Regions and WRU sign £60m peace deal
August 28, 2014
The future of the Welsh regions is secure until 2020 © Getty Images
The Welsh Rugby Union and the four regions have finally signed a new Participation Agreement worth £60m which lasts until 2020.
The deal brings in dual-contracts for Wales' top players. A total of £3.3m will be annually spent on these contracts with the WRU footing £2m and the regions making up the other £1.3m. Once six players are on this new deal, Wales will only pick those playing abroad in certain circumstances "subject to a number of exceptions which the national head coach [Warren Gatland] has the right to make".
"The national dual contracts represent a radical step forward in our mutual aim of retaining Welsh talent here in Wales," WRU CEO Roger Lewis said. "The new contracts will help us keep more of our best players in Wales and will help stem the flow abroad of the talent we develop here through our academies and regions."
The agreement also sees the return of Wales 'A' team who last played in 2003 and a payment of £500,000 to each of the four regions for signing the new deal. Other stipulations of the deal see the regions allowed a maximum of six foreign players in their squad with two players on their books who are there with a view to qualifying for Welsh residency.
For Welsh rugby, the news brings to an end what has been a bitter dispute. Both the WRU and Regional Rugby Wales were in discussions for the past year. The deadline of June 30 passed without any agreement between the two parties but the various stakeholders finally signed off the deal on Thursday.
The key figures
The compromise means Sam Warburton will be permitted to return to playing duties for the Cardiff Blues after he was sidelined by the impasse in discussions - the regions said they would not pick any player on a WRU-funded central contract.
Lewis said the agreement creates "a new and positive relationship within Welsh rugby and is firmly based on the rugby priorities for Wales". He added: "The new RSA creates a new rugby environment within which together we can nurture and develop the professional game in Wales.
"It has taken us a long time to reach the conclusion of our negotiations, but that is because of the complicated structure and radical nature of the deal which matches financial distributions with deliverable rugby priorities. The regions are a vitally important component of the structure of Welsh rugby and they have to be able to thrive and develop for the game in Wales to remain successful.
"We now have an agreement which will ensure the pyramid structure which leads from the grassroots right through to the international team is strong and truly fit for purpose."
WRU chairman David Pickering heralded it as a "landmark agreement" while the chairman of RRW, Nigel Short, said he was "satisfied" by the deal. Short added: "The new agreement is a positive step forward for the long-term benefit of Welsh rugby with plenty of hard work still to be done to ensure that the game in Wales prospers, works in partnership and develops at all levels.
"With greater clarity and the security of a new agreement, the regions can forward plan with more focus, working hard to ensure their independent businesses remain competitive. Things will not change overnight - but securing our new agreement in partnership is a positive forward step.
"Clear mutual goals now form the basis of a new agreement that will create a stronger and more productive environment, where our interests are more closely aligned and a thriving domestic game that feeds into the long-term success of the Welsh international rugby."
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