It’s been a long 18 years for many people since Cardiff RFC became Cardiff Blues in 2003 and started to move away from the great Cardiff Rugby Club towards the mish-mash that was ‘The Blues’.
In that time the club has struggled for any clear identity. Supporters have chanted ‘Cardiff’, the BBC have only ever called us ‘Blues’, some supporters have turned their backs, new supporters haven’t been forthcoming. ‘Region’ or ‘region’, depending on your viewpoint, has been a word without definition.
Now there is clarity. The club is unashamedly Cardiff Rugby Club. It is honest, and a brave move, but it’s necessary for two major reasons; it’s what supporters want, and it brings a commercial benefit.
Cardiff have done a lot of engagement over the past two years, and specifically the last 10 months, when it comes to supporter surveys, speaking to supporter groups and speaking with key stakeholders at the Welsh Rugby Union, Cardiff Athletic Club and, crucially, sponsors, and this change in direction has been the overwhelming desire.
It is basic good business practice to respond to the preferences of your customers, and this change is likely to re-invigorate a lot of support that may have waned while supporters are stuck watching games from home and results in the last two years have been somewhat mediocre.
This also links with the commercial benefit as supporters are likely to part with more money when it comes to merchandise as club replica kit and training clothing is the blue and black design that so many have wanted for so long.
Of course the main commercial benefit comes from the fact that ‘Cardiff’ as a name in the rugby world and as the fastest growing capital in Europe with a booming financial services industry, is much more marketable than the bland and already overused in a sporting sense ‘Blues’.
There will inevitably questions around the ‘regional’ aspect of the club, but it’s important to remember that ‘regional rugby’ has never been defined. Instead we are defining it in a way that best suits our business, as a professional club that operates a regional development pathway and puts community rugby initiatives in place through the Community Foundation.
Questions will also be asked about alienating people particularly in the Rhondda Cynon Taf valleys, but the truth is that after 18 years of Cardiff Blues if they aren’t supporting now then they never will. There is no longer any need to try an attract these people to the Arms Park. It is a waste of time and resources and has been acknowledged as that.
Instead efforts must be focused on ensuring the commercial boost that comes with embracing ‘Cardiff’ is as impactful as possible. Professional sport, and northern hemisphere rugby union in particular, is a money driven business, so the bigger the commercial revenue, the more money available for improving the team.
Then it’s over to the rugby department to spend that money wisely. Strengthen where needs strengthening, retain what needs retaining and improve what needs improving both in terms of on-field quality and off-field facilities. If both those steps are executed well, then results improve, and that’s the end goal of all this.
It won’t happen straight away, it will likely take a couple of years, but ultimately success on the field is what drives supporter numbers up. While there are vocal people on both sides on social media, the vast majority of prospective supporters in South Wales aren’t massively fussed on the name of the club, they are more interested in big name players, big games, and winning rugby.
This is why the club will be called Cardiff Rugby, be nicknamed the Blue and Blacks, and wear the traditional colours next season. It’s not a short term play, it’s a long term vision. This is the first step and the hard work is still to be done.