Jeff Probyn doubts viability of proposed Anglo-Welsh league

Former England prop Jeff Probyn does not believe that a new Anglo-Welsh competition is a solution for Welsh rugby's financial troubles.

The Welsh regions are in dispute with the Welsh Rugby Union over funding, player contracts and new competitions.

One possibility mooted for the regions is to split from the WRU and join a new proposed Anglo-Welsh league.

"The Welsh regions see that as a panacea for their evils, for all their problems," Probyn told Radio Wales.

"[They think] that they're going to get huge crowds and they're going to generate millions of pounds more.

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The LV= Cup, which is the Anglo-Welsh competition, has been allowed to die by both England and Wales

Jeff Probyn Former England prop

"Most of the Premiership fail to make a profit, they rely heavily on the funding they get from the RFU [Rugby Football Union]. So it's not as if the Premiership is paying its way and is self-sustaining in terms of its funding.

"The Premiership doesn't generate that amount of fans and that amount of money."

Probyn, 57, capped 37 times by England, also points to the lack of interest in the LV= Cup, a current Anglo-Welsh competition that has been largely used by both English and Welsh teams as a proving ground for players who are not first-team regulars.

"There's already an Anglo-Welsh competition and it no longer reignites the old-fashioned passions that were around when I was playing," Probyn said.

"The LV= Cup, which is the Anglo-Welsh competition, has been allowed to die by both England and Wales."

It has been reported  that Premier Rugby Limited, which represents the top-flight English clubs, and its broadcast partner BT Sport have offered each region £4m a season to quit the Pro12 and instead compete in an Anglo-Welsh competition.

The WRU says that because of contractual obligations it could not sanction an Anglo-Welsh league, which the regions believe is a strong option to safeguard their financial future as businesses.

But Probyn warns that the BT deal would likely not be enough for the Welsh regions in the long term.

"The amount of money that BT is talking about is relatively small, even if it's a million pounds. If you look at the profits and losses that the rugby clubs are making, the fact is that the money BT is offering is not enough to break even or make a profit," Probyn added.

"They're paying too much in wages and a lot of countries unfortunately, whether we like it or not, can't afford professional rugby.

"The usual thing with funding is there's never enough money for regions or for professional clubs.

"The unfortunate fact is that professional rugby is woefully underfunded because there's not enough people actually crossing the thresholds, going to the grounds, watching the games and providing enough finance.

"It relies on the governing bodies to dip into the funds they earn from international rugby to actually pay for professional sport."

Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets refused to renew the existing participation agreement with the WRU by the 31 December deadline imposed by the governing body.

The regions are waiting to see the contents of a new participation agreement being prepared by the WRU, but the two sides remain locked in a bitter power struggle.

A steady stream of leading Welsh players have departed for foreign clubs, with the already cash-strapped Welsh regions often unable to respond to the wage inflation.

The situation has led to the WRU consider offering central contracts to its international players.