Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Blues chief speaks out in WRU row

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Cardiff Blues chief executive Richard Holland does not hold out much hope of a peace deal with the Welsh Rugby Union after the deadline of agreement for next season and beyond passed along with the New Year bells.

He said the regions were committed to Plan A, which has been offered to the WRU, of continuing to play in a Celtic competition along the lines of the current RaboDirect PRO12, as well as a Rugby Champions Cup with the English clubs which could also include the Irish and the Scots.

Plan B is a breakaway league between the Welsh and English clubs, with all the potential governance and legal problems that would involve. The regions have now set their own deadline of the end of January before they will push ahead with that alternative option recently confirmed with the English clubs.

In return the WRU has threatened to pull all their funding from the regions and put it into alternative teams.

Chief executive Holland explained the political situation.

"We had a deadline (on Tuesday) evening to sign up to the Participation Agreement, which we couldn't sign because we still have not had any confirmation of what we will be playing in from a European perspective," he said.

"We have decided not to extend the current terms. What we have done is put a new negotiated position on the table to play in a new Champions Cup with the English which would see the Welsh regions come into an additional £1million each for three years, which would also see extra resource for the Irish and Scots if they want to join.

"We could play in the Champions Cup, the Rabo and the LV= Cup, it would be £1million more per region than we currently get from the Heineken Cup.

"We hope that once the union receives that proposal it could agree to it and we could move forward. If the union does not agree then we revert to option B, but we do not want to discuss that or put that on the table because we believe Option A is a fair solution that we want to see put in place.

"We will reserve comment on Plan B until such time as plan A is taken off the table. Plan A is our preferred option, that is why it is called Plan A.

"I was worried before Christmas because the options available to us were limited, now I am excited about where it may lead because Regional Rugby Wales has been able to negotiate a competition that will see us come in for additional monies that will enable us to be stronger as a region and have further discussions with the international players we are so keen to keep.

"It will strengthen the position of the regions and in my view strengthen Welsh rugby. The wish of Regional Rugby Wales has always been to work in collaboration with the union and hopefully it will see the merit of the competition we are putting on the table and we can cross the t's and dot the i's to move forward.

"I would like to think they would see the merit of what we are proposing, but I am not holding too much hope. A collaborative approach should be the way forward to do the best for Welsh rugby.

"Nobody wants to go down the other route but it remains to be seen if we have to."

Cardiff Blues beat derby rivals Newport Gwent Dragons 21-13 and afterwards Blues director of rugby Phil Davies said: "There is a big responsibility for everyone over the next four to five months because there are a lot of lives at stake, a lot of careers at stake.

"Having sat in both camps, knowing the people there with a lot of experience and love for the game in Wales, I am hoping we can sort it out and move forward for the benefit of all."

A Welsh Rugby Union statement said: "The Welsh Rugby Union is confident that professional teams from Wales will continue to take part in sanctioned league and cup competitions in the best interests of all of Welsh rugby.

"The WRU also remains confident that a European rugby cup competition under the management of the ERC will take place next season. Welsh teams will also continue to play in the PRO12 league organised by Celtic Rugby Ltd.

"Furthermore the WRU reaffirms its commitment to the International Rugby Board's regulations which provide that cross-border competitions and tournaments may only take place with the full approval of the relevant unions."

Meanwhile, Davies denied that star full back Leigh Halfpenny had already signed for European champions Toulon, saying: "He has not told us that (and) I think he would have done. There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to try to keep our best players."

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