Cardiff Blues are keen to improve all areas of the business over the next three years as Alun Jones and Richard Holland presented the ‘Cardiff Blues Way’ to supporters at the Arms Park last night.
The presentation covered all areas of the document which can be found on the Cardiff Blues website, as well as touching on the aims of the Professional Rugby Board which now runs the regional game in Wales, with representation from the four regional entities and the Welsh Rugby Union.
For Cardiff Blues the targets were wide ranging, from the obvious we have been crying out for in relation to improved commercial performance, to community targets of engaging with more people, specifically in the north of the region, and finally seemingly unrealistic targets of selling out the Arms Park every week.
Playing-wise it is a fairly simple aim of finally making the Guinness Pro14 play-offs, alongside making the latter stages of the European Challenge Cup, although the European targets would be adjusted if we made it to the Heineken Champions Cup.
There was also mention of the funding with company secretary and one of the benefactors Martyn Ryan stating he sees no reason the CVC deal to purchase part of Celtic Rugby Limited will not go ahead now, with the only wait being sorting out the complicated tax requirements of a business that covers a number of countries.
PRB had worked out the funding based on the numbers provided by CVC and the WRU, with the funding model expected to be signed off at a meeting next Tuesday and subsequently released to the public domain, with Alun Jones noting that the PRB had not been able to release as much detail as it would have liked so far.
The majority of that CVC money would go towards contracting this group of 38 players that the Welsh national team management have identified, with subsequent funding being described as having a ‘waterfall effect’. The money that would have been spent contracting 100% of the players in the 38 is cascaded down to players in lower bandings, dependent on how many players each region has in the 38.
On rumours that Cardiff Blues would be the lowest funded region after this, Alun Jones has previously stated that would not be correct, but admitted that our funding wasn’t increasing as much as other regions.
This is because although we have nine players in the 38, they are mainly younger players on smaller contracts. So for example a region could have one high-paid player and get more money cascading down from their contract than we do from two or three lower-paid players.
However, as the younger players, the likes of Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans and Owen Lane, become senior players over the next few years then the amount of money available for the rest of the squad will increase, putting Cardiff Blues in an ideal position for growth.
On retention and recruitment, Richard Holland stated that loosehead, second rows and a number eight are the crucial areas being looked at for next season, while 16 current players had been tied down to new deals, including those who have already been announced.
A big target was bringing quality through the Academy and retaining that quality, with a nod to Gruff Rees on the work he had done, and the placement of full-time coaches in the U18 system. The aim was to put coaches in right down to schools level to ensure talent was identified earlier.
There was then a drive, as has been seen this season, to contract players to the Academy sooner, while four players had been awarded scholarships for English colleges while remaining exclusively with Cardiff Blues in order to stem the flow of players across the Bridge for education and rugby, with the likes of Bath, Bristol and Gloucester.
Off-the-field the big target for 2020 was securing the long-term future of Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park, with the top table re-iterating that they absolutely want to stay at the famous ground and develop it for the future.
There was some bemoaning of Cardiff Athletic Club, with the feeling that they had turned down at least four good proposals from Cardiff Blues Limited, however it was well pointed out that Cardiff Athletic Club did not trust the rugby business and this was a huge stumbling block.
To their credit both Richard Holland and Alun Jones agreed that CAC had every right not to trust them and previously they have been bad tenants, but that the rent was currently paid, discussions were positive and a line was being drawn under the past with the future was being looked to.
Finally, there was mention of the training ground situation. It was noted that the players were loving being back at the Arms Park each day and that they would likely be there for next season as well, however advanced discussions were ongoing with two sites being looked at for a permanent base.
The suggestion was that both sites were north of Cardiff, with at least one being in the Rhondda Cynon Taf council area, and that the plan would be to move the entire company up to the training base with office space included. The site would be built by a landowner or the council with Cardiff Blues then taking up the role of tenants.
Separately from the meeting last night, I understand that one of the sites is linked to the University of South Wales’ Sport Park at Treforest.
The ongoing uncertainty of the Arms Park is having an impact on this though, with the dream situation being the stadium, training ground and offices all on one site in the city centre.
Thanks to Richard Holland, Peter Thomas, Alun Jones and Martyn Ryan for taking the time to update supporters on the plans for the future and for answering questions. Hopefully the communication levels will remain as high as they have been recently.