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