Coronavirus: Welsh regions in player pay cut talks with WRU and WRPA

Jon Daniels (right) with former Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac, now in charge of Wales
Jon Daniels (right) with former Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac, now in charge of Wales

Wales' four rugby regions are having to discuss the prospect of pay cuts for players and staff because of the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic has led to the indefinite suspension of the Pro14, while May's European finals have been postponed.

The financial impact on the sport has been huge, with several English and Irish clubs forced to reduce salaries.

"It's tough everywhere you look at the moment," said Scarlets general manager of rugby, Jon Daniels.

Speaking to the BBC Scrum V podcast, he added: "We are in discussion with the Welsh Rugby Players' Association [WRPA] to look at all possible solutions.

"We've seen what's happened in Ireland, in England, and I suppose it would be naive not to think that those questions have been asked.

"But they have been asked in consultation with the four regions, the Welsh Rugby Union [WRU] and also the Welsh Rugby Players' Association."

Daniels confirmed the Scarlets have not yet been forced to reduce salaries or terminate contracts, but the future is uncertain.

"All four regions, and we can assume the WRU and WRPA, have guaranteed there will be none for March," he said.

"So discussions that are under way are to see what the future might hold from April onwards, but of course one thing about this situation that we've learnt - coronavirus - is it changes daily and so that's one of the hardest things to deal with is not knowing... because what might be the right answer today isn't necessarily the right answer tomorrow."

The WRPA's chief executive, Barry Cawte, said: "In previous years we have not necessarily been in the room with the WRU and the regions but collaboration is the word on this.

"We are working together to try and find a solution that will help everybody. Once we know the requirements, what the various things are, we will be in a clearer situation.

"Discussions are on-going and nothing has been agreed at this point but, hopefully, there will be something in the coming days."

'We would like closure - but safety first'

Wales' four regions, like all other sporting entities, expect to take a significant financial hit as a result of the postponements and cancellations and subsequent lost sources of income.

Their league competition, the Pro14 has been indefinitely suspended, but the English Premiership still hopes to resume its campaign, even if matches need to be played behind closed doors.

Pro14 says the resumption of the season will only take place when four strict criteria points have been met.

Cancelling the season and declaring it void could cause further problems for teams for various reasons.

The Scarlets, for example, would then have to play a second successive season in the second-tier European Challenge Cup, missing out on the financial rewards of qualifying for the Champions Cup.

Ideally, Daniels would like to finish the Pro14 campaign - but only once it is safe to do so.

"Our first priority is to make sure everyone in society is safe as possible. That includes players, fans and in particular the emergency services," he added.

"We couldn't comprehend having any kind of games while emergency services, the medical profession that we all rely on to provide our medical support at events, are not at games, you couldn't comprehend playing until they could accommodate that.

"But we've started something here, we started this season, basically in a long history this is the class of 2019-2020, so we'd still like to have some closure on this season if possible."

WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips shares that view.

"The prospect of re-scheduling events is something that is still forming a part of contingency planning for a time when the pandemic has abated," said Phillips.

"The Union is engaged in a constant process of financial modelling and re-modelling, to contingency plan for all foreseeable scenarios.

"A good outcome would be that the pandemic subsides by May or June and this season could be completed in the summer, but what we must do in the meantime is plan for every contingency."

'There is always hope'

Parc y Scarlets
Scarlets moved to Parc y Scarlets in 2008

As rugby remains on hold, the sport has been trying to contribute to the effort to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scarlets have made their Parc y Scarlets rugby stadium in Llanelli available, as leisure centres and other public buildings in Carmarthenshire are set to be turned into hospital wards to help health services cope with demand.

The WRU has followed suit by offering the Principality Stadium to the Welsh Government and the National Health Service.

Daniels hopes such gestures offers some hope at a difficult time.

"This is a horrific situation but there is always hope and, if nothing else, this reminds us what humanity, what society, what community can do," he said.

"That's what we are trying to do in our small way, hopefully that will inspire others.

"Focus is now to get through it as best as we can and as quickly as we can."

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