Big turn out at supporter meeting
Over 100 supporters of Newport RFC packed into the Rodney Parade clubhouse on Tuesday evening to attend a meeting hosted by The Friends of Newport Rugby Trust (FoNR) to discuss the situation regarding recent speculation that Rodney Parade will be sold to the WRU.
FoNR outlined information from various sources that seems to suggest a deal has already been agreed in principle with the famous 140 year old ground being transferred to the union as well as the running of the Newport Gwent Dragons regional team. In return the payment made to the club would allow all outstanding debts and loans to Newport RFC and the Dragons to be settled leaving a small surplus. This deal would leave Newport and the Dragons playing in a ground that neither team had control over and only guaranteed for a period believed to be 10 years. Also worrying is that the club would have no means of generating income from hosting other events at Rodney Parade if ownership passes to the WRU.
FoNR have arranged to meet the WRU CEO Martyn Phillips and chairman Gareth Davies on Thursday followed by a meeting with Newport and Dragons CEO Stuart Davies, who until now has refused to meet with representatives of FoNR. Hopefully the situation will become clearer after those meetings have taken place,
Interestingly and with remarkable coincidental timing, whilst the meeting was taking place last night, the BBC published an interview with Stuart Davies where he spoke of hoping the deal with the WRU would be confirmed soon and mentioning the 10 year agreement. Davies spoke of protecting the interests of Newport RFC but the overwhelming majority of those present at the meeting want Newport RFC to retain ownership of the Rodney Parade ground and hence have control of their own activities.
FoNR understands that there are several loans to Newport RFC, specifically two from long term benefactors Tony Brown and Martyn Hazell and one from a bank that were incurred when the new grandstand facility was built a number of years ago and that remain to be repaid. This facility was built by Newport RFC but to be primarily used for the Dragons corporate and hospitality activities. Likewise there is still a considerable loan from the WRU to the Dragons outstanding, although it was noted that the WRU are 50% owners of the Dragons in partnership with Newport RFC.
Things appear to be moving quickly and the meeting was in full agreement that the lack of information from the board of Newport RFC and unwillingness to speak with supporters and shareholders was unacceptable behaviour for such an organisation. FoNR will continue to pursue options to engage with the board moving forward for further clarity.