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Scarlets Facing £1m Meltdown As “Scexit” Looms For Euro Stalwarts

They’ve just written off £8m of directors’ loans, still owe £2.6m to Carmarthen County Council and saw their annual losses rise by £40,000 to £643,035.

And now the Scarlets, often perceived as the paragon of so many virtues in Welsh rugby, are heading into potentially even choppier financial waters after their latest slip-up on the playing field.

Last weekend’s 20-12 home defeat to Edinburgh virtually put them out of the race for a quarter-final berth in the Guinness PRO14 finals series and even stacked the odds against them making the play-off for the final Heineken Champions Cup spot.

Just imagine it, a top tier of European rugby without the Scarlets! That has never happened since they entered the competition in 1996 and could lead to new head coach Brad Mooar asking for directions on how to get to backwater rugby locations in Romania or Russia next season before he leaves New Zealand.

Not playing in the Heineken Champions Cup next season is likely to lead to the Scarlets getting reduced funding from the WRU in the future, given that the payments are linked to success on the field, as well as governance, finance and the production line of international players.

The Scarlets were given £1m more than the Ospreys and Cardiff Blues this season and that gap has been maintained for next season. But times look set to get harder following the remarkable slump in playing fortunes this season.

The march to a fourth Heineken Champions Cup semi-final last year was certainly good for business. They banked around £200,000 from their share of a record home quarter-final crowd of 15,373 against La Rochelle and then earned £260,000 for being a losing semi-finalist.

Add in the extras from reaching back-to-back Guinness PRO14 finals and it is easy to see why the accounts showed a 30% increase in business activity. Without the cash windfalls from their on-field success this season the loss for the next financial year could head north to £1m or more.

However pleased the Scarlets’ chief operating officer, Philip Morgan, was with last year’s accounts – “We are very happy with where we are” – it is going to be an uphill struggle to make ends meet when they have had to stretch their budget to the maximum to hold onto crown jewel players like Ken Owens, Jonathan Davies and Johnny McNicholl.

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The defeat to Edinburgh means the Scarlets remain fifth in Conference B in the PRO14 and they have now lost 10 times in the league this season, whereas they had only lost 12 times in the two previous campaigns – and one of those was in the final.

Add that to their five defeats in the pool stages of Europe and it means they have already lost 15 matches in total this season out of just 25 played. The previous two seasons saw them lose just 18 times in 61 matches in all competitions, a drop-off of 30% in success rate.

Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac lost key members of last season’s squad such as Scott Williams, John Barclay and Tadhg Beirne, while injuries to Jake Ball and Aaron Shingler have also exposed the shallow depth of fringe reinforcements.

There also appears to have been a negative impact produced by the Welsh Rugby Union’s decision to confirm Pivac as the successor to Warren Gatland as Wales coach.

It may have suited the WRU and Wales last July to proclaim that a smooth transfer of power had already been agreed, but Pivac’s impending move appears to have weakened the bonds between coach and player at the region.

However much both sides have tried to deny any influence on results, the bottom line is that the current coach is no longer the man players have to impress.

As he has been working a 12-month notice period, his voice no longer carries the authority of someone who will be cracking the whip again next season.

The Scarlets have two matches left – at home to Zebre and then against the Dragons at the Principality Stadium on Judgement Day.

Even if they pick up 10 points, they are likely to remain outside the top four if Edinburgh and Benetton Treviso win one of their respective two remaining games. Edinburgh are at home to Ulster and then away to Glasgow. Benetton host Munster and then travel to Zebre.

After the disastrous defeat to Edinburgh, Pivac admitted: “There are 10 points up for grabs and we have to make sure we take those 10 points and do what we can do, and look for the big fella and see if he can help us out.”

He didn’t mean Jake Ball.

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