, regions, and community is similar to other unions, and that Welsh rugby governance procedures need to be reviewed and realigned.

It states that “Welsh Rugby must develop a sustainable model of commercial financing for the next ten years.”

Which region would be cut off?

The Welsh Rugby Union owns the Dragons. Ospreys has its own ground, but it uses the Stadium which is home to Swansea City's football team.

With the sides trying to get out of Covid-19, financial reasons were cited as a reason for this proposal.

In 2020, the allocation given to the four regions dropped from £26m to £3m with a £20m loan for the sides that was negotiated by the WRU but will have to be paid back by the regions themselves.

The report states if one Welsh region was to close down there would be an immediate saving on average of £7.8m. The lower estimate is £6m while it could be as high as £8.9m.

The area that is being cut could be dropped into the revamped Indigo Premiership league, but this is only semi-professional.

Plan to eliminate a professional area would mean that Wales' player base would be reduced to 135 with 45 players in each squad.

The other three regions would fulfill the existing contractual obligations of players.

It is time to make some changes

After another bad season in the Welsh regions, there is an underlying feeling that something must be done.

The four European teams were unable to win any games and all the teams will finish at the bottom of the United Rugby Championship. There will be no league play-offs.

Wayne Pivac's Wales side placed fifth in the 2022 Six Nations, with just one win and losing to Italy. This compounded the region's failure.

The introduction of regional rugby took place in 2003 at the expense and five sides were created prior to the dissolution by the Celtic Warriors one year later.

Ospreys, Scarlets and others have been considering a merger in the past. However, the plan was canceled.

WRU spokesperson: “The Professional Rugby Board (PRB), commissioned Oakwell to prepare a report that explored the strategic options for the professional game of rugby in Wales.

“It contains a variety of recommendations that form part of the current discussions at the PRB.

“There are many other reports that support these discussions. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this point.”

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