DRAGONS chairman David Buttress has rubbished the idea that Welsh rugby cannot support four professional teams.

Buttress was the Rodney Parade representative at Wednesday’s meeting of the Professional Rugby Board, which also features individuals from Cardiff, the Scarlets, Ospreys and the Welsh Rugby Union.

They discussed a report which put forward a number of proposals for the game, one of which was to cut a region.

Speaking before addressing supporters before the United Rugby Championship derby with Cardiff, the chairman dismissed suggestions that Wales doesn’t have the financial power to support a quartet.

South Wales Argus: Dragons chairman David ButtressDragons chairman David Buttress

“I think that’s just rubbish. There are two things. Firstly, if you don’t invest in something whether that’s a rugby product, Just Eat [his former business] or a technology company, then the business will contract,” he said.

“If you don’t have a strategy which looks at how do these three, four, five parts of our business all grow over a medium-long term basis, and then hold yourself to account against those plans, then of course you’re going to find yourself in a position where you start to scratch your head and you’ll be going: ‘I’m in a reductive mindset now and I have to cost cut’.

“The reality is, that if you invest in a product, have a clear plan and a strategy, then I one hundred per cent know and believe that Welsh rugby can not only support four, but we can have a successful professional game below international level.

“Let’s not forget – and this is a really important point – the Welsh national team was successful over the last 15 years and why? Because the structure of the four professional teams has served it very well.

“I don’t think it would serve the Welsh national team well, and it would not leave a good legacy in 10 years, if we have a similar number of professional rugby players to those in Scotland.

“If anything, we need to make sure that we invest in the current setup so that we’re able to continue to compete with Ireland and England for Six Nations titles and World Cup semi-finals and finals.

“We don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we have a smaller player pool and expect the Welsh national team to perform. Because I suspect we’d wake up in 10 years’ time and ask: ‘Why did we do that?’”

A PRB statement released on Thursday said that they were committed to ensuring “all four regions continue to play important roles in the professional game”.

Some have suggested that funds should be concentrated into two clubs while the idea of a development region has previously been mooted.

Buttress believes that clarity over what each club will be getting over the medium to long term was important, breaking the cycle of annual crises.

South Wales Argus:

“I have to tell you, I smile when I hear about two plus two and one plus three and all the rest of it because since I’ve been involved in Welsh rugby, it’s never had an even playing field in terms of investment. I don’t even want to call it two plus two,” he said.

“There are four teams at pro level and each one of them has a different level of funding of which the Dragons have the lowest. There has never been this concept of equal funding.

“Do I think each club has unique circumstances that require different plans and strategies in order for it to grow? One hundred per cent. To me, that makes tons of sense.

“But what we actually need, more importantly, is stable funding over a medium-long term basis. One of the things I’ve found really hard since I’ve been involved... I can’t think of any other business I’m involved in where every year you’re asking ‘what’s the funding?’ “We need to create a stable funding environment so that everyone involved in PRB and investors can know what the challenge is over the next three, four, five years and therefore you can make a plan to grow from it as opposed to being in this cycle every year of what it’s going to be.

“You can’t build anything with such a short-term horizon and that’s been the biggest thing that we’re going to address and fix when it comes to Welsh rugby.”

The Dragons have endured a torrid season while none of their regional rivals will be involved in the play-offs of the URC.

“Look across to Ireland and we want to be looking to grow and be successful like they have done by investing in the game and believing in the product of professional rugby, getting right behind it,” said Buttress.

“That is the future for Welsh rugby, not just at regional level but at national level.

“Let’s not shy away from the fact that we haven’t been anywhere near successful enough at regional level, partly that is due to investment and partly that is due to not having the right strategies and structures in place.

“We need to address that and be bold, investing in the pro game. Do that and we give ourselves a chance but that will take some time.”