The WRPA is extremely disappointed at the publishing of a statement by PRB and the way it portrays the players within Wales and ongoing WRPA relations with the PRB.
The WRPA has been regularly updated by the chair of PRB but has not, at any point, been involved in any form of negotiation around the funding model. Consultation around the ‘standard contract’ began in January despite being told that it would begin in December.
In December, we were informed by the Professional Rugby Board that contract negotiations would be able to commence in January, following the signing of the Heads of Terms by the WRU and the four regions. It was even agreed that a ‘condition precedent’ would be put in place alongside any contract to give players some assurance that a deal was near being finalised. Nearly two months later, our members find themselves in the exact same position with no Long Form Agreement yet signed by the regions and WRU and no player able to put pen to paper.
There has been a long delay in information reaching the WRPA and consultation around a proposed new salary structure having started only a couple of weeks ago. Having rapidly conducted members meetings to go through the detail, there are elements of the contract that players should have been consulted on at a much earlier stage. Receiving this information so late on in the season and the lack of compromise has added to the uncertainty and fears that players are met with surrounding their futures.
On the 15/2, National Squad players had a discussion with Nigel Walker between 3-4pm which has led to the PRB releasing the aforementioned statement at 5:29 whilst players would be training.
Players feel let down, that once again they are the ones that are being leveraged. A point raised in the PRB statement mentions that “clubs have been paying salaries that their businesses cannot afford”. Players and agents have negotiated contracts within the parameters directed by the PRB and its previous incarnations. Once again, the players are expected to clean up someone else’s mess.
In the meeting with Nigel Walker, the players haven’t asked for anything unreasonable, nor an increase to the funding model. The WRPA and its wider membership appreciate the drive, commitment and unity from the National squad players to represent all professional players across Wales.
We understand that negotiations are complex, but this particular issue has been ongoing for a prolonged period of time with deadlines set and missed, promises made and broken. A well referenced article was published on Tuesday 14/2 highlighting the very real situation that players are facing. As a players’ union, we raised these concerns publicly back in December.
What is deeply concerning is that until the Long Form Agreement is signed and active, no players’ futures are guaranteed. This is having a profound effect on players, especially those
out of contract, and is placing unacceptable strain on mental health and overall wellbeing. Strike action is something that we wish to see avoided as a Players Union and our members want to be taking the field as they always have - but clearly the anxiety caused by the situation is now affecting the lives and profession of players. Players have had enough. This is not a game of ‘Championship Manager’.
We urge all involved at PRB to prioritise fair agreement urgently and to acknowledge the position and wellbeing of the game’s main assets, which are its players. A satisfactory resolution must be found swiftly so that all parties can move forward.