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Regions 'staggered' at lack of progress on fresh WRU deal as clock ticks on current agreement

First published in Sport
Last updated
Free Press Series: Photograph of the Author by

REGIONAL Rugby Wales chief executive Mark Davies says he is "staggered" that there is still no sign of a deal being struck with the Welsh Rugby Union over a fresh participation agreement.

The existing accord ends on June 30, less than six weeks away, and the relationship between the two parties appears to be as strained as ever.

An unsightly squabble was avoided when RRW, the body that represents Newport Gwent Dragons, the Scarlets, Ospreys and Cardiff Blues, decided not to kick up a fuss over the upcoming Wales trial at the Liberty Stadium.

The quartet were not approached over the use of their players for a game outside the IRB's Test window and squad members were emailed directly by the Wales management.

RRW opted not to take action for fear of it appearing that they do not want the national team to succeed but the incident serves to highlight the tension.

And Davies, the acting head of RRW, issued a stark warning to those hoping that a deal would be imminent following an end to the spat over European rugby.

"In terms of how things are going, they are not," he said. "I am not any more confident (of a swift resolution) than I have been for over two years.

"We still don't appear to be making any meaningful progress. In that context we are really not in charge of the timescales and any action that takes place. In reality you need to ask the WRU."

"The end of the current deal is the unknown," he continued. "The reality is that it puts all of the five businesses – including the Union – in an untenable position.

"I am staggered that we find ourselves in that position with 40 days to go given everything that we have attempted over the past two-and-a-half years.

"In order to reach any agreement between two parties, each party has to have a genuine will to reach that agreement and a deep and honest understanding of the other party's needs.

"It's no different to anything else. It shouldn't be complex and it shouldn't be hard."

Meetings have been taking place since the turn of the year between WRU chief executive Roger Lewis and RRW chairman Nigel Short with judge Sir Wyn Williams acting as mediator.

But it was to the frustration of the regions that a request by the full board of the Union for them to make a presentation failed to happen.

"We agreed as long as it was a two-way dialogue, not what we experienced last time," said Davies. "The day before that was due to take place we were asked by the (WRU) executive to meet with them instead which we agreed to do on the basis there was a commitment that the meeting was to at last constructively deal with the facts. It didn't.

"We presume we will now have another request from the board to engage with them but we don't know and I am sure a proportion of them will soon be in South Africa. Perhaps that's a priority."

The WRU opted not to comment on the progress of talks but chairman David Pickering stressed at the start of the month that they were keen to find a solution.

"We want to do a deal with the regions and will do everything we can to facilitate it," he said. "It's very important to us because they are an integral part of our structure."

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