One of the four WRU teams could be axed entirely if a seismic shift occurs.
In a bold plan to change the game in Wales, the Welsh Rugby Union proposes to reduce the number of regional teams to just three.
WRU chief Steve Phillips is expected to discuss the proposals with the regions next Wednesday. The Scarlets-Ospreys merger will be one option. Other options include the WRU-owned Dragons and Ospreys being axed. Any attempt to endanger the existence of one side will likely be met with strong opposition from certain quarters.
The Union spent approximately PS25,000 on a Oakwell Sports Advisory report known as the Umbers Report. It included recommendations that losing a team would make professional rugby in Wales more financially sustainable and profitable. The report mentions the Ospreys and Dragons as the sides potentially at risk. It also discusses the Ospreys lack of stadium ownership and their ownership model.
Although it is possible for three regions to be added to a North Wales development side, it is difficult to imagine the remaining regions accepting such a proposal.
For a few weeks, a series of meetings has been taking place behind closed doors. Welsh rugby is in crisis. The four current pro sides, Ospreys Scarlets, Dragons, and Cardiff have all had incredibly difficult seasons. The men's Six Nations defeat against Italy was a turning point for the WRU.
All regions suffered significant financial losses due to the Covid pandemic. They also remain in debt of a PS20m loan taken out by the WRU. All four sides' coaches were asked to share their opinions with the Union about what they think is needed to make Wales a success. They also want more funding and better player pathways.
In the face of mounting problems, WRU has been under fire from all sides in recent weeks. Phillips, the chief of WRU, has been focusing on capital projects that will generate long-term revenue like the Parkgate Hotel on Westgate Street. However, opponents have questioned why the Union isn't investing more directly in the pro game to improve coaching and play.
When the Union's proposals go before Professional Rugby Board, including bosses from all four teams, they will face stiff challenges. With the future of their respective teams at stake, fans will have strong opinions.
WalesOnline was informed by a source in Welsh rugby that a radical move is being considered and that it will be necessary to make difficult decisions if Welsh rugby wants to succeed.
However, it is likely that the road to an agreement will be bumpy. Another well-placed source in Welsh rugby said, "Understandably not everyone is singing the same hymn sheet."
"We all know that the game is in a difficult place, but not everyone believes the solution is to reduce professional teams and compress the player pool at top.
"Really, you need a long-term strategy that is well thought out and ensures success for the regional teams as well as the national team. Without a thriving Wales team, you won't have an enviable pro game.