CHRIS KIRWAN: Talk of central contracts an unwelcome distraction in attempts to bridge funding gap

Ospreys captain Alun Wyn Jones trys to break past the the tackle of Leinster's Kevin McLaughlin during the Heineken Cup match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday October 12, 2013. See PA story RUGBY Ospreys

Ospreys captain Alun Wyn Jones trys to break past the the tackle of Leinster's Kevin McLaughlin during the Heineken Cup match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday October 12, 2013. See PA story RUGBY Ospreys

First published in Sport
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THEY may have said the decisions were tough but the choice to go to France was a lot easier for ex-Dragons Dan Lydiate and Luke Charteris than for some of their Wales teammates.

For Lydiate, Charteris, Jamie Roberts, Mike Phillips, James Hook et al it was simply a choice of staying at their region or taking up a bumper offer in the Top 14.

Nobody blames them for heading over the channel; it's a short career and players are only one bad injury away from retirement.

But for the current crop that are out of contract this summer – Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Jones, Rhys Priestland and Scott Williams – there is a third option.

They can head to another country, they can stay put with their region or they can take the Welsh Rugby Union up on a contract offer and avoid upping sticks.

It is one of the more baffling parts of the spat between the regions and the WRU; at a time when all parties are being encouraged to somehow thrash out a solution, they are acting as rivals for the same talent.

Of course, the players are caught in the middle, being forced to choose between club and country.

But the notion that the WRU can dish out a handful of deals to star players is farcical; central contracts have to be all or nothing to work... and where would the money come from to fund the all option?

With top players now commanding (conservatively) £250,000 a year then that's an awful lot of cash for the Millennium Stadium chiefs to stump up if they are to give deals to the national squad plus the future talent, especially given that the current amount of £1.2million that the WRU pays for player release.

If there is a magic pot of pounds – or "further inventory" as chief executive Roger Lewis bizarrely coins it – why is it not being released while the pro game and club game is floundering?

On the face of it – and ignoring the rather important part of where the money would come from – some sort of central contracting would be attractive to the regions.

Sam Warburton is one of the nicest sportsmen that I have had the pleasure of dealing with and is always polite and thoughtful when carrying out his media commitments.

But the publishers of the 25-year-old's second book have got more value out of him than Cardiff Blues this season because of injury.

The flanker has played five games this season while the tally was 16 in 2012/13 and eight in the campaign before that.

That's simply not worth a big contract with the way that the regions are currently compensated.

It could be argued that if players are heading off to France then it would surely be better for the Union to step in and help.

However, by backing the Aviva Premiership clubs' Rugby Champions Cup the regions state that they have already secured £12million extra over three years that will help in the battle to retain the top talent.

The English and the French are the big players in Europe thanks to the bumper TV deals they have done with BT Sport and Canal+ respectively.

They have done that by providing a quality product (a ghastly word) where top talent plays week in, week out.

That is something that plenty of Wales players are more than happy to do.

Last season the Ospreys thumped the Dragons at the Liberty Stadium the Friday after Wales won the Six Nations yet they boasted Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Jones, Justin Tipuric, Dan Biggar, Richard Hibbard and Ian Evans in their ranks.

With central contracts they might not have the choice; the decision about whether they turn out in front of their own fans could be made by those in Wales' Vale of Glamorgan headquarters.

Increasing the revenue brought in through club rugby is the way to keep the top talent, not relying on money provided by the already saturated Test scene.

Comments (3)

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11:30am Thu 23 Jan 14

mep says...

Excellent article.
Excellent article. mep
  • Score: 2

12:28pm Thu 23 Jan 14

noddy3uk says...

this is very true view on the state of affairs.
this is very true view on the state of affairs. noddy3uk
  • Score: 2

4:10pm Thu 23 Jan 14

DaiFrank says...

On December 12 2013 the following article appeared titled:

'Jamie Roberts claims being Wales based is not crucial issue'.

Two quotes from Jamie Roberts are of interest:

'Ultimately, it's up to each and every individual player to do what they see is best for their career, and what they want to do' and:

'C'est la vie, it's the way professional sport is and the way professional sport always has been.'

The 'rights' of the 'individual' is a central part of Liberal Philosophy, and JR here is stating what is a central tenet of the European Union. Of itself, it isn't that interesting because it has been around since the 17th, starting with the English Philosopher John Locke. But in relation to rugby, and team sport in general, it is quite a striking statement, because it contrasts 'individual rights' with the 'state', or in this case the WRU. The free market which is based on liberal (now neo-liberal) traditions sits awkwardly with sport because supporters quite rightly respect that old fashioned notion of 'playing for the badge' or 'country' etc. That's ended and the WRU, and the Irish for that matter, have failed to grasp such 'rights' and 'freedoms' associated with professionalism. Not entirely unlike the old Soviet bloc which totally collapsed, the WRU is desperate to hold onto its 'power' and 'privileges'. Of course, the WRU isn't gong to disappear, but it requires radical reform to suit the professional era which to date it seems oblivious towards. I have to say that the 'regions' have played their part in prolonging the agony and it was naive to say the least of them to even consider that the WRU would somehow 'help-out' beginning two years ago.

http://www.bbc.co.uk
/sport/0/rugby-union
/25338511
On December 12 2013 the following article appeared titled: 'Jamie Roberts claims being Wales based is not crucial issue'. Two quotes from Jamie Roberts are of interest: 'Ultimately, it's up to each and every individual player to do what they see is best for their career, and what they want to do' and: 'C'est la vie, it's the way professional sport is and the way professional sport always has been.' The 'rights' of the 'individual' is a central part of Liberal Philosophy, and JR here is stating what is a central tenet of the European Union. Of itself, it isn't that interesting because it has been around since the 17th, starting with the English Philosopher John Locke. But in relation to rugby, and team sport in general, it is quite a striking statement, because it contrasts 'individual rights' with the 'state', or in this case the WRU. The free market which is based on liberal (now neo-liberal) traditions sits awkwardly with sport because supporters quite rightly respect that old fashioned notion of 'playing for the badge' or 'country' etc. That's ended and the WRU, and the Irish for that matter, have failed to grasp such 'rights' and 'freedoms' associated with professionalism. Not entirely unlike the old Soviet bloc which totally collapsed, the WRU is desperate to hold onto its 'power' and 'privileges'. Of course, the WRU isn't gong to disappear, but it requires radical reform to suit the professional era which to date it seems oblivious towards. I have to say that the 'regions' have played their part in prolonging the agony and it was naive to say the least of them to even consider that the WRU would somehow 'help-out' beginning two years ago. http://www.bbc.co.uk /sport/0/rugby-union /25338511 DaiFrank
  • Score: -3

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