A LEADING Welsh club official has stated that the cross-border competition between Principality Premiership and Scottish Super 6 sides, which is supposed to take place next April and May, is not quite the fait accompli suggested by Sean Lineen – Scottish Rugby’s head of on-field development – during the media briefing he gave last week.
While the new tournament should go ahead in year one, the Welsh clubs are unimpressed that it is scheduled so late in the season to accommodate the World Cup, and there are still some significant issues related to funding which must be resolved.
“We have told the [Welsh] Union that we are not happy with the timing – but accept it is what it is for one year,” said the source. “We will support the proposal if they agree to fully fund our costs. They initially said they had no money but at the last meeting they asked how much we needed, and we provided a detailed breakdown. The clubs want to play in it, but will withdraw if they don’t meet the costs of travelling and hosting, plus our additional coaching and medical fees.
“I suspect they might call our bluff, but they will be disappointed as I think the clubs will stand firm, this time,” he added.
Cross-border competition has been a key strand of the Super 6 vision since the new league concept was launched back in August 2017, with the SRU remaining bullish throughout the intervening period that they would be able to organise an appropriate level of competition – although that has clearly proven harder to achieve than chief executive Mark Dodson initially anticipated.
The Welsh club official was responding to an article which appeared in ‘The Rugby Paper’ on Sunday, which explained that no formal agreement has yet been reached between the Welsh clubs and the WRU, before suggesting that the new competition “seems unlikely to go ahead” at this stage.
Dale McIntosh, head coach of Welsh champions Merthyr, was quoted in the article. “The WRU have got to sort their stuff out first and foremost. We just don’t know what’s going on and we are looking at a blank piece of paper all the time. There isn’t too much thought process being put into it,” he said.
“We will do what the WRU wants us to do within reason, but they have got to be smarter. If they want to us to play in these new competitions it has got to be feasible and for the benefit of Welsh rugby. Don’t just look after Scotland because they want to play in June.
“We don’t want to play in June – it is not good for us. We’ve got to start being selfish as Welsh people and make this competition as good as it can be.
“If we don’t do that there is going to be an even bigger divide between this level and professionalism.”
The issue of central funding for Welsh Premiership clubs is key to this debate. It has already dropped from £100,000 per season to £80,000 for the current campaign. It will be £70,000 next season and bottom out at £50,000 for 2021-22. The Premiership clubs reckon their running costs are around £120,000 per season, before they consider paying any players.
“We want to be strong and to contribute to Welsh rugby and Welsh success, but we can only do that if our governing body gives us the tools and the programme to do it,” added McIntosh.
“Without a doubt, the standard of the Premiership won’t be as it is in three years’ time if they carry on doing to it what they are doing.”