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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019

Scarlets confirm merger 'off the table' after sudden Ospreys change of heart

The Scarlets claim they were originally approached by the Ospreys to consider a merger as far back as December.

Image: Alex Davidson/INPHO

THE SCARLETS HAVE confirmed that a proposed merger with the Ospreys is “off the table” after their west Wales rivals changed their mind despite signing heads of terms as recently as 1 March.

In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, the Scarlets said that it was indeed the Swansea-based club who had approached them with a view to exploring the merger as far back as December, at least partially due to the costs of using Swansea City FC’s Liberty Stadium as a home ground.

Talks subsequently broke down between January and February, but the Scarlets claim they were asked by the Ospreys to reconsider the merger “last week”.

Despite coming to an agreement on Friday, the Llanelli side learned at yesterday’s PRB meeting in Cardiff — as did the rest of the rugby world — that the Ospreys had decided to pull the plug on the clubs’ amalgamation.

The Scarlets indicated in today’s statement that their supporters would have been satisfied with the terms they agreed to on Friday, but insist that the much-discussed merger is no longer on the cards.

A view of the Scarlets changing room The Ospreys won't be joining the Scarlets in Llanelli next season. Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

“Firstly, we can confirm the statement issued by the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) on Tuesday afternoon as accurate, as are the comments made by Wales’ national coach that the proposed merger was driven by the regions, in consultation with the PRB,” began the Scarlets statement.

In late December, the Scarlets received a high-level approach from the Ospreys to explore the option of a merger as they had come to the conclusion that their position as tenants at the Liberty Stadium was proving to be challenging.

“This was discussed at the two-day strategy meeting of PRB on January 8th and 9th. The loss of a region would have put Welsh rugby in breach of its commitment to having four regions playing in the major competitions. As a result, the option of a team playing out of North Wales was raised.

“By the time of the next PRB meeting on February 5, discussions had broken down between the Scarlets and Ospreys and we were told that the Ospreys and another region were in talks over a possible merger, again with North Wales being the option to maintain four teams.

“Subsequently, those discussions also broke down and we were approached again last week by the Ospreys to reconsider a merger.

Heads of terms were agreed and signed by the Ospreys and Scarlets on March 1 on terms we believe our supporters would be happy with. This was to be proposed at a meeting of the PRB on Tuesday afternoon, but we were told at the start of that meeting that the Ospreys had changed their mind.

“The merger is off the table,” the statement continued, before concluding:

In recent years, the Scarlets have been building steadily to regain our place as one of Europe’s leading sides. We have a superb stadium, great staff, loyal and passionate supporters and a team to be proud of. We know that the problems regarding Welsh rugby have not gone away but we remain committed to the best interests of the Scarlets and the game in Wales.

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‘This must stop now’ – Ospreys deny they’re on verge of Scarlets merger in scathing statement

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