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Wales
D-Day looms for Welsh rugby
ESPN Staff
December 31, 2013
Just where does the Blues' future lie? We should find out more on Tuesday © Getty Images
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There will be some indication of just where the future of Welsh rugby lies on Tuesday as the deadline looms for the regions to sign a new Participation Agreement with the Welsh Rugby Union.

December 31 has been the longstanding date by which the regions must commit themselves to a contract with the WRU which will last until 2019 - a deal including agreements over funding and which competitions the Welsh regions play in.

RRW's last statement

  • "In addition to being unable to confirm the structure of their European competition, the WRU is unable to fully confirm the number of teams competing in the Pro12 between 14/15 and 18/19, the revenue from and distribution from the league in that period. There is currently no sponsor for the Pro12 in 2014/15 (next season) and the TV deals are not confirmed.
  • "We don't even know what will happen in six months' time when the current PA expires. This is despite the WRU knowing of the uncertainty around European competition for almost two years, and the Pro12 for approaching one year. The regions have been put in a position where their entire business platform in just six months' time is completely unknown, with a combined revenue risk of ¬£16m, yet they are being pressurised by the WRU to sign a five-year extension to the PA immediately!"

The two parties - Regional Rugby Wales, the body in charge of the regions, and the WRU - have been at loggerheads over the deal with RRW claiming uncertainty over the future of European rugby means they are not sure exactly what they are committing themselves to and at present it seems unlikely there will be a firm agreement by close of play on Tuesday.

The regions have since been linked with joining up alongside the English clubs to form an Anglo-Welsh league, a move that would only occur if no Heineken Cup rugby is on next season and a shift that would also end the regions' contract with the WRU.

The WRU will meet on Thursday to discuss its plans and if a new agreement materialises, the organisation is rumoured to be looking at starting three new regions, under its control, in Neath, Pontypridd and North Wales. It would also look into centrally contracting the country's top players with Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, Alun-Wyn Jones, Adam Jones and Rhys Priestland out of contract at the end of the season.

For Phil Bennett, the former Wales and British & Irish Lions great, he believes the fans, who staged a protest against the WRU on Boxing Day, are losing interest in the regional game.

"Look around now - as the regional game collapses around our ears, as top players flee like refugees from a disaster zone - and it almost feels as though those triumphs never happened," Bennett wrote in his column for Wales Online. "I don't have any instant solutions to the problems afflicting regional rugby in Wales.

"I have no magic wand to wave which will make the four teams and the Welsh Rugby Union suddenly settle all their differences. But what I do know is that these battles cannot go on without more weary followers of our game opting to find others things to do with their time."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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