Wales: Why the players are threatening to strike during the Six Nations

Wales players are considering strike action ahead of the Six Nations match with England next week, and Planet Rugby explains why. 

Warren Gatland’s players have thrown the Test match at the Principality Stadium next week into doubt, with reports suggesting that they will strike against the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU). 

The unprecedented action is in response to the WRU’s failings as an organisation, which is impacting the players and respective United Rugby Championship (URC) teams. 

A financial agreement outlining what level of payments the governing body will make to the URC teams is yet to be finalised. This means that clubs are unable to offer their players contracts or recruit new individuals ahead of the 2023/24 season.

Is the strike all about money?

While the short answer is yes, it is slightly more complicated than that. The strike is not necessarily in response to how much the players are earning but rather their financial security.

The WRU currently funds the four regional teams, Cardiff Rugby, Dragons, Scarlets and Ospreys, assisting in paying the players and staff.

However, a deal between the regions and the WRU must be struck ahead of next season so the URC sides know how much money is available for expenses like player salaries. 

But with less than six months to go before the end of the current season, an agreement has yet to be reached. This leaves the players in limbo on whether they should explore their options at other clubs or whether they can stay at the current team.  


The regions are unable to negotiate with players at this time because a freeze on negotiations has been implemented until a deal is finalised. 

This has led to players seeking contracts elsewhere while some have been offered verbal commitments from their regions.

“I can’t believe I’m five months away from the end of my contract and eight months away from the World Cup, and my future isn’t certain yet,” an unnamed Wales Six Nations squad member told Sportsmail. 

“I can’t apply for a mortgage, and I’m on antidepressants. I’m also one big injury away from not having a job in July, yet I’m starting for Wales every week, and the WRU is making tens of millions from international matches.”

Cardiff captain Josh Turnbull, a representative of the Welsh Rugby Players Association, also hit back at claims their protest was only about salaries in a social media post.

“This is NOT about what players earn. It’s the fact players don’t know if they have a job in 4 months time!” he wrote

“The vulnerable and uncertain situation is causing severe stress and wellbeing issues and this is increasing day by day.”

Wales international Bradley Davies believes player strike action would be the “last option” and added that a potential strike would not just be about the money.

“We choose to be rugby players. We aren’t asking for more money, we are just asking for a voice in the way things are run – player welfare, how many games you play, head injury stuff, mental health,” he said. “As players we have zero input into all that at the moment. All the boys want is a bit of communication.”

What changes with the new agreement

Despite having accepted 20% pay cuts during the Covid period, players in Wales are now faced with further reductions under the new terms.

The deal proposed by the WRU is said to be a ‘take-or-leave-it’ and would need to be signed just days after the England Test.

The proposal would see players earn lower salaries with bonuses introduced to compensate for the reduction.

The new deal also includes provision for a new approach to international player release, a salary cap and a formal framework for contract negotiations across all four professional sides and the national squad. 

It is understood that the cost of the URC squads this season is around £28.7 this year (the WRU funding £23m of that) but would fall to £23.5 next season and then remain at £18m until 2028 – a fall of £10m, as per WalesOnline.

Why hasn’t a deal been signed?

The regions and the WRU have been locked in negotiations over a six-year framework for the professional game in Wales.

Negotiations on the future of the sport in Wales are handled by the Professional Rugby Board (PRB), which comprises of representatives from each of the regions, acting WRU chief executive Nigel Walker, WRU finance director Tim Moss and two independent members, including chair Malcolm Wall.

In December last year, the WRU and the four regions verbally agreed on the new long-term funding deal. However, the deal had not been signed. 

The delays are down to the finer details that need to be agreed upon, which is understandably tricky as the players’ association, the teams, and the WRU are looking to get the best possible deal.

The squad sizes of the regional teams and players’ salaries are set to be reduced under the new agreement.

After a meeting with Walker, the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) released a statement which said that the “WRU and clubs have been paying salaries that their businesses cannot afford.” 

“The new agreement offers a complete funding package to the professional game in Wales, but it does come with financial limitations which will directly affect salary negotiations,” PRB chairman Malcolm Wall said.

“The cold facts are that the WRU and clubs have been paying salaries that their businesses cannot afford, so the new agreement establishes a new framework for contract negotiations.”

Agreeing on the finer details of the deal is proving to be the biggest stumbling block as the battle to iron out terms that satisfies all parties is proving to be incredibly difficult. 

READ MORE: Legend Sam Warburton supports Wales players in contract stand-off

Author: editor

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