Phil @rugbyPhilBB July 1: Blues come under “control” (somehow) of WRU. Temporary / permanent remains unclear & unknown. Detail shrouded in unnecessary secrecy
The above is a tweet I sent at 11:16 on May 9th, 2017. It’s a tweet that I’ve wanted to send for many weeks / months but had to wait until Peter Thomas let the cat out of the bag at the AGM of Cardiff Blues Ltd. Within two months the entire fabric of the club I’ve followed for 30 plus years would be changed but nobody has seen it worthy to ask supporters if this is something that we would favour.
Regardless on where you stand on regional rugby, the cold fact is that Cardiff RFC ltd stood alone in 2003 to form its own regional brand. The company didn’t change, the Articles of the Company didn’t change, nothing changed at all other than adding a new brand – Cardiff Blues. Later on, the company changed its name from Cardiff RFC ltd to Cardiff Blues ltd, whilst operating under the same Articles. These are facts. It is just the way it is. That is why this is about far more than the last 14 years of regional rugby in Wales and it’s about far longer than 30 plus years for many other supporters.
Ever since the game went professional in 1995/96, Cardiff Rugby has been fighting the WRU. From the WRU’s botched application for stadium funding when it built the Millennium Stadium, before that with the attempt by the WRU to hold 51% of shares upon first incorporation as a professional rugby club, through a High Court battle over VAT, a Rebel Season where Cardiff were kicked out of the Leagues but begged (upon the insistence of the sponsors and broadcasters) to play in the WRU Cup, right up to ensuring that the Roger Lewis years of devastation were ended, there has been nothing but conflict. But now, all of a sudden, we’re supposed to just hand over the keys to the WRU without even letting supporters know? That doesn’t sit well at all.
As with all things in Welsh rugby, so much of this story is clouded in mystery and secrecy with even the AGM being told that “matters were confidential”. Remember, that is the OWNERS of the club being told that they weren’t to know what is being negotiated on their behalf. Now, this isn’t a big business. To put this in context Cardiff has a turnover of about £9m a year. It is a tiny business. There is no need for confidentiality, secrecy and an over riding sense of huge self importance from the Board of Directors. This business is a puddle. Stop trying to be a big fish.
There simply is no need to hide behind confidentiality in a business this size. Share prices won’t be affected by leaks. Takeover attempts won’t have to go market regulators and public enquiries. This is small fry, so stop hiding behind big business terms.
As the cat is now out of the bag on this, Cardiff Blues Ltd should now take this opportunity to publish its plans and to inform its stakeholders of its intentions. Sponsors need to know what they are sponsoring, selling Season Tickets as though nothing is changing for next year seems underhand in the light of these circumstances.
Richard Holland and Martyn Ryan were both good enough to give their time to a CF10 Trust Question and Answer evening recently and both had ample opportunity to explain these plans. Neither took the opportunity. More than one member from the Floor expressed grave concerns about possible WRU intervention yet, again, neither took the opportunity to explain the kind of discussions that had been going on. We were told about possible use of the Principality Stadium, we weren’t told about the WRU “babysitting” the team or what that entailed.
Remember – CF10 is a shareholder in Cardiff Blues Ltd.
Much of this plan is tied into the proposed redevelopment of Cardiff Arms Park into a modern stadium, either similar to Parc Y Scarlets or as a multi purpose indoor arena. A new lease between Cardiff Athletic Club (the major shareholder in Cardiff Blues Ltd and the owner of Cardiff Arms Park) is planned but negotiations on the details have stalled / changed / amended / whatever term you choose to use over many, many months.
These lease discussions further cloud the story and further cloud how this will play out, to the point where very little of it makes any sense at all. Here are just some of the unanswered questions:
- How can Cardiff Blues Ltd claim it needs the WRU to “babysit” the costs of the team when, at the same time, it is offering £8m as a down payment on the new lease?
- Who at CAC has asked for the £8m? CAC is made up of 69% Rugby Section Members and, under the Articles I mentioned earlier, Cardiff Blues ltd runs the Rugby team for CAC. In effect, this £8m is a payment that will lead the business to not being able to pay for itself during the redevelopment. Well, how about there is no £8m down payment? The 69% of members may prefer a down payment of £0 and no WRU “babysitting”. How about somebody asks us?
- How can the WRU “control / babysit” the team when the Articles of the Company explicitly prevent any person from controlling more than 24.9% of the business? This means that the business can’t be sold to the WRU, or it means that somebody will try to convince people that the Articles of the company don’t apply to the, erm, company.
- What are the terms of the “babysitting / control”?
- What is the mechanism to get the team back?
- Will the team be renamed by the WRU?
- Will CAC evict Cardiff Blues Ltd from Cardiff Arms Park because of rent arrears?
I could write a dozen more such questions, and I may well do over the coming days, but the general point of this blog was to highlight the two of the biggest issues for supporters in Welsh rugby:
- the inability of those running the game to actually involve the supporters in events to ensure that actual customers are provided with what they actually want
- the crazy notion that hiding things under “confidentiality” will keep things secret in Welsh rugby.
This is 2017, folks. Information spreads easily and quickly, and rugby clubs in Wales should use this for their own benefit to deliver a culture of inclusivity, openness and transparency instead of hoping that the Chairman doesn’t go off on one during an AGM.
Addendum: Simon Thomas of Wales Online has published his interview with Peter Thomas since the above was written. In that interview, Peter Thomas is incoherent and, frankly, talking complete nonsense. He claims that the Board of Cardiff Blues ltd cannot run a rugby team and develop a 7 acre piece of land at the same time.
Erm, Peter, you’re a bloody property developer. As is John Smart. As is Paul Bailey. The three of you sit on the Board of Cardiff Blues Ltd and run, erm, property development companies. For the past 21 years the three of you have sat on the Board and, guess what, developed lots of properties AT THE SAME TIME.
The interview is just testimony to the double speak, nonsense and, frankly, bollocks spouted by figures in Welsh rugby. Stop hiding behind nonsense and start telling the truth. There is no mechanism to “return the franchise”.