Welsh Rugby Union says Wales' regions 'reject' central contracts

 

Welsh Rugby Union chief Roger Lewis has revealed Wales' four regions have turned down an offer to contract their Welsh international players centrally.

The WRU planned to use the £6.2m they give the regions for releasing their Welsh stars for international duty to fund central contracts.

The WRU's aim is to keep Wales' top players in the Welsh regions.

"That offer was not accepted by the regions," WRU chief executive Roger Lewis wrote in an open letter. 

"That is their contractual right and I respect it."

Stuart Gallacher, the chief executive of Regional Rugby Wales - the umbrella body that represents the four Welsh regional teams - responded by saying that such public statements do not help the current situation.

"Until we have found workable solutions for the challenges facing the whole of Welsh professional rugby, it is our firm belief that it's not helpful to a complex process to get drawn into individual debates in public," Gallacher said in a statement.

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"What is important is that we consider and implement the right solutions for the whole of Welsh rugby, taking into account every level of the game in Wales and how that works together.

"It is also critical at this time that our regions and all our rugby supporters are able to concentrate on an important and exciting weekend of European rugby - both from performance and commercial perspectives... it would be helpful, therefore, not to have any further distraction or disruption at this time from that task."

The "tough economic challenges" facing Welsh rugby and the loss of players to higher-paying clubs outside Wales have been hotly debated in recent months, with fierce discussion following the Welsh rugby union's record turnover of £63m in the year to June 2012.

"The recent debate, if you can call it that, about player salaries and soundbite solutions has been untimely, misinformed and damaging," Lewis added.

"An important fact to the salary issue is that the WRU, on August 14 this year, formally offered to the four regions to centrally contract the entire international squad of players within Wales.

"It would have meant that the WRU would have managed players' salaries and careers, and directly we would negotiate with any player seeking to leave Wales.

"The £6.2m player release money would be retained by the WRU to fund this and the surplus, and yes there is a surplus, would be spent on nurturing new talent."

Former Ospreys chief executive Mike Cuddy has called on the WRU to give additional funding to the Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons, claiming the "national/regional environment and relationship was "not what it should be."

The Blues have appealed for financial support from the WRU to retain British and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts, who has been linked with a big-money move to France when his Arms Park contract expires in the summer of 2013.

And the Dragons want more cash to help keep Dan Lydiate, the 2012 Six Nations player of the tournament, as the flanker has been tipped to join fellow Grand Slam winners Gethin Jenkins, Mike Phillips, James Hook and Luke Charteris in France.

Scarlets powerhouse George North and Blues wing Alex Cuthbert are also rumoured to have been targeted by French clubs.

"There needs to be something to be put in place," Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley has insisted.

The BBC has asked Regional Rugby Wales to respond to Lewis's comments.