Welsh regions facing 'radical' change warns rugby chief

The four regions - the Scarlets, Blues, Ospreys and the Dragons - at the RaboDirect Pro12 launch in 2011
The four regions - the Scarlets, Blues, Ospreys and the Dragons - at the RaboDirect Pro12 launch in 2011

Regional Rugby Wales chairman Stuart Gallacher has warned "radical" changes are needed if Wales' four regions are to survive in "difficult conditions."

Wales is suffering a player exodus as Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues, Scarlets and Ospreys will operate a £3.5m salary cap next season.

Gallacher wants compromises with the Welsh Rugby Union.

He said: "We can no longer exist under the difficult [economic] conditions that are in existence in the country."

Welsh rugby's national team is celebrating its third Six Nations Grand Slam in eight seasons.

But WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis has conceded regional rugby in Wales is at a "crossroads" because of dwindling crowds and high-profile players leaving Wales.

Stars such as Gethin Jenkins,Luke Charteris, Huw Bennett and Aled Brew have already decided to follow Wales internationals Mike Phillips, Lee Byrne and James Hook to French clubs next season.

The WRU have commissioned a review into the financial situation at the four regions and Gallacher, whose organisation represents the regions, admits: "There has to be change.

"So we are looking to our Union for support - I'm sure we will get it.

"We are in this together. It is our national game. We have just won a Grand Slam again. We need to be progressive and take the game forward.

"I'm convinced we can. There will be a lot of hard work and a lot of hard talking to do.

"We are in the middle of the toughest recession this country has ever known... it's very, very difficult."

Gallacher said some benefactors had been funding the regions for up to 17 years and were now feeling they could no longer do so.

"We have been to the union and discussed things at length with them," he added.

Stuart Gallacher
Stuart Gallacher is the chairman of the Regional Rugby Wales

He said a financial report from Pricewaterhouse Coopers report was imminent and they would want "every single financial number before we can make any decisions."

He said they would review that with the WRU to see how they could make the regions sustainable, keep their best players in Wales and be competitive in Europe.

Gallacher says despite the problems Wales' three Grand Slams showed that the regional set-up worked.

"It's not insignificant that we have won three Grand Slams since regionalisation when we didn't win one in the previous 27 years with all the great players we've had."