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The first game of the festive Domino’s Derby Series series kicks off tonight with Cardiff Blues V Ospreys with many of the 10,000 bumper crowd expected to use the opportunity to call for rugby fans to ‘Protect Our Game’.

Supporters of the four regions – Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets – have come together to back Regional Rugby Wales’ (RRW) call to ‘Protect Our Game’ amidst uncertainty surrounding the future of professional rugby in Wales with the Participation Agreement, which sets out the framework for regional rugby, up for renewal over the coming months. The call to arms is gathering significant momentum amongst regional supporters with its Twitter account @OfficialRRW gaining over 2,000 followers on Twitter in just one day since its launch.

Tonight’s ‘call to action’ comes after a statement was issued last night (19/12/13) on behalf of the four regional supporter clubs following their meeting this week with WRU executives. The statement voiced the concerns of supporters’ groups regarding the state of the game in Wales as a whole and what, in their view, they consider to be a lack of support and vision for regional rugby at the Union.

The four Regional Organisations have a collective turnover approaching £30m per annum, with a direct economic contribution to Wales in excess of £50m per annum. They provide employment for almost 1,000 people, including over 600 professional and semi-professional rugby players and more than 50 highly skilled coaching, conditioning and medical staff. This investment is at risk.

Stuart Gallacher, Chief Executive of Regional Rugby Wales, said: “We have a responsibility to the game in Wales and a duty to protect the game we love, our national sport. It is great to see that so many supporters are behind us and supporting our commitment to work together to find a sustainable future for regional rugby. This evening will demonstrate the coming together of support across our regions and is another example of the close relationship we have as four Welsh regions and the care and responsibility we and our supporters share in championing the best of Welsh regional rugby.

“The festive derbies really are regional rugby at its best with some great rugby on show. They celebrate our position at the elite end of the community game in Wales, having so many local players on the field playing to such a high standard. What’s better than having five great games over two weeks to highlight the urgent need to ‘Protect Our Game’.”

As well as tonight’s game, the Domino’s Derby Series covers four more thrilling Welsh derby games:

• Boxing Day Scarlets V Ospreys at Parc y Scarlets kick off 2.05pm
• Boxing Day Newport Gwent Dragons V Cardiff Blues at Rodney Parade kick off 5pm
• 1st Jan Cardiff Blues V Newport Gwent Dragons at Cardiff Arms Park kick off 2.05pm
• 3rd Jan Ospreys V Scarlets at Liberty kick off 7.15pm

Last year, the traditional four festive fixtures attracted a regional crowd of close to 50,000 supporters with the regions expecting to smash that record this year as the supporters turn out in numbers. Both Boxing Day fixtures have already sold approaching 20,000 tickets and the clamour for tickets is such that both are expected to sell out.

Stuart Gallacher continued: “Christmas for many in Wales is all about local derbies, we’ve grown up with these great on-pitch rivalries and it really has become a Welsh festive tradition. It’s a chance for our supporters to see many Wales internationals playing on their home turf. The average Welsh derby attendance in 2012/13 was 11,666 – an increase from 10.200 the year before. Ticket sales indicate that this year will see another increase – another great example of Welsh regional rugby at its very best.”