In an effort to uphold the principles of fair play and integrity, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) is set to intensify its scrutiny of payments in community rugby, commencing in the upcoming new year.
In a recent communication distributed to all clubs, the governing body for rugby in Wales emphasizes the responsibilities of clubs, outlines their investigation procedures, and underscores the repercussions for non-compliance.
The WRU reveals that nine clubs have explicitly affirmed their intention to make payments to players and have chosen not to sign a compliance document.
The union, overseeing rugby from elite to grassroots levels, is adamant about eradicating payments to players across all tiers below the Indigo Premiership.
Taking a proactive approach, the WRU introduced a ‘Statement of Integrity and Declaration of Compliance’ in July 2023.
This document outlines specific scenarios that would warrant material or non-material benefits for players.
However, the union acknowledges that payments to players continue to be a prevalent issue for many clubs in Wales, with numerous disclosures and evidence received within the initial three months of the season.
Community director Geraint John, in a letter addressed to all clubs, states unequivocally, “We will not tolerate inappropriate payments to players in the community game.”
To facilitate a transition, the WRU has declared an amnesty period throughout December, during which clubs can report any alterations to their declarations.
Come January 1, 2024, the WRU will implement a stringent three-stage investigation process, following which clubs found in breach of regulations will face both sporting and financial sanctions.
A first offence will necessitate the repayment of core grants, point deductions, and a prohibition on promotion. For a subsequent offence, clubs will incur a £1,000 fine per season in violation, automatic relegation, and a suspension of membership rights for two seasons.
This decisive stance by the WRU underscores its commitment to maintaining the integrity of community rugby and ensuring a level playing field for all participating clubs.