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Cardiff Blues boss Peter Thomas has warned that Welsh rugby must declare peace in our time once and for all or face destruction.
The Arms Park figurehead has spoken out as the long-running dispute between the WRU and the regions reaches a critical point.
Itâs understood the four regions have presented the Union with their version of a final proposed agreement and are awaiting a response tomorrow.
Blues chairman Thomas says he is hoping and praying for a positive outcome so that both sides can move forward for the good of Welsh rugby.
He feels if a settlement can be reached it will enable the regions to be more competitive in the newly re-branded Guinness Pro12 and Europe.
However, if a deal can not be struck, he says they will sit down and discuss how they are going to cut their cloth without WRU financing.
The Participation Agreement between the Unions and the four regions – the Blues, Scarlets, Ospreys and Dragons – ran out at the end of last month.
Under that PA, the regions received Â£6.7m from central funds in return for international player release, observing overseas quotas and other issues.
Their argument has been that the funding level has not kept pace with spiralling player wages and has left them unable to compete with Europeâs top teams.
Now, after months of negotiations and impasse, it appears the two sides are tantalisingly close to reaching a settlement.
The peace deal which has been under discussion for some time is believed to involve an additional Â£2m being made available for the central contracting of players in a bid to halt the exodus to France and England.
With those star names off their wage bill, the regions would have an additional Â£500,000 or so a year to spend on strengthening their squad.
In recent weeks, itâs been a case of finalising the detail of the deal and the regions have now submitted a version they are ready to sign to the Union.
âWe are waiting for a response,â said Thomas.
âI hope it will be positive for both sides.
âWe have to stop this infighting and we must declare peace in our time once and for all.
âWe canât go on as we are or else Welsh rugby will be destroyed and never come back to where it should be.â
Asked how hopeful he was of a peace deal, Thomas said: âI am forever the optimist.
âItâs the only fundable way forward at the moment. That is the line in the sand.
âItâs all about getting the right agreement going forward.
âItâs embarrassing that we donât reach the quarter-finals of Europe or the Pro12 play-offs.
âAnd with all due respect, as things stand, what chance have the Ospreys and Scarlets got in the new European Cup next season when you look at the competition they are up against and the budgets they have to work with?
âWe have got to have the proper funding going forward to be able to compete.
âOur wage cap is Â£3.5m. The Toulouse front row costs more than that!â
Regions NOT opposed to central contracts…
Thomas says the proposed peace deal would enable playing budgets to increase in Wales and insists he has no issues with that being achieved via the introduction of central contracts.
âWe are not opposed to central contracts,â he declared.
âWe are very keen to pursue them. We have reached the point now where they have got to be introduced.
âIt will hopefully help retain players in Wales.
âJamie Roberts wouldnât have gone to France if there had been a central contract on the table for him. I doubt if Leigh Halfpenny would have gone either.
âEngland are talking about Â£5m for their squads.
âWith the support of central contracts, we would be able to get up to between Â£3.5m and Â£4.5m here in Wales.
âThat would certainly help. An extra Â£500,000 a year into the team would enable you to bring in some real quality.
âIt isnât rocket science. These are simple decisions.
âWe just hope the Union will come back with a positive response.
âIf we canât be competitive as regions, then what is the point?
âWe must have peace in our time.
âWe need to find the right resolution that allows the regions to compete and make the knock-out stages.â
Thomas continued: âWe have to work together with the governing body and they have to work with us.
âWe need to restore the respectability and credibility of Welsh rugby within the rugby world.
âWhat we want is an open, honest and equal partnership. We want trust from both sides so that together we can take Welsh rugby forward.
âThe WRUâs job is to run international rugby and the amateur game. Itâs our job to run the professional game and develop and supply players for international rugby.â
What is the future without peace?…
If no peace deal is forthcoming, then the regions will have to decide how they are going to continue without the Â£6.7m they have been receiving from the WRU.
âWe would sit down as four businesses and make decisions on what that means for us,â said Thomas.
âIf money doesnât come in, you have got to cut your cloth accordingly.
âBut hopefully it wonât come to that. Letâs see what the Union say.â
Adding his thoughts, Dragonsâ chief executive Gareth Davies said: âEach region is looking at its own business plan, I suppose what you could call a survival plan now.
âItâs no different to what we have been doing since last October when some of the European funding was stopped. We have been in this sort of survival mode for the last seven, eight, nine months.
âThat will continue for a while yet. I hope itâs not too long because I think I would be diverting my energy and time doing more constructive things.
âDiscussions with the Union are ongoing and weâd like to think we can come to a conclusion fairly soon.â
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