Welsh are poor relations

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

STEVE BALE

Market forces dictate that leading Welsh players - members of an unsuccessful team and products of a low-wage economy in the principality - will fare vastly worse under rugby union's new open regulations than their counterparts in the southern hemisphere.

If the Welsh 's contracts for its internationals turn out to be the predicted pounds 20,000 per annum, the hope that professionalism would keep Welshmen from the clutches of rugby league could well be in vain. By direct comparison, the Rugby Football Union in England has already guaranteed its players pounds 40,000 each.

"There is no way in which we as a union could even contemplate remunerating our international players at the level they have now agreed to pay in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand," Vernon Pugh, the WRU chairman and International Board leading light, said in Cardiff yesterday.

"There, the top players are being guaranteed annual sums of pounds 120,000 to 140,000. That's more an indication of the money they have available than the worth of the players or indeed sensible budgeting and use of resources."

The southern-hemisphere unions have available an annual pounds 12m each in television money but even before the IB decision the WRU was budgeting only to break even in the coming year, having made a profit of only pounds 750,000 last year. "If we are to make payments to players, we either have to grow our income or cut back on our costs," Glanmor Griffiths, the union's treasurer, said.

Pugh added: "I would feel much more comfortable that we start off on the basis that the level of contractual commitment is relatively modest and we then proceed on the basis of what we can afford and what the product is worth."

Professionalism claimed a distinguished administrative casualty yesterday when John Allen, Leicester's secretary since 1976, resigned. The former Tigers scrum-half said he would not wish to administer a professional game.

The new dispensation has also been rejected by the Argentine , which has decided to remain amateur despite pressure from leading players. "Argentine rugby is a sport that develops the character, the body and the soul and it's going to stay that way," the ARU president, Felipe Ferrari, said yesterday.

Meanwhile the first European Rugby Cup was launched yesterday, with the 12 participating teams from Wales, Ireland, France, Italy and Romania divided into four pools to be played in November and December. Semi-finals take place on 30 December and the final - if a Welsh team reaches it - at Cardiff Arms Park on 7 January. England and Scotland will join in next year.

European Cup draw, Sporting Digest, page 27

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