2+2? 3+1? How about a meritocracy instead?

So it’s tomorrow and Wednesday that will see meetings of the (new) Professional Rugby Game Board to decide how the financial pie of Welsh rugby is to be divided, for an unknown period of time and in an unknown way. Let’s remember that the PRGB is supposedly made up of 4 x PRW reps (the Chair of each of the four Pro Teams), 2 x WRU reps and 2 x non-Exec directors (one of whom is the Chairman). So, for starters, who are the two non-Exec members?

This group will decide on how to split the money in the Welsh game. Last week some Dragons fans got their knickers twisted after reading my piece on a possible 3+1 solution, misunderstanding their way into thinking that it was my preference. I wonder if those knickers had untwisted by the time the BBC reported the same option, some days later? Regardless of that, 2+2 or 3+1 are options on the table.

For me, the basics of sport is that an individual competitive team flourishes or fails by its own methods. Therefore, the kind of gerrymandering from the Union that would see a 3+1 or 2+2 solution goes against everything that sport should be. The only possible ‘fair’ way out of that rabbit hole is if the 1 is the team the WRU own, else it will be gerrymandering the market place against businesses in which it holds no stake.

So is there a better solution? Yes. There’s an obvious and existing solution that could easily be copied from France:

  • the Union pays a daily fee for access to players (obviously the fee is higher for first team players than it is for age grade players)
  • the Union pays a bonus for restricting the number of players who aren’t qualified to play international rugby for Wales. In France they do this by rewarding “JIFF” qualified players, who are those who have been brought up through the academy system of each of the clubs.
  • all competition and broadcast money is equally divided four ways, although there is a fair argument to slightly weigh that in favour of those who qualify for the Champions Cup and a meritocracy payment for league positions

The above is a system that is in place right now and could be easily copied. We are obsessed in Wales with somehow trying to imitate (and badly failing to do so) the Irish or Kiwi set ups as somehow they are seen as “small nations”. There are many reasons why neither system is possible in Wales (for starters each have their own significantly greater geographies that Wales – all four of Wales’ pro teams play in a land mass that would fit between Cork and Limerick, for example, whereas a derby in New Zealand involves catching a plane – plus their own economies, tax laws and currencies) whereas France and England are somehow painted as models based solely on benefactor cash.

If the PRGB introduced the French system then each of the four would be rewarded for fulfilling the basic requirements of the existence – success on the pitch and success off the pitch by selling their assets. They’d be financially incentivised to be successful and to supply players to Team Wales.

With all four teams working “together”, with the implementation of “pay bands” (something that fundamentally misses the point that different players have different values to different teams), we are heading towards an homogenised mess that doesn’t allow the actual game on the pitch to reward the successful.

Welsh rugby is pushing itself into oblivion – a product of the dreadful PrO’14 being of little to no interest for investors / benefactors / supporters / shareholders / sponsors, plus the product of the WRU spending 22 years doing its best to discourage private investment in the game in Wales.

If success on the pitch is now determined by 8 suits in a PRGB boardroom, it is no longer a sport and it is no longer rugby.

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