We take a look at the off-field goings-on in Welsh rugby over recent days
Timeline of turmoil: What’s happening in Welsh rugby?
Rumours have been swirling about the future of Welsh rugby for the past few months, with Project Reset aiming to put the professional game in Wales on a firmer financial footing.
There has been talk of changes to the National Dual Contracts for Wales players and that the future of the four regions in their current guise – Cardiff Blues, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets – was in doubt.
In the past few days, however, there have been significant developments with statements followed by counter-statements from various parties involved.
The rhetoric being used has got stronger and no one seems to have any idea what will happen next, let alone what the future of the game in Wales will look like.
So we have put together a timeline in an attempt to explain what’s happening in Welsh rugby right now…
Timeline of Turmoil
Friday 22 February
After the Ospreys’ defeat by Munster, coach Allen Clarke confirms that the future of the region is secured. He says: “I’m absolutely delighted to be told that we will continue to exist. We are 100% Ospreys as we stand.”
Friday 1 March
The Ospreys and Scarlets reach Heads of Terms on a merger of the two regions, according to this week’s statement by the Professional Rugby Board (PRB).
Monday 4 March
Reports of a merger between Ospreys and Scarlets, with a new region to be created in North Wales, become public. The suggestion is that the regions will become geographical – North, South, East and West, with the combined Ospreys-Scarlets the West team.
Tuesday 5 March
12.20pm Mike James resigns as Ospreys chairman describing the process of restructuring regional rugby as “nothing short of chaotic, resulting in a fatal combination of uncertainty, conjecture and insecurity now hanging over regional rugby’s future. Project Reset has become Project Inept.”
12.30pm Wales announce their team to play Scotland in the Six Nations two days early.
Warren Gatland then reveals in his press conference that the players have been distracted by the off-field upheaval and insists that the process has not been driven by the WRU but by a proposal from the regions.
12.45pm The Welsh Rugby Players’ Association (WRPA) express concern for player livelihoods and highlight the need for consultation, particularly as there is no player representative on the PRB.
WRPA chairman Ken Owens said: “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.”
16.45pm A statement from the Ospreys says: “The Ospreys are NOT on the verge of merging with the Scarlets.”
5.20pm The PRB release a statement saying it had expected to finalise a proposal to put to the WRU board, with the Ospreys-Scarlets merger a central component.
It adds: “The statements issued today by the Ospreys do not reconcile with the minuted meetings, actions and documented agreements that have taken place to date.”
Wednesday 6 March
1pm The Scarlets say “the merger is off the table”. In a statement the Scarlets also explain how they were approached by the Ospreys about a merger in December, found out in February that the Ospreys were in talks with another region and, after those talks broke down, were asked to reconsider the original merger.
3.45pm New Ospreys chairman Rob Davies criticises the lack of proposals put forward for a regional restructure and says “the PRB cynically left it to the regions to have a shoot-out for survival, with the clear direction that a region in the West should go and make room for a fourth in the North”.
Davies adds: “It’s hard to look at this situation and not conclude that a stitch-up of convenience has just unravelled before us all. There isn’t a ‘plan B’, because there was never a ‘plan A’. It’s now time for the grown-ups to get back in the room.”
There is plenty still to run on this story, with no agreement looking imminent. Not the ideal backdrop for Wales players to continue their Six Nations Grand Slam bid against Scotland on Saturday.
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