Newport Gwent Dragons Takeover Bid Proposed by Wales Rugby Union

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Newport Gwent Dragons v Enisei-STM - European Rugby Challenge Cup
NEWPORT, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 13: Detailed view of a match day programme during the European Rugby Challenge Cup match between Newport Gwent Dragons and Enisei-STM at Rodney Parade on January 13, 2017 in Newport, Wales. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

The Welsh Rugby Union highlighted their plans for a Newport Gwent Dragons takeover, in a deal that would set the Gwent-based side to continue Guinness Pro12 rugby at Rodney Parade for the near future.

OVERVIEW

The last few weeks have been rife with a plethora of possibilities over the future of the Gwent region, and today the WRU finally put exactly what they plan to do on the table.

It must be stressed that the handover of Rodney Parade to WRU ownership can only be completed upon a vote by the Newport RFC (NRFC) shareholders, as NRFC own Rodney Parade. A vote must be completed no more than 21 days after a Emergency General Meeting, and this meeting itself requires a three week notice to all shareholders. It has not yet been scheduled.

It is understood that shareholders only get one vote each and not 1 vote per share, although there is some evidence that suggests this may not be the case in some incidents.

The takeover can be completed with a 75% ‘yes vote’ from the shareholders. That is 75% of the turn-out and not total shareholders–as some may not vote, for whatever reason.

According to Stuart Davies if the vote is no, the Dragons won’t be able to. There is a meeting on Monday for NRFC supporters to attend, which will cover their questions on this matter. Here, supporters hope to see and to question the top figures involved.

WHAT TRANSFERS?

WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips has stated that all staff will transfer across the wage books, including under pressure head coach, Kingsley Jones. With Phillips adding ”expectations will be high”.

A general view of Rodney Parade prior to the Guinness PRO12 Round 16 match between Newport Gwent Dragons and Leinster at Rodney Parade in Newport, Wales. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Rodney Parade’s ownership will also change hands from NRFC to the WRU. This means that the current owners who have their company debt secured against the ground will only call back a maximum of 10% of their debts back. A much cheaper option for anyone taking over the company, currently known as Dragons rugby limited (DRL).

NRFC will remain at Rodney Parade, with Davies adding;

“we want to be there for years, but if this deal doesn’t happen, it’ll be weeks.”

Thus bringing the problem for NRFC that if the Dragons takeover is completed, but the project goes bust a few years down the line, then NRFC lose their home and will have to find somewhere quickly. Perhaps to avoid this if the only option is to sign over to WRU control, is to get a buy-back clause that see’s NRFC able to buy back Rodney Parade if the project goes bust, for a very low fee.

Phillips added “to make this work we have to purchase Rodney Parade”, but highlighted “this is a rugby deal.” This was amidst speculation that the main reason the WRU wanted to takeover the NGD’s was to gain the asset of Rodney Parade, for free.

MAJOR CHANGES IN NAME ONLY

The name surrounding the Gwent based side has been of much discussion since it’s implementation in 2003. Martyn Phillips has announced that if the WRU is completed, the name will officially change to just ‘the Dragons’ rather than Newport Gwent Dragons.

Most fans who go probably won’t be bothered (or bother) with the current board telling the supporters not to chant ‘Newport’ and them following suit, with chants involving ‘the men of Gwent’ or ‘Dragons’. It is relative, but only incidental.

It is finally time for those who claimed they wouldn’t go; due to the name, to put their money where their mouth is. Phillips said “we are regional rugby-not super clubs”, but did not say he would ‘alter any structure’ surrounding the Cardiff Blues or Scarlets, who also hold heavy bearing upon one club.

OTHER REGIONS TO BE UNAFFECTED

This shouldn’t affect the other regions too badly, but Martyn Phillips has said that all regions have been notified on the Dragons takeover, and have been supportive. However, Phillips added there could be “collateral damage for them if it doesn’t happen”; when talking about the takeover.

Like the Cardiff Blues there is a plan to install an artificial pitch. Newport County AFC, are the issue here with them not being allowed to play on a 3G/4G pitch whilst being in the football league. They currently sit 23rd in League Two, and relegation into the conference would see the owners able to install a fake pitch–but it would prevent County getting promoted [again under current rules].

Their current lease is ten years long, and will run out in 2023. So in all reality, it will be waited on to see if there’s any clause around termination of the contract.

Newport Gwent Dragons complete their warm up at Rodney Parade, Newport. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Phillips admitted he hasn’t spoken to NCAFC yet, but says a 4G pitch is the union’s preference and Stuart Davies added that he hopes with the takeover and right investment from the WRU, a longer term private investor will come forward with a bid for the team, currently on sale.

DRAGONS TAKEOVER – CONCLUSION

Expect the side to remain playing at Rodney Parade for some years yet, with the WRU looking to keep the current system with four Pro12 sides representing Welsh Rugby. Phillips has also heavily indicated the WRU’s desire to keep pro rugby in a region where there are 73 member clubs.

The Dragons takeover is wanted to be completed by July 1st of this year, but will mainly come down to how quick NRFC want to speak to their shareholders [in the EGM] and then the vote outcome. Be it ‘the Dragons’ or ‘Newport’ keeping rugby alive is the main concern for all involved.

“Main photo credit”

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