Welsh Rugby Union chairman Gareth Davies has called on the majority of Welsh clubs not to pay players.
Wales’ leading players have taken a 25% pay cut as the professional game seeks to reduce costs during the coronavirus pandemic.
But Davies wants nominally amateur clubs in the Welsh league pyramid – mainly those below the semi-professional Indigo Welsh Premiership – to stop paying players to play.
“Don’t pay players,” Davies said.
“Play in the league you are in, strive to beat the opposition you face, dream of lifting the trophies available at your current standard and attract the players who are drawn to your club.
“Use the money you save on attracting, developing and engaging players for the future or on ensuring your club remains the central hub of your community that it has always been.
“Be sustainable and help safeguard the future for us all.”
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The WRU currently allocates £11.8m per annum to the community game in Wales as a whole, with £2.8m direct funding received by clubs in Wales. Grants are also available for clubs to improve grounds and infrastructure.
The governing body has claimed that the average funding allocated to an individual club each season is approximately £6,500.
But Davies is concerned that much of this money is going to players rather than being used to run clubs.
“The community game is the lifeblood of our sport, club players are also supporters, coaches, administrators and referees and alongside their families and social networks they form the very DNA of Welsh rugby,” he added.
“But there is one persistent factor at this level of the game that I simply cannot fathom – payment.
“Why do clubs, who exist for rugby and rugby alone, so unnecessarily drain the very resources which could ensure long-term sustainability by insisting on paying players?
“Clubs around the country now have a stark admission to make. After cancelling the season at the end of March, doors have been closed, lights have been switched off and costs have been minimised, in readiness for the time when we can switch everything back on again.
“But there are outliers who cannot turn off all the taps in this simple way. They are the amateur clubs who have players on contracts and with wage bills to sustain.
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“In the professional game, there have been negotiations and pay cuts across the board, but in the amateur game this should not have been an issue.
“I know many of our Indigo Group Premiership clubs, for example, are keen to use the current lull in playing to reassess their own finances.
“At this level of the game there is a willingness already to more tightly control payments made to players and a widespread acceptance that this aspect of individual club business models is not currently fit for purpose.
“But, if the Premiership must significantly tighten its belt, elsewhere payments must not be made at all.
“We will have the opportunity soon, we hope, to start again. The opportunity is there for us all to sit down with our key stakeholders and recalibrate. Welsh rugby will return with renewed vigour.
“But please, dear clubs, I implore you let us start again with the right structure. If no club offers payment, then there will be no market for player wages and no club will feel the need.
“If no club breaks ranks and we all play for enjoyment, for our town or village of birth, for the club with whom we hold the strongest affinity… then no club will suffer the same threat of oblivion that is currently being felt in some quarters if a similar crisis were to strike again.”