Ken Owens and the Welsh Rugby Players Association (WRPA) have issued a statement amid fallout from the ‘Project Reset’ controversy and on the back of intense speculation about the future structure of professional rugby in Wales.
There’s been widespread condemnation today of a proposed merger of the Ospreys and the Scarlets. Wales’ Professional Game Board, which comprises representatives from the Welsh Rugby Union, Scarlets, Ospreys, Dragons and Cardiff Blues, is set to meet on Tuesday.
Establishing a new professional team in north Wales is also high on the agenda in what would be Welsh rugby’s biggest domestic shake-up since regional teams were established 16 years ago.
Now the player’s body – the WRPA – has expressed deep concern for the livelihoods of players in Wales and their families, and called for the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) to secure players’ futures.
Ken Owens, Chairman of the WRPA said: “As the chairman of the WRPA I am deeply concerned about the situation that the player across the four regions face.
“I recognise that this is the most challenging situation that I or arguably any player has faced during our rugby careers. I appeal to all stakeholders to have the concerns and welfare needs of all those that stand to be affected by the proposed changes at the forefront of their minds.
“It’s also clear players need to be represented on the PRB because they can and must be part of the solution. Without them there is no Welsh Rugby.”
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The statement continues:
“In support of the comments from the Chairman Ken Owens, players from the regions also expressed their concern about the huge impact that the proposed changes will have upon the lives of the fantastic team of people who provide the support that essential to allow the players to take the field, from immediate team support across to the commercial and community teams who work tirelessly to support and promote regional Rugby.
“Players also recognise the network of ever loyal fans and diverse groups, organisations and charities that are currently engaged with the Regional Rugby throughout the season, and they want to ensure that their voices are heard, opinions listened to and valued. Of particular concern are those who would directly be affected by any proposed merger of the Ospreys and Scarlets.”
Andries Pretorius, CEO of the WRPA, which represents the collective voice of professional players in Wales, said:
“This is an incredibly challenging time for players, who clearly are vital to the success and future of Welsh Rugby.
“We are told the game is not sustainable in its current form in Wales and major changes are needed. In the face of that uncertainty over the course of this season, players have responded incredibly constructively, giving their all for their Regions and our Country, and recognising the need to play their part in a healthy future for our sport.
“But with such a seismic change seemingly now proposed for our professional game we are deeply concerned about the impact it will have on the livelihoods of players and their families.
“Fans will be reeling right now about the future and two Regions merging will see a great many talented players need to uproot themselves and their families to leave South and West Wales. We call on the PRB to recognise their duty of care and join us in supporting players, while ensuring none are forced out of the game altogether.
“We can only hope that Project Reset will enhance our game in Wales, but it has thrown up far more questions than it has answered so far and could the timing of all this be any worse? I’ve had countless players reach out for support and raising justifiable concerns. This is all taking a massive toll on our boys and they need some real certainty and quickly.
Players across the four are concerned that there has been no consultation in relation to the proposed merger and the establishment of a Northern Region, and therefor a lack of recognition of them being a key stakeholder in the future success of Rugby in Wales. Currently there is no player voice on the PRB despite repeated request for such representation. There is a dire need for urgent and meaningful consultation with the player group as currently players are faced with a lack of clarity, a void of information and in many cases misinformation. This situation can not continue.
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