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4.3.2003

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[icWales] DAVID Moffett has been warned Welsh rugby could lose substantial TV revenue if he forces through his four-team regional plan.

WRU chief executive Moffett already faces the threat of costly legal action from Cardiff, Llanelli and Pontypridd, who are all opposed to his scheme.

And now he has been confronted with further cash concerns over the Union's television contract with BBC and S4C.

The warning comes from Ponty chief executive Gareth Thomas, who says cutting the number of professional sides to four could have a serious impact on the TV deal.

At present, the contract for domestic and Celtic competition is worth £4,050,000 to the Premier clubs.

But Moffett's proposed shake-up would involve a material change to the TV agreement, with fewer top-tier games available for coverage.

The broadcasters would then be within their rights to renegotiate the deal and put less cash on the table.

Thomas says Moffett's plan would involve a 43 per cent reduction in the number of domestic games featuring Welsh sides.

The figure would go down from 119 to approximately 68, based on a home and away Celtic League operating.

"The question is are the broadcasters going to be willing to pay the same money for substantially less rugby?" said Thomas.

"The indications are no, they are not.

"There is a very real threat to the TV revenue.

"Last season, S4C and BBC televised 43 domestic and Celtic League games between them, excluding Europe and the Principality Cup.

"If you've only got 68 Welsh games available, it doesn't give you a lot of choice.

"It's inevitable that some of those games will be meaningless, particularly at the end of the season.

"You would also only have two home games per week, which would mean the broadcasters having to televise almost every home match involving Welsh teams.

"This would clearly have a knock-on effect on season ticket sales and gate receipts.

"There would be no Parker Pen matches either, which would mean fewer TV games again."

Thomas points out that the five-team solution - which Ponty, Cardiff and Llanelli favour - would give an additional 22 domestic games, all of them involving Welsh sides, taking the total up to 90.

"This would give the broadcasters more matches and more choice," he said.

"It must be five teams because we can't afford to risk that TV money."

The broadcasters have asked Moffett for a template of how the season would look with four sides.

They will then be able to make a judgement on what the available rugby is worth to them.

Moffett was due to meet with the nine Premier clubs today to outline his detailed plans for next season in the wake of the WRU member clubs voting in favour of a move to regional rugby.

If he insists on just four teams, then Llanelli seem odds on to take legal action under the terms of their loyalty agreement, with Cardiff and Ponty possibly following suit.

 

              

 

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