THE green light has been given for the Dragons to retain and recruit players after the confirmation that the four Welsh regions will continue as they are next season.

The Professional Rugby Board has declared that the Rodney Parade side, Cardiff Blues, the Ospreys and Scarlets will feature in the Guinness PRO14 and European competitions in 2019/20.

That comes after a stormy few weeks in which a merger between the Ospreys and the Scarlets was set to be rubber-stamped, leading to a professional team being established in the north, before the Liberty Stadium outfit pulled out.

The PRB met earlier this week with new Ospreys chairman Rob Davies attending along with his Dragons counterpart David Buttress, Alun Jones of the Blues and the Scarlets’ Nigel Short.

South Wales Argus: Dragons chairman David ButtressDragons chairman David Buttress

The quartet will remain as they are for next season with the Dragons' budget remaining similar to their current one, which is considerably smaller than those of their three rivals.

“The meeting concluded that terms of the new Professional Rugby Agreement (PRA), signed by all five parties and coming into effect on January 31, will continue to govern the operational relationship of its signatories going forward,” read a PRB statement.

“Work on the PRA began early – the old Rugby Services Agreement did not expire until June 2020 – and this has led to a doubling in direct funding by the WRU from c£10m to c£20m per annum over the last two seasons, excluding competition income.

“This is in addition to the vital ongoing financial support locally from shareholders and benefactors.

“At a time of flux and huge potential change in the global rugby landscape the new PRA has already brought in the rigour, transparency and accountability required for the PRB to make the decisions necessary to take the professional game in Wales forward and put it in the best position to capitalise on the opportunities that will come as the game shifts.

“There are multiple parties exploring opportunities to invest in both the club and international game and a united PRB across club and country makes Wales an attractive proposition for would be investors.”

The statement said that the latest PRB was “constructive and positive” and that it was agreed that four professional teams are needed to ensure success for the national side.

South Wales Argus:

“Although the PRB has previously supported the principle for a proposed merger of two teams, it has since been noted that this merger has been deemed ‘off the table’ by both interested parties,” read the statement.

“This means that budgets have subsequently been approved and player contracting can be concluded, with an emphasis on securing Welsh talent.

“It is hoped that the emotion generated by the exploration of merger options can now be translated into support for the professional Welsh teams, helping create a sustainable future for the game in Wales.

“Top of the PRB’s agenda is finding a way to meet current challenges head on and it is vital that the rigour and accountability that has characterised discussions to date remains in place in the coming days, weeks and months.

“As all options are explored, the PRB will ramp up consultation with stakeholders, including, but not limited to players, staff, fans, clubs, government, broadcasters and partners.

“Whilst the focus is on taking the professional game forward, the PRB are unanimous in their support of the ring-fencing of funding for the community game - a vibrant club game is the bedrock of all rugby in Wales.”