Sources: Irish Times, UK Times, Daily Mail. The Wales Rugby Union has insisted there is no room for manoeuvre on the budget for player contracts despite the threat of strike action putting the country’s Six Nations fixture against England next week in jeopardy.
It’s not exactly the return to Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland was hoping for. His side lost their opening two Six Nations tests by big margins to Ireland and Scotland respectively and now players are threatening strike action ahead of next week’s clash with England in Cardiff.
However the English test is in serious doubt as meetings take place between the Welsh Rugby Players’ Association officials and players – to talk about the option to strike.
A large number of players in the Wales squad have yet to sign new deals and their futures remain uncertain as the Welsh Rugby Union work out a new budgetary deal with the country’s four regions.
“I can’t believe I’m five months away from the end of my contract and eight months away from the World Cup and my future isn’t certain yet,” an un-named player told the UKs Daily Mail.
“I can’t apply for a mortgage and I’m on antidepressants. I’m also one big injury away from not having a job in July yet I’m starting for Wales every week and the WRU is making tens of millions from international matches.”
Wales stars Willis Halaholo and Sam Cross took to Twitter to speak up about the situation.
“Must be nice knowing you can still provide for your kids in about four months…,” wrote New Zealand-born Halaholo.
Wales playing against England in the Six Nations is one of the glamour matches of world rugby that brings in millions of pounds of revenue.
The Irish Times reports Nigel Walker, the Welsh Rugby Union’s interim CEO, met with senior Wales players on Wednesday in an attempt to soothe relations after it emerged strike action was being considered over the contract renewals.
Having accepted pay cuts of 20% during the Covid period, players in Wales are now faced with further cuts under the proposed six-year deal between the Wales Rugby Union and the regions.
The take-it-or-leave deal which has to be signed by February 28th – three days after the England game – would see lower wages all round and bonuses introduced into contracts for the first time.
The Professional Rugby Board, the body which comprises representatives of the four regions plus the RFU, insisted the new deal was necessary to bring sustainability to the sport.
“The new agreement offers a complete funding package to the professional game in Wales, but it does come with financial limitations which will directly affect salary negotiations,” said the PRB chair, Malcolm Wall, in a statement issued Wednesday evening.
WRU Interim CEO says, “there is no room for manoeuvre when it comes to the overall budget available for player contracts”.
“We know we are not in an ideal situation, but it is incredibly important for the whole game in Wales for us to get this next step right,” said Nigel Walker.
“The cold facts are that the WRU and clubs have been paying salaries that their businesses cannot afford, so the new agreement establishes a new framework for contract negotiations..
“There is a stipulation that all current contracts will be honoured, but these businesses must return to a sustainable footing in order for the success we all crave to follow..
“The average salary of a Welsh professional rugby player under the new framework will be around £100k-per-year. We are confident that our salary packages are in line with the UK market..
“The PRB accepts that some better-funded English and French clubs are paying more, but this is where we must set the mark of sustainability in Wales.”
Wales have slipped to ninth in the world rankings having won just three of their last 14 tests.