Wales’ leading rugby players are facing more massive pay cuts with plans for funding from the Welsh Rugby Union to the regions to be slashed by £23m.
Stars of the Ospreys, Scarlets, Cardiff Blues and Dragons have already seen their wages reduced by 25 per cent for the past three months.
Now, they are facing more cuts – some will see reductions of £100,000-a-year – as well as redundancies following a devastating update from the WRU on how the current sporting shutdown is going to affect its income in the year ahead.
The Professional Game Board – through which the WRU and the regions jointly run the professional game – held a four-hour meeting this week to consider what the implications of the cash crisis are likely to be.
The regions were told to brace themselves for a potential £60m reduction in the Union’s revenue – from a £90.5m annual turnover to just £30m.
As some areas of the governing body’s spending is ring-fenced – such as grass roots clubs and development – that, in turn, would lead to the Union’s funding of the regions to shrink from what was £26m per year to just £3m.
Where the Scarlets received about £8.5 million, the Ospreys and Blues £6.5 million and the Dragons £5.5 million, they are now looking at a mere £500,000 each for the next year.
That will require massive wage cuts and savings to be imposed at the four regions if they are to stay afloat.
While top level sport throughout the UK is preparing to return, it will be behind closed doors – meaning that even if Wales play their delayed Six Nations match against Scotland later this year, as well as their scheduled autumn internationals, then there will no gate receipts or hospitality and massively reduced sponsorship.
The same goes for the regions’ involvement in the Guinness Pro 14, which is being tentatively earmarked for a return in August – again, without spectators.
Around 40,000 tickets had been sold for Judgement Day, the double-header between the four regions. That money, around £4 million, will have to be repaid to fans if the games don’t take place.
On top of that, all four regions are faced with having to potentially return sponsorship, hospitality and ticket revenue for matches that haven’t been played in the 2019-20 campaign.
Pleas for financial aid from World Rugby, the UK and Welsh Governments could provide some much needed support, but until crowds are permitted to return to watch matches there will be little or no meaningful income available.
A cash injection into the PRO14 from the private equity company CVC was announced last week and could provide some relief, but it is a phased payment and won’t provide a silver bullet solution to the problems.
The 320 clubs that make-up the Community game have £11.8 million ring-fenced under the new agreement with the WRU, but the harsh reality for the professional game is massive savings will have to be made if the four regional sides are to be saved.