Welsh player contract freeze set to end in January with conditional offers

Welsh player contract freeze set to end in January with conditional offers


Most of the Wales squad are based in the country

Welsh rugby’s freeze on player contract negotiations is set to end in January, 2023 with conditional offers.

The Professional Rugby Board (PRB) has told the Welsh rugby players’ body that the nation’s four regions expect “significantly enhanced” Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) funding.

No details of that funding have been made public.

The PRB says the regions aim to begin new contract talks with individuals if financial guarantees are met.

New player deals will be made if the “enhanced funding” the regions expect via “distributable monies, club commercial performance, URC media rights, new debt and shareholder investment” is forthcoming.

In a statement the PRB said: “The conditional requirement is included to provide reassurance to players in the time between the recent verbal agreement being reached as described and a full formal agreement being signed by all parties, endorsed by the WRU board, regional boards and relevant banking consents being received.

“The new contract in draft form will be shared with the WRPA (Welsh Rugby Players Association) shortly.”

The news comes a day after WRU chief executive Steve Phillips admitted there are no long-term guarantees over the futures of Wales’ four regional sides.

The PRB saidexternal-link it “understands delays in reaching verbal agreement and the time required to process legal documentation have prevented the regions from contracting some players for future seasons”.

“The concern caused amongst players, their agents, and supporters is hugely regrettable, but it is important that this is done correctly,” the statement added.

“This is why we aim to offer conditional contracts, giving players details of their individual offer. Further updates on this initiative will be provided to the WRPA next week.

“There is still much to do, but the PRB will continue to work together with the WRPA for the benefit of all parties.”

Wales’ professional teams – Dragons, Cardiff, Ospreys and Scarlets – recently agreed the “new six-year framework” which they hope can resolve the game’s financial issues.

The Welsh Rugby Players Association had warned of players departing unless a freeze on contracts and recruitment is lifted.

The PRB consists of four regional representatives – Alun Jones (Cardiff Rugby), David Buttress (Dragons), the outgoing Nick Garcia (Ospreys), and Simon Muderack (Scarlets) – plus the WRU’s Phillips, WRU finance director Tim Moss and two independent members, independent chair Malcolm Wall and Marianne Okland.

PRB meetings are also attended by WRU performance director Nigel Walker and the chair of the rugby management board, Jon Daniels.

Agreement among the regions came on the day Warren Gatland returned as Wales boss following Wayne Pivac’s departure.

The Welsh players’ body (WRPA) has said some of its members were “reluctantly seeking security elsewhere” amid uncertainty about the sport’s financial future.

Since then, Dragons’ Wales lock Will Rowlands’ exit from Rodney Parade at the end of the season has been confirmed, leaving doubts over his availability for the 2023 World Cup in France.

Uncapped England-qualified Cardiff centre Max Llewellyn is also set to move, with Gloucester his reported destination.

Meanwhile speculation continues over the futures of Wales and Ospreys fly-half Gareth Anscombe and Cardiff prop Dillon Lewis.

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