The waiting game

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Life as a Cardiff Blues supporter can never just be straight forward, can it?

There always has to be some aspect of the rugby or business side of the club to worry about, whether it’s having to hire another new coach, or a big signing leaving after a few months (or before they’ve even arrived), or a further threat of the company going under.

This summer will likely be no different in that sense, as we deal with the fallout from watching the first choice Wales fly-half head to Ospreys and arguably our brightest young talent depart for Saracens.

What’s worse is that we do it with a bitter taste in our mouths knowing that Project Reset, which at one point was on course to result in a significant boost in our wage budget, has cost us both players and may yet leave us without our talismanic number eight Nick Williams.

One thing that has remained the same from over the last two summers though is that the Cardiff Blues squad is frustratingly close to being competitive in the Guinness Pro14 and finally getting us into those end-of-season play-offs.

A loosehead, a hooker, an experienced second row and a fly-half later, and we would have a very smart looking first team ready to go in September, comprising the quality in the best matchday 23 available combined with the strength in depth we’ve been craving.

nick williams lyon
Nick Williams’ contract is still to be resolved

This frustration combined with the bitter taste of Reset has left the Cardiff Blues management under pressure from some to cast out the recruitment net and bring in high quality players in those key positions that we need.

They point to the fact we offered £350,000 a year to Gareth Anscombe and the fact that the likes of Sam Warburton, Gethin Jenkins, Samu Manoa and Matthew Rees have been removed from the wage bill as evidence that we can go out and do that.

Unfortunately, the stark truth is that we can’t.

Firstly it’s important to consider that actually there hasn’t been a massive amount of money freed up, with Anscombe and Warburton both on National Dual Contracts, Rees and Jenkins towards the end of their careers, and the majority of players released being academy or fringe players not on huge wages.

Then, a lot of that money has already been spent on the signings of Josh Adams and Hallam Amos, while contract renewals for the likes of Josh Navidi, Tomos Williams and Jarrod Evans all saw them receive a boost in wages courtesy of their new international status.

Beyond that the financial situation is such at the moment that Peter Thomas, despite being removed as chairman by Reset, is still very much in the picture with his hand in his pocket covering losses made by the company.

Cardiff Athletic Club and their rent debt have been told they are way down the list of creditors, which includes the Ospreys for Rory Thornton’s loan fee, and Thomas Cook for the plane they provided to get sponsors, non-playing squad members and supporters to Bilbao.

Rory Thornton Leinster
Rory Thornton’s loan fee is still owed

The accounts for the financial year to June 2018 are now on the Companies House website, with chairman Alun Jones noting they do not make great reading, in the same way this year’s won’t when they are released in 2020, the first in the ‘post-benefactor era’ at the Arms Park.

As a result there is a simple choice for Cardiff Blues; break the bank to bring in players this summer and risk ending up in a potentially fatal financial decision, or stick largely with the squad as it is now and hang fire for private equity investment, as well as the Arms Park redevelopment.

Of course option one would be great in the short-term, but there isn’t even any guarantee that we could break the bank enough to bring in the four quality players required to be competitive without going bust before the 2019/20 season even got underway.

Option two is the obvious choice, as although it might result in some continued short-term mediocrity, it doesn’t feel like a big breakthrough with private equity investment is far away, and as we found out in March, CAC are on the road to bringing the Arms Park up to modern, money-making standard.

I’m not saying there’ll be no new signings at all, and the club have looked at bringing in Nicky Smith, suggesting there is some money available, but we can’t be piling up the huge front five forwards and a fly-half that we clearly require.

It’s not an ideal situation, but then we rarely find ourselves in one of them as Cardiff Blues supporters, but when compared to not existing at all, or worse, being under Union ownership, it seems like the best and most sensible option.

Now we just wait for the investments to save us!

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