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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Week In Week Out: Deal Or No Deal?

Llanelli Scarlets benefactor Huw Evans has called for a better deal for the Welsh rugby regions after revealing the four professional sides are coughing up £18million in player wages, but receive less than £4million from the Welsh Rugby Union to help them keep players in Wales.

Mr Evans told BBC Wales' current affairs programme Week In Week Out (Tuesday 3 February, BBC One Wales) that Welsh Regional sides are out of pocket - and any new deal with the WRU will have to see a substantial improvement in the compensation the Regions receive for the use of their players.

The Welsh Rugby Union and Regional Rugby Wales are currently in the middle of negotiating a new participation agreement set to resolve issues such as player release.

Both sides are keen to avoid embarrassing arguments over availability of Welsh players for coach Warren Gatland's national side, such as happened during the last Autumn Internationals.

Mr Evans, who has financially backed the Llanelli Scarlets, says it's time the Regions are properly financially rewarded for carrying the cost of the international side. And he reckons the £3.6m the WRU gives them each year is falling far short of the real cost.

"If you add up all the costs of the squads at regional level in Wales it comes to about £18million. Most of those players have signed two- or three-year contracts so if you take an average, our liability for those players is in excess of £34million. We need to be compensated for the release of those players because we are carrying all the cost," he says.

But CEO of the WRU Roger Lewis denies the Regions are not well compensated. "The union gives the Regions some £3.6million, on top of the £8million that washes through from the Magners League and the European Cup," he says. "Furthermore the Welsh Rugby Union funds the four regional academies so we give the regions a further £650,000.

"We are also currently picking up player insurance costs - which we need to address. Also of course we pay for the running of the game, match officials and so on."

While access to players has been agreed for the coming Six Nations, no long-term new agreement has been made - which means rows over player availability could well surface again. Many believe this could undermine the success of Welsh teams at the top level.

Player release has been at the forefront of negotiations between the WRU and Welsh Regions as they remain locked in a debate over how the professional game in Wales should be run. But in his investigation for Week In Week Out, Peter Johnson has discovered there are more serious differences between the Union and its professional partners that could jeopardise a new deal both sides say is vital to safeguard the game of rugby football in Wales.

Week In Week Out: Deal Or No Deal?
Tuesday 3 February, BBC One Wales, 10.35pm

Notes to Editors

Viewers outside Wales can view BBC One Wales on satellite channel 972 or on the BBC iPlayer from Wednesday 4 February.

JW

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