Blues must find £1m be­fore new PRA deal can be signed

The Rugby Paper - - News - By ALEX BY­WA­TER

CARDIFF Blues have called an emer­gency meet­ing for Mon­day fol­low­ing crunch talks be­tween the WRU and their four re­gions over the new Pro­fes­sional Rugby Agree­ment last week.

De­tails of the PRA – the sys­tem by which Welsh rugby will be run mov­ing for­wards – have been out­lined and agreed, though fur­ther in­for­ma­tion has not yet been re­vealed by the gov­ern­ing body.

But The Rugby Pa­per un­der­stands the Blues have a deficit of more than £1m to make up be­fore the PRA can be of­fi­cially signed. How they do that will be dis­cussed on Mon­day at a cri­sis sum­mit called by new Blues chair­man Alun Jones and chief ex­ec­u­tive Richard Hol­land.

It re­mains a real pos­si­bil­ity the Blues may have to turn to for­mer chair­man and bene­fac­tor Pe­ter Thomas, right, again in order to re­lieve their lat­est fi­nan­cial con­cerns.

Such mon­e­tary wor­ries aren’t con­fined to the Blues. It is un­der­stood the Drag­ons, who were taken over by the WRU last sum­mer, have a pro­jected £1m over­spend on their bud­get for the sea­son.

head coach, Bernard Jack­man, be­cause of a string of poor re­sults and last week be­gan to try to re­coup cash by loan­ing out lock Ry­nard Land­man.

It is also un­der­stood the Ospreys re­cently re­ceived a £500,000 loan from the WRU.

Welsh rugby’s Pro­fes­sional Game Board met last week to dis­cuss the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the PRA. Among the top­ics on the agenda were how much fund­ing each re­gion will re­ceive mov­ing for­ward and a new three-tier band­ing sys­tem by which the coun­try’s top play­ers will be paid.

De­tails of the meet­ing have been a closely guarded se­cret, but it is also un­der­stood there was lit­tle sig­nif­i­cant pro­gres­sion in key ar­eas. It means move­ment to­wards new play­ing bud­gets for next sea­son have not been given the green light by the WRU.

It has led to con­tin­u­ing con­fu­sion at Wales’ four pro­fes­sional sides and on-go­ing dif­fi­cul­ties for play­ers com­ing out of con­tract. For the coaches and di­rec­tors of rugby, not know­ing their play­ing bud­gets for next sea­son is a night­mare at this stage of the sea­son.

At the same time, one thing which be­came clearer was the debt aris­ing at the Blues. Thomas stepped down as chair­man at Wales’ cap­i­tal re­gion at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son and agreed to write off a sum of more than £11m he had ploughed in since 2003.

The WRU want each re­gion to bal­ance their books be­fore the RPA can be signed, but are un­will­ing to hand over more money to the Blues to do so. It means the re­gion – who owe a six­fig­ure sum to Cardiff Ath­letic Club, the own­ers of their Cardiff Arms Park home – face real con­cern over their im­me­di­ate fu­ture.

“We have the de­tails of a new PRA on the ta­ble and we are all in agree­ment and both res­o­lute and de­ter­mined to make it work," said WRU chief ex­ec­u­tive Mar­tyn Phillips. “That means meet­ing a se­ries of con­di­tions which all par­ties have signed up to over the com­ing weeks and months.

“There are con­di­tions which are clear lines in the sand, and will not be com­pro­mised, and must be met be­fore the PRA can be­come fully ac­tive.”

It was hoped the PRA would have been signed last sum­mer, but as talks drag on over re­gional fund­ing and how play­ers will be paid, Wales’ top stars re­main in limbo.

With more than 50 re­gional play­ers out of con­tract at the end of the sea­son – in­clud­ing Wales stars Ken Owens, Gareth An­scombe and Rob Evans – there is ris­ing ten­sion among the re­gional squads.

It looks un­likely to be re­solved be­fore the Six Na­tions kicks-off next month.

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