Regional Clubs Ready To Defy WRU Demands Ahead Of Participation Agreement Deadline
The deadline set by the Welsh Rugby Union for the four regional clubs to sign up to a renewed Participation Agreement expires on Tuesday "and the chances of a happy, fountain-pen wielding photo opportunity as the representatives of Union and the regions beam at the camera were rated last night as somewhere below zero," according to the SUNDAY TIMES. The chances of a breach between the sides "are lamentably high." The WRU "is demanding, among other things, that the regions sign up to play in two major cross-border events" -- a European Cup, and the Pro12, formerly the Celtic League. The regions contended that they would be signing a blank sheet of paper -- "the future of the European event is grim at present, and the idea that with the English clubs withdrawn, the other five nations could put together a proper, high-octane and profitable event is laughable." An event without the commercial powerhouse that is English rugby "is shot before it starts" (SUNDAY TIMES, 12/29). The BBC reported Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets "will not sign." The regions believe that "the funding in the new deal is inadequate for their needs." With no guarantee of what competitions the Welsh regions will be playing in future seasons "they are able to make few financial decisions about their future, hence the reluctance to sign a new agreement when other parts of the jigsaw puzzle are not decided" (BBC, 12/29).