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Welsh Regional Rugby’s Economic Impact On Westminster Agenda

Left to right: Mark Davies (CEO Scarlets), Huw Irranca-Davies, MP Ogmore, Andrew Hore (CEO Ospreys).

The campaign to ‘Protect Our Game’ went to Westminster today after MPs invited Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) to discuss the issues affecting rugby in Wales.

Ospreys Chief Executive, Andrew Hore, and Scarlets Chief Executive, Mark Davies, attended a meeting with a cross-party group of around 14 Welsh MPs after being invited to brief them on the threat to jobs and the potential negative economic impact within the Welsh regions, as regional rugby continues to face uncertainty over future competitions and income.

The briefing with Regional Rugby Wales and chaired by MP for Ogmore, Huw Irranca-Davies and follows a debate in the Senedd last week where Welsh Assembly members called for an inquiry and review into the issues facing Welsh Rugby.

Regional Rugby Wales has warmly welcomed the views expressed at last week’s Welsh Assembly debate calling for an independent inquiry and would support any such review into the issues faced by the four Welsh Regions and the WRU.

The four Welsh Regions 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 as the regions currently have no clarity on the structure of a proposed new European competition and no confirmation on the number of teams participating in our PRO12 league in future seasons or the income and distribution from either competition.

The Regions, as four independent Welsh businesses, have been put in a position where their entire business platform beyond the current season is completely unknown, with a combined revenue risk of £16m.  The briefing explained to MPs the serious predicament the Regions faced in planning and executing vital commercial activity for next season.

Ten of the 32 games in the season schedule cannot be confirmed for the 2014/15 season – that is 31% of the total fixtures at risk, almost one third of the region’s ‘trading days’. This leaves the four businesses in a position where:

  • Season ticket and match day ticket revenues cannot be confirmed, with a clear detrimental impact on income streams
  • Commercial contracts cannot be confirmed within contractual deadlines, again to the detriment of income streams
  • Playing kit and merchandise design and orders cannot be confirmed within contractual deadlines, further impacting potential income streams

The meeting was chaired by MP for Ogmore, Huw Irranca-Davies. He said: “We thank Mark and Andrew representing Regional Rugby Wales for what was a constructive and informative meeting, and for setting out their views on the way forward. We will now be inviting Roger Lewis and the WRU to meet with us too. Members of Parliament from all parts of Wales recognise the critical importance of rugby to Wales culturally and economically, and would therefore urge all parties to negotiate in good faith and with urgency for the good of the game at all levels.”

Speaking after the meeting, Ospreys Chief Executive, Andrew Hore said: “We had a very productive meeting with the MPs who quite rightly wanted a full briefing of the situation given the profile and concerns being expressed across Wales by many on the future of Welsh rugby and the role of the Regions within it.

“For them this issue isn’t just about the cultural impact but the economic impact – the risk to jobs and investment in their constituencies. They have many concerned constituents who have voiced their worry over the future of the Welsh regional game and the possible demise of four important businesses operating within Wales.

“The overwhelming feeling coming out of the meeting is that there needs to be a rapid resolution to the situation. Effectively the commercial arms of our businesses are paralysed at the moment.  We all need solutions and one’s that will work and make sense in today’s competitive European rugby arena.

“To that end, we would welcome the views expressed at last week’s Welsh Assembly debate calling for an independent inquiry and review into the current issues facing us and the WRU. We would warmly welcome and support such a review or inquiry, as we have before with the PWC report and the establishment of the PRGB.”

Mark Davies, Chief Executive of the Scarlets, added:  “It was very heartening to see that during what was obviously a busy day in the Commons, such a large group of cross-party Welsh MPs came together to attend the briefing. In many ways it is an illustration of how significant an issue this is in Wales and the value and concern that exists amongst MPs and their constituents about the health and future of Welsh Rugby.”

RRW is the body that represents the four professional regional rugby teams in Wales – Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets – who all compete at the top tier of the club/provincial game in Europe.