We'll see you in court

24.1.2003

[icWales] THE Welsh Rugby Union could face legal action from Pontypridd and Swansea over its plan to establish four regional franchises.

The two clubs are fearful that the franchises in their areas will be awarded to Cardiff and Llanelli respectively.

This would leave Ponty and the All Whites excluded from top-flight rugby and facing a bleak semi-professional future.

But they are not prepared to accept this lying down and may well take their battle to the courts.

Both clubs have loyalty agreements with the WRU which guarantee them a share of the revenue from TV contracts and European rugby.

But under the new set-up that funding would disappear.

In Ponty's case, their revenue would go down from £800,000 to £66,000 a year.

Ponty chief executive Gareth Thomas said: "This plan has massive financial implications for us as a club.

"We will now be considering our legal position.

"It's also a matter of grave concern in terms of the long-term future of Valleys rugby." While Bridgend-Neath and Newport-Ebbw Vale are likely to make joint bids in their areas,

Cardiff and Llanelli are expected to go it alone, leaving Ponty and Swansea out in the cold.

A Ponty source said: "We have been shafted. "If we were to bid for a franchise and Cardiff also put up a bid, there would be only one winner.

"You would effectively end up with a Cardiff team.

"It would be called Cardiff, it would play out of the Arms Park and wear Blue & Black.

"That's not regional rugby in my book. This is really superclubs wrapped up as provinces.

"Once people see through that, the Union might struggle to get it past the member clubs."

The four-team plan will be voted on by the Union's 239 member clubs at an EGM on February 23.

Swansea chairman Roger Blyth said: "If we perceive ourselves as being disadvantaged under these proposals we would have no hesitation in litigating.

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