By Steffan Thomas
Scarlets chairman Simon Muderack insists the Welsh regions have been short-changed over their supply of players to Wales’ title-winning Six Nations campaign.
The region’s chief has called for a re-think into the financial distributions within Welsh rugby and believes only a re-allocation of resources can enable the game to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
Muderack argues the Scarlets have not been compensated properly for their provision of 13 players to Wayne Pivac’s Wales squad this season.
“The downside we’ve incurred this year does not correlate with the continued provision of players to the national cause,” said Muderack.
“We are all Welsh fans, and we all love to see Wales play and win, but economically we aren’t getting paid for that so we shouldn’t be doing it.
“The Premiership clubs have also received loans, but their loans are up to £8.5m to each club.
“As I understand it, those loans were over 20 years. The clubs in Wales have received £2.7m each as grant money which we are very appreciative to the Welsh Government for.
“But then we’ve got £5.5m worth of loan that needs to be repaid over the next couple of years.
“None of the regions have cash flows or profitable businesses that can repay the loan in their current form. The only entity that has that capability is the WRU.”
Muderack has run businesses in the USA, South America, Australia, Asia Pacific, and London. He has extensive previous experience in dealing with private equity.
That acumen has been severely tested as the Scarlets have had a difficult season which hit its lowest point when they were thrashed 57-14 at home by Sale Sharks in the Heineken Champions Cup last 16.
There is growing pressure on head coach Glenn Delaney with former Wales and British & Irish Lions scrum-half Dwayne Peel heavily linked with a place on the coaching staff next season.
Muderack admitted: “We have to be better next year. It’s not been good enough over the past couple of months.
“A rugby club has always got to make changes and we are looking to get better. We’ve had three head coaches in three years which isn’t ideal. Our budget is still up in the air.
“We are making some progress, but it’s so late in the season which is making it very difficult to plan ahead. We have to recruit strongly and add to the mix but I’m confident we can be successful over the coming seasons.”
Muderack was appointed chairman last summer after the departure of Nigel Short, but his first nine months in the role have been dominated by the destabilizing economic effects of Covid-19.
He believes he has outlined a way out of the crisis for the Welsh regions but admits he is concerned by a lack of clarity over playing budgets.
Wales’ four professional sides currently find themselves in a state of uncertainty with their 2021/22 season budgets yet to be decided and a £20million loan from NatWest hanging over their heads.
On the field, all four teams crashed out of Europe to English sides and the results again shone a light on the struggles of Welsh domestic rugby.
Muderack believes the WRU’s decision to invest part of the £51m they have received from CVC’s investment into the Six Nations on schemes like a new hotel should also be invested into the pro game.
“I don’t think rugby should get distracted by trying to start up and run other businesses as our business is rugby,” added Muderack.
“I don’t think the likes of CVC are expecting the businesses in rugby they invest into to become broader commercial organisations.
“They are investing in the game of rugby and the core product is rugby.”
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The WRU believe investing in business schemes like their new hotel next to Principality Stadium and a roof walk at the venue will help them generate long-term revenues for Welsh rugby.
But Muderack believes Wales four regions and their pathways need strengthening now although he insists, he is not simply looking for a cash handout.
“I want to be clear I’m not advocating the money gets given to the clubs for it to be spent,” he said.
“We do need to bolster the balance sheet of the professional game so we at least get to zero as a starting point and can start to compete.
“We then need to look honestly at the league we are about to enter which is PRO16 and we need to build a set of squads that enables us to compete as well as make Wales successful. If we get it right at professional level the money it generates can also greatly benefit the community game.”
The four regions are liable for their repayments on the NatWest loan and after a year of next to no revenue due to Covid-19, the back balances of Wales’ professional sides are low.