Regions finding it tough
THE Welsh Rugby Union may have enjoyed a record turnover and record-equalling profit in the last financial year but the regions are faced by the same old financial dilemmas.
Last season saw an exodus of talent with Luke Charteris, Aled Brew, Gethin Jenkins and Huw Bennett joining Lee Byrne, Mike Phillips and James Hook in France.
It looks likely to be the same old dance over the coming months.
Given the amount of games that the regions get from international players, the Dragons must weigh up the merit of offering a new deal to Dan Lydiate – and even then it is likely to be blown out of the water by French or English rivals. The Blues are in the same boat with Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert.
The situation prompted former Newport owner Tony Brown, a non-executive director at the Dragons, to criticise the Union.
“It seems appalling to me that while the WRU appear to be extremely well-off, the regions are bleeding,” he told The Rugby Paper.
“The WRU are paying off their debt on the Millennium Stadium 30 years earlier than scheduled and in the mean time regional rugby is costing the regions an arm and a leg.
“The Irish provinces are going from strength to strength while the Ireland national team appears to have lost ground,” he continued.
“The opposite is true in Wales where we have a successful national team and the regions bleeding to death.
“The regions need more help from the WRU. The amount of time an international player can spend with his region is very limited.
“There needs to be some sort of contractual arrangement between the two parties.”
His claims were refuted by WRU chief executive Roger Lewis.
“I think Tony is a bit lost in action here,” he said. “He has only attended one meeting with the Welsh Rugby Union and the four regions over the last six years – that took place this year.
“So, I didn’t quite know what to make of Tony’s comments there because we have been working hard with the people who are at the sharp end of regional rugby.”
The WRU recorded revenue of £63m last year, the highest turnover in its 131-year history and an improvement of 16 per cent on 2011.
The Millennium Stadium debt, which was about £75m when the ground was built in 1999, is now £19m.
The figures for the year ending June 2012 showed a pre-tax profit of £2.4m and the WRU said it was on target to be debt-free by 2021.