A Danger To Newport RFC
Whilst it would be true that most Newport RFC supporters are unhappy with how events for their club have unfolded since 2003, it could be that even worse is on the way for them. Rightly so, many of them are upset at the Board (especially Tony Brown) for not fighting hard enough for standalone status in 2003 and for the shambles of the administration of the “Gwent Dragons”, before the birth of this barely wanted step child of the Newport Gwent Dragons.
It shouldn’t be discounted or ignored that many pre-2003 Newport followers have given the NGD a fair crack over the last decade and seen that team as “their own”. The attendance figures would suggest that this number have declined during the last decade and are yet to be replaced by new followers.
The emaciation of the Newport RFC brand and the very poor standard of 2nd Team, Development rugby in the Welsh Premiership has naturally led to many just walking away completely from watching live rugby. When your “club” is a farm team for the step child you don’t want then not only does that lead to a backwards set up but also to bad feeling. In other words, you’ve lost “both” of your teams whilst (in theory – ha ha) your rivals have kept their team and gained another.
The answer from those non-Newport club followers in Gwent is that their clubs signed away forever their chance to sit at the top table of professional rugby in favour of this new regional set up. We all had to sacrifice and all Newport had to sacrifice is half of their club. This viewpoint, of course, is complete nonsense. It’s akin to the Pub Drunk claiming that he sacrificed his shot at Amir Khan when he tucked into his after closing time pizza. In other words: it’s easy to sacrifice something that you never had and never had an opportunity to ever have.
So for 10 years this not-quite Newport but too-Newport “regional team” have bounced along the bottom of Welsh professional rugby, taking its money from the professional game and not delivering that much in return. There have been success stories in Dan Lydiate and the Filton Academy produced Toby Faletau, but gone are the days when Newport (pumped by Tony Brown’s cash) were a threat to the top of the Welsh game.
So there we have the two edges of the sword that presently hangs over the head of Newport RFC – it needed Tony Brown’s cash to survive in the professional game and it is his ownership of the club (through being by far the biggest shareholder) that has led to them to the mess they are presently in. Can’t live with him, can’t live without him.
Yet the latest rumour mill suggests that his action in allowing a 50% partner in the Newport Gwent Dragons (presently held by the WRU after Ebbw Vale failed in their duty) could really harm and remove professional rugby from Newport forever as Roger Lewis is on the warpath and he wants to buy Newport RFC’s shareholding in order to gain 100% Union control of the NGD.
Now some Newport RFC followers may think that ridding their club of the step child would be a fantastic solution in allowing them to direct their club for its own benefit in the future. It would be back to being Newport RFC, a proud team and not a farm team.
This thought pattern, however, is the biggest danger to Newport RFC as it is simply nonsense. All clubs within the Welsh Premiership now have to sign a Participation Agreement with their “region” in order to promise to be a good little farm club. So Newport RFC would still be in exactly the same position it is now but without access to control over a professional entity.
Worse still, that “region” for whom it must behave itself may not actually be “Gwent”. The WRU has history of buying a club’s share of a region, promising to keep it going as a 100% Union owned team and them immediately shutting it down. Just ask followers of Ever 2033 Ltd, or the Celtic Warriors as some would remember them. That little incident cost the WRU a few quid but, in the long run, I’m sure that they would think it money well spent.
So it could be that selling up to the WRU makes Newport RFC a farm club for a new entity (maybe a development side involving North Wales and the South East Wales Valleys) or, and this would be a killer blow, if the WRU wanted only three professional teams then Newport RFC would be a farm club for…… Cardiff. And what a total joke that would be.
This all means that now is the time for Newport RFC supporters to wake from their decade of Dragons induced slumber and finally grab hold of their club. They simply have to fight for its future by campaigning to buy the WRU’s share of the Newport Gwent Dragons and becoming a proper standalone. After all, if it’s good enough for Roger Lewis then surely it’s good enough for Newport RFC?
The pressure has to come on to fight for all that top flight rugby in Newport stands for and stood for. There will be no second chances if Brown sells to Lewis.
This clearly would be an enormous task for Newport RFC supporters to start, let alone coordinate and control, but the mechanisms may already be in place in the model of Friends of Newport Rugby – the Supporters’ Trust. This is the best vehicle available for all of the shareholders of Newport RFC to bind together to buy out Brown in order to at least save that 50% ownership of professional rugby, before taking on the WRU’s share.
Brown must be approached, must be canvassed and must be made aware of the weight of opinion that would be against selling up to the WRU. There is form for doing this when you consider the organisation of the Petition in 2003 for representation of the Newport name in the professional team and this kind of effort must be seen to be reproduced.
Sure, it’s possibly an enormous task dependent upon the will of Tony Brown and how the debt sits for the refurbishment of the new stadium, but the ability is there amongst Newport RFC followers (it is definitely there in the Trust) to win the finance to fight for professional rugby in Newport.
Somebody needs to fight for Newport. It’s time for those who care about the club to lead that fight.