Gloves off as hopes of Welsh deal collapse
July 11, 2014
Central contracts, such as the one handed to Sam Warburton, have been part of peace talks between the regions and the WRU © PA Photos
The uneasy truce in the row which has blighted Welsh rugby this year ended with a resumption of the public war of words between the Welsh board and Regional Rugby Wales (RRW), the umbrella body for the four professional regions.
On Friday afternoon, RRW announced a proposed new agreement for the future of the game was "completely unacceptable" to it and said negotiations over a new participation agreement with the WRU had broken down.
No winners, only losers
Roger Lewis © Getty Images
In a blunt statement, RRW referred to "an indescribably tortuous process" during which it had been asked to agree to terms "completely unacceptable for any responsible independent business to enter into". It also accused Roger Lewis, the WRU's controversial chairman, of making public comments which "do not reflect the actual process that the regions continue to experience, with every apparent step forward eventually being replaced by two steps back".
In reply, the WRU issued a statement of its own, saying it was "saddened and surprised" at the RRW comments, and that "it is extremely unhelpful to the process for emotionally charged statements to be made, either verbally or in writing, to interfere with this process".
Following months of discussions with the WRU aimed at reaching a new agreement to underpin elite rugby in Wales - the previous deal expired on June 30 - RRW has now conceded it must face life without any form of WRU support or involvement, outside what is required by IRB regulations.
The RRW statement laid bare the exasperation felt on its side. "Sadly, the regions regret to confirm that despite an indescribably tortuous process of endless telephone calls and meetings since January 6th, the control, commercial and financial conditions that are being demanded of them under drafts of the proposed new service agreement would be completely unacceptable for any responsible independent business to enter into and expose itself to.
"The regions are most grateful for the time and consideration of Wales' national head coach, who has worked hard to reach a constructive and positive balance on the core Rugby elements of the agreement.
"The public statements of the WRU chairman referring to the need for urgency are welcomed, together with the positive position of individual WRU Board members following the regions' presentation to the board during May 2014.
"Unfortunately, these comments in the public domain do not reflect the actual process that the regions continue to experience, with every apparent step forward eventually being replaced by two steps back.
"The regions have consistently made every possible effort to reach a positive and progressive agreement that truly works in the interests of both parties, to ensure a sustainable and competitive professional game in Wales at both regional and international level. They remain totally committed to the hope of reaching that solution.
"However, after many months of working hard to try to progress a new agreement, it is with heavy hearts that the boards of all four regions must now urgently consider the stark practical consequences of operating within a business model that does not include any form of agreement with the WRU outside IRB regulations and no WRU support or involvement in the development of professional regional rugby."
The WRU response urged RRW "to continue to fully engage in this process and has been encouraged by some recent comments from senior RRW personnel confidently predicting a positive outcome soon. The WRU is confident that the governing body and RRW are in substantial agreement on the total monies contributed by the WRU within the RSA and the governing body will work to ensure the rugby commitments associated to the payments are acceptable to all parties and in the best interests of Welsh rugby."
Under the previous participation agreement, Welsh regions received £6.7m from the WRU in return for releasing players for internationals and observing quotas on overseas players. The regions argue that funding has not kept pace with soaring player wages and has left them unable to compete with Europe's top teams.
WalesOnline reports that the deal which had been under discussion is believed to involve an additional £2m being made available for central contracts for players in a bid to halt the exodus to France and England.
With no new agreement, there are now fears that Welsh regions may lose WRU funding altogether.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Communication error please reload the page.
Nico Rosberg set the fastest time in the opening practice session at the Malaysian Grand Prix as Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had his session cut short by an engine problem
Rugby Sevens will make its Olympic debut on August, 6, 2016, after the Rio 2016 Organising Committee released the daily competition schedule to mark 500 days to go.
Brad Thorn might be returning to Super Rugby in 2016, with a report that Queensland Reds are looking to create a "player-coaching role" for him
SANZAR has lodged an appeal against the outcome of its own judicial hearing of a dangerous tackle charge against Sharks centre Francois Steyn
Michael van Gerwen once again missed double 12 for a perfect nine-dart leg but powered on to maintain his spot at the top of the Premier League table
Fallout continues from the NSW-Brumbies derby, with one Tahs forward - not Potgieter - surprised by other unsavoury comments during the game, Greg Growden reports
Greg Growden previews Super Rugby round 7. We've also got key stats, team news and all the line-ups to inform your ESPN Footytips Super Rugby picks
Will Mercedes dominate again? Can anybody catch up with the help of a rainstorm? And will the Red Bull/Renault relationship tear itself apart? All those questions and more will be answered at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix
Maurice Hamilton pieces together what we know from the Fernando Alonso crash and explains why the latest answers raise more questions
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Tiger Woods is confident of recovering from a poor run of form to qualify for the US Ryder Cup team in 2016, according to captain Davis Love III
Jonas Gutierrez has told Canal+ he will never forgive Newcastle for the way the club treated him during his battle with cancer, but wants to stay at St James' Park beyond this summer
Lionel Messi earned more than €1 million (£740,000) a week last year to make him the world's highest-paid player and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was the best-paid coach, according to a new survey
Andy Murray has expressed fears that his game will regress without full-time coaching in a candid exchange with a fellow Twitter user as he prepares to add former world No.4 Jonas Bjorkman to his coaching team
Luis Suarez has laughed off the idea that the Barcelona players have set out to help Lionel Messi beat Cristiano Ronaldo to La Liga's top scorer award
Unbeaten heavyweight Dillian Whyte, 28, (14-0, 11 KOs) tells ESPN where his rivalry with Anthony Joshua stems from and outlines the plan for his career this year after returning from a doping ban in November
Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner
Who was the first Briton to win the British Grand Prix?
Where does Anthony Davidson's record of 24 Grands Prix without a point rank him?
How many F1 drivers have had one win, but done it at their home Grand Prix?