Welsh Rugby Union chairman Gareth Davies has called on amateur clubs in Wales to become just that and stop paying players the sport at that level simply can’t afford. The game in Wales has introduced across-the-board pay cuts at professional level to try and manage its hefty costs during the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Now the game’s leading official in Wales has issued a plea for clubs who ply their trade in divisions where players are not supposed to receive payment to use the current suspension of rugby to reshape a future where money doesn’t get spent on them. 

Issuing his now weekly update on the state of the Welsh rugby during the virus outbreak, Davies claimed the time was ripe to stop an unnecessary drain on club resources to ensure their long term sustainability. “Don’t pay players,” he insisted. “Play in the league you are in, strive to beat the opposition you face, dream of lifting the trophies available at your current standard and attract the players who are drawn to your club.

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“Use the money you save on attracting, developing and engaging players for the future or on ensuring your club remains the central hub of your community that it has always been. Be sustainable and help safeguard the future for us all.

“Clubs around the country have a stark admission to make: after cancelling the season at the end of March doors have been closed, lights have been switched off and costs have been minimised in readiness for the time when we can switch everything back on again.

“But there are outliers who cannot turn off all the taps in this simple way. They are the amateur clubs who have players on contracts and with wage bills to sustain. In the professional game, there have been negotiations and pay cuts across the board. But in the amateur game, this should not have been an issue. 

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“I know many of our Indigo Group Premiership clubs, for example, are keen to use the current lull in playing to re-assess their own finances. At this level of the game, there is a willingness already to more tightly control payments made to players and a widespread acceptance that this aspect of individual club business models is not currently fit for purpose. 

“But, if the Premiership must significantly tighten its belt, elsewhere payments must not be made at all. We will have the opportunity soon, we hope, to start again. The opportunity is there for us all to sit down with our key stakeholders and re-calibrate.

“Welsh rugby will return with renewed vigour, it will be refreshed and irrepressible and the communities around our clubs will flood out of their homes to gather again to enjoy each other’s company and to enjoy our national sport.  

“But please, dear clubs, I implore you: let us start again with the right structure. If no club offers payment, then there will be no market for player wages and no club will feel the need.

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“If no club breaks ranks and we all play for enjoyment, for our town or village of birth, for the club with whom we hold the strongest affinity, with our friends and neighbours, our extended families and our children, then no club will suffer the same threat of oblivion that is currently being felt in some quarters if a similar crisis were to strike again.”

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