NEWPORT Gwent Dragons chief executive Gareth Davies has labelled the saga to set up new European competitions “a wasted six months” but believes it will leave the Welsh regions in a stronger position.
The finishing touches are being put to a deal to set up replacements for the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup as well as introducing a third tier for developing nations.
The premier competition will be cut from 24 teams to 20 – seven from the RaboDirect Pro12, six from the Aviva Premiership and six from the Top 14 with the final place decided by a playoff between the teams that finish seventh in France and England.
That is likely to condemn the Dragons, who sit ninth in the table, to the second tier for a fourth successive season.
Regional Rugby Wales, far from being pawns, have helped bring an end to the saga by backing their English counterparts as the competitions will be run by the clubs rather than unions with a four-man board, one from each league and an independent chairman.
The clubs believe that there is plenty of room for commercial growth and that the tournaments could in time be worth £100million, double the revenue brought in by the Heineken Cup.
And the distribution of Pro12 money is to be split per club rather than country – an important distinction for the Welsh.
Davies wrote in his programme notes that the new set-up will be “the same structure that the English and Welsh teams proposed last October – what a wasted six months!” but is pleased it will finally be signed off.
“A resolution has been found, not before time,” said chief executive. “All the clubs, all the regions, the whole game, has almost imploded over the last nine months.
“So I'm glad to say we're just about there in terms of what was put on the table back in October, but it's taken a few months to get there.
“We have to be positive now and look to continue a very vibrant European competition.
“There's a fairer distribution (of money). That's the important thing, and various formulas have been considered, discussed, thrashed around, which reflects greater meritocracy in distribution.”
With Europe set to b e sorted the regions will now turn their attention to sorting out a new participation agreement with the Welsh Rugby Union.