Two weeks ago I asked some questions linked to the uncertainty around the future of Cardiff RFC as negotiations over the future of the Arms Park continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are currently at a critical juncture in the history of Cardiff Rugby, which we would have been at anyway as the expiry date of the Arms Park lease approaches in early 2022, but it’s been brought into even clearer focus with the virus sweeping the globe and having such an impact on the finances at the Arms Park.
Over the last few years I’ve written until I’m blue in the face about the need for Cardiff Blues and Cardiff Athletic Club to realise they are one and the same. They ultimately have the same objective, which is to ensure Cardiff Rugby is successful, and should be working together to achieve that.
Unfortunately history is currently judging the inability of Richard Holland, Keith Morgan, Alun Jones, Chris Nott, Martyn Ryan and Chris Sutton, among others, to put aside personal ego and outside influences in order to ensure that rugby will continue to thrive and the historic ground will be there for generations to come.
Something big needs to happen, that requires a fair amount of give and take on both sides, and from where I’m sat that needs to be making Cardiff Blues Ltd the official rugby section of Cardiff Athletic Club.
Now I’d expect a real mix of responses to a statement like that, largely depending on whether a reader is involved with Cardiff Blues, Cardiff RFC, Cardiff Athletic Club or some mix of all three.
There will be some who perhaps already thought that it was the case that Cardiff Blues was the Athletic Club’s rugby section, there will be some who think it could never happen, and some who would fiercely object to it happening, but hopefully by the end of this piece there might be a general understanding of the thinking.
In terms of the background to this and how things currently stand from where I’m sitting, there seems to be a self-made grey area between Cardiff Blues Ltd and Cardiff Blues the rugby team on one side, and Cardiff RFC and Cardiff Athletic Club on the other side.
This stems from Cardiff Blues Ltd spending too many years post-2003 trying to distance themselves from Cardiff Rugby and neglecting Cardiff RFC, while Cardiff Athletic Club have never taken on Cardiff Blues as a continuation of Cardiff Rugby at the top level, while continuing to claim Cardiff RFC as their own rugby team.
The truth is that Cardiff Blues is the continuation of Cardiff Rugby at the top level, that Cardiff RFC is a team of Cardiff Blues Ltd, and that Cardiff Athletic Club has no rugby team of it’s own anymore, and this is where the give and take comes in to ensure that there is a well-oiled machine pulling in the right direction.
For CAC there has to be a shift away from seeing Cardiff RFC as ‘their team’. You look at the website and there’s only mention of the Indigo Group Premiership side, you go to the meetings and all that’s talked about is the Blue and Blacks. ‘The Blues’ are referred to as if some sort of foreign body.
The simple truth of the matter though is that Cardiff RFC is a Cardiff Blues Ltd side. The professional rugby business receive the Welsh Rugby Union funding for the Premiership side, the board make decisions on such things as the Head Coach, and if Cardiff Blues were to leave the Arms Park, then as things stand Cardiff RFC would go too.
It is not the case, as some seem to believe or would have you think, that ‘The Blues’ can simply be slung on their way and Cardiff RFC continue to operate out of the Arms Park. Even if there was a split then the outlook is not great, with Llanelli RFC being the case-in-point since their legal separation from the Scarlets.
The roles of the rugby section committee are largely ceremonial in the sense that people like Chris Norman, for example, the former Cardiff RFC winger who is the chairman of the rugby section, has no real power when it comes to the Blue and Blacks. By way of an example, the most recent rugby section AGM lasted less than 10 minutes as there was nothing to report or discuss.
What is brought to the table by the committee and a group of linked volunteers though is a huge amount of work around organising the team on matchdays, raising additional sponsorship money and running the media aspect of the club.
This is where Cardiff Blues’ give and take would have to come in as if they were to become the official rugby section of Cardiff Athletic Club then the business would have to step up in terms of specifically organising sponsorships and operating the social and matchday media presence.
There would also have to be an increase in matchday hosting duties from the Cardiff Blues Board, whether this comes from Richard Holland, who is a semi-regular at Blue and Blacks games already, Alun Jones or the three Cardiff Athletic Club appointed board members of Cardiff Blues Ltd.
The end result is potentially game-changing for all parties though, as the upsides to Cardiff Blues, Cardiff RFC and Cardiff Athletic Club pulling in the same direction with a long-term lease at a redeveloped or spruced up Cardiff Arms Park are huge.
Commercially the list of possibilities is as long as your arms; one for the non-rugby options and one for the rugby options, while the lift it would provide in an on-field sense would also be difficult to underestimate.
Cementing that link between Cardiff Blues Ltd and Cardiff Athletic Club, putting the success of Cardiff Blues and Cardiff RFC at the forefront of decisions and ensuring all stakeholders are happy, would go a huge way to achieving that end goal.
It just needs some men prepared to work for something bigger than themselves to achieve it.