'Landmark moment' in Welsh rugby
A new professional body created to strengthen and develop professional rugby in Wales is being established by the WRU and the four Welsh regions.
A new professional body created to strengthen and develop professional rugby in Wales is being established by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and the four Welsh regions.
The Professional Regional Game Board (PRGB) is being formed following considerable and constructive discussion between the WRU and the regions (the Scarlets, Ospreys, Newport Gwent Dragons and Cardiff Blues) following an independent review into the regional game.
The new board, comprising of four members of the WRU, four members of the regions and an Independent Chair, will have clear objectives to improve the position and strength of Welsh professional rugby, both on and off the field, supported with additional resource from the WRU.
A formal Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by the WRU and the four regions and will now be incorporated into the existing Participation Agreement between all parties.
The discussions between the regions and the WRU have been based on the findings of an independent report into regional rugby in Wales by accountants PwC.
Group Chief Executive of the WRU, Roger Lewis said, "The formation of the new Professional Regional Game Board is a landmark moment in the history of Welsh rugby.
"By working together, we will create a unity of purpose for Welsh professional rugby which will be underpinned by collective management, enhanced with greater central resources and structured to ensure effective decision-making.
"The PRGB will play a significant role in helping regional rugby make real progress, both on and off the field, in the years ahead.
"The PwC report confirmed to all of us in uncompromising detail that we have to act very differently, so we have worked hard in a spirit of unity to forge a structure that can provide workable and meaningful solutions.
"It is abundantly clear that we have to forge a strong and collaborative working partnership going forward and the new PRGB will be vehicle for that.
"The PwC report did not make easy reading for anyone involved and the boards and management of the regions should be proud of the way they have confronted some tough realities to reach this point.
"I want to thank my colleagues from the four regions who have showed immense resolve and determination to achieve this solution.
"A lot of hard work lies ahead, but the PRGB offers us a management structure capable of making the tough but realistic decisions which will benefit the game as a whole.
"Over the course of the next twelve months we have to build a foundation for the future."
Speaking on behalf of the four regions, the Chief Executive of the Scarlets, Mark Davies, said: "For Welsh rugby to be truly successful we must all ensure that the game is healthy and sustainable for the long term at every level of the sport.
"To achieve that aim within finite resources and a harsh economic climate the only way forward is to work effectively together and use those resources wisely in the pursuit of a clear and common goal.
"The PRGB is the result of a period of genuine, open and constructive dialogue, assisted by the initiative of the PwC review with the WRU and the four regions committing to deliver on clear and agreed objectives over time, as the first step towards securing a healthy future for the professional game in Wales.
"The work that we have undertaken together over the last twelve months has demonstrated that there are no simple answers - we have a lot more hard work ahead of us, but by utilising the collective expertise within the WRU and the regions we are all determined that we will define and deliver the right solutions for the future."
According to the WRU, the role of the PRGB is to achieve strong, sustainable and competitive professional rugby at international and regional level in Wales.
That, the union said, will be delivered through the achievement of eight definitive objectives:
• To underpin, support and maximise performance of the national teams
• To improve the overall financial management of the regions
• To help retain senior Welsh internationals playing in Wales where appropriate
• To develop Welsh international players
• To achieve four regions which can effectively compete at the top of European rugby within five years
• To support the Principality Premiership
• To ensure the continued support and development of the community game
• To ensure the continued sustainability of the Millennium Stadium
The signed document states that:
• It is believed that by working together a number of benefits will be achieved by each region and the WRU, but most importantly, it is hoped that it will achieve competitive, sustainable, professional rugby for the regions and for the benefit of Welsh rugby.
• The new PRGB will be based on a collaborative approach and will meet monthly to review and deliver progress.
• A consistent format detailed five-year business plan will be agreed and implemented by each region, with the PRGB undertaking formal quarterly reviews of performance against each current year plan
• The distribution of current funding to the regions from the WRU under the terms of the existing Participation Agreement will be monitored and overseen by the PRGB, with appropriate sanctions in place for actions taken without agreement of the new body.
• A review of best operational practice will be instigated by the PRGB, key performance indicators established and potential cost savings identified and implemented through effective, collaborative working.
The PwC report commissioned by the WRU and agreed by the regions in December 2011 was based on a detailed financial analysis of the last three years' accounts from all five parties, together with analysis of the next three to five years' financial projections.
Key conclusions of the report were that tighter financial planning and greater collaboration between all the regions and the WRU are vital to the creation and delivery of a sustainable business model.
The PRGB will replace the existing Management Board, which was set up in 2009 to oversee the operational running of the Participation Agreement, which remains the contractual agreement between Welsh Rugby's governing body and the regions.
An Independent Chairman will be appointed to oversee the PRGB.
The first meeting of the PRGB is scheduled to take place later this month.