As the club turns 145 years old, in many ways the next 12 months could be the most important in the history of Cardiff Rugby, setting us up for the next 145 years.
It is likely that two elements of the business that have dogged us for at least the last decade will be resolved during the course of 2021, and if they are resolved in a satisfactory manner it could prove to be the springboard that returns good times to the capital once again.
Fail to execute the next 12 months properly though, and the future of the club looks very bleak indeed.
While there are key challenges on the field that require urgent attention; addressing the quality within the squad, continuing the development of a number of exciting young players, and boosting the coaching staff, the two key elements for Cardiff Rugby come off the field.
The first is the branding, with big news expected in the first half of the year regarding a change in branding that will likely take effect in time for the 2021/22 campaign, some 18 years after Cardiff Blues was born from Cardiff RFC and immediately became stuck in a no man’s land commercially that it has never escaped from.
For some the word ‘Cardiff’ and playing at the Arms Park means they will never attend, despite best efforts to diminish ‘Cardiff’ and become just ‘Blues’. For others that diminishing of ‘Cardiff’ means this is not the club they previously supported so it has stopped them attending. History has been cast aside, a strong commercial brand jettisoned in favour of undefined and unachievable ‘regionalism’.
Approaching, though, is clarity. ‘Blues’ could well be removed, ‘Cardiff’ will be prioritised. The return of traditional colours, a new badge, and the acknowledging of 145 years of history as well as the embracing of a city brand that is the fastest growing capital in Europe.
The main aim is increased commercial opportunity, which hopefully leads to a better playing budget, an improved squad and coaching staff and, ultimately, the on-field success which we all crave. Aside from that though, it can also help secure a future for our historic home at the Arms Park on which we can achieve that success.
As we know, the current lease held by Cardiff Blues Limited runs out early next year, but 12 months away from that we are still some way from an agreement over top class Cardiff Rugby continuing at our spiritual home.
Hope remains though that a deal can be reached with Cardiff Athletic Club, with the return to embracing Cardiff RFC’s history and properly aligning the professional and semi-professional team playing well with the committee who have always seen ‘The Blues’ as a separate entity. An ‘us v them’ situation despite Cardiff Blues Limited always technically being the rugby section of CAC and the two organisations being inextricably linked.
That deal must be lengthy and must include a satisfactory agreement over refurbishment/redevelopment rights, with the Arms Park requiring a huge amount of work to make it safe and satisfactory for a modern matchday experience, and the ground sitting on a large chunk of prime city centre land in a capital city.
Get that right and it not only secures the future of Cardiff Athletic Club and it’s various sections, but it’s another step towards the aforementioned on-field success that Cardiff Rugby should be striving towards. A revenue gathering venture in the middle of Cardiff, as well as a world class facility for the players, supporters and sponsors that adds another chapter to an historic ground.
As I mentioned before though, get the branding wrong and/or fail to secure a new lease for the Arms Park, and the club will be stuck in the commercial hole it currently finds itself in, but this time the rugby side of the business will be homeless, a position that could well bring an end to 145 years of history.
When we look back on 2021 it will either be the year which returned Cardiff Rugby to competitiveness, or the year which spelled the beginning of the end. Let’s hope for the former.