It’s taken just over a week to get over, but after Cardiff Blues’ European Challenge Cup round of 16 defeat at the hands of London Irish in heartbreaking circumstances it is now time to have a look at what the next few weeks hold.
As things stand the first team are not due to play for another two weeks, with an away trip to Ospreys scheduled for some point on the weekend of the 24th April, although with reports today suggesting the South African sides will not be able to take part in the Rainbow Cup the exact playing schedule for the next few weeks is somewhat in doubt.
Nevertheless there is plenty to be getting on with off the pitch at the Arms Park after an extended time focusing on on-field action, and it would be good to see some progress being made in certain areas in particular.
Tying Dai down
David Young has been regularly asked about his future in interviews in recent weeks, and was confident in his assertion that it was only a week or two away from being sorted as he and the club were happy to continue working together.
On the back of that The Rugby Paper recently reported that there was some separation over the length of the contract with Young wanting a four-year deal while Cardiff were only offering two years. That would seem to be a mistake for me. Although I understand the club are perhaps reticent to commit to any long-term contract after previous coaching issues, there must be a semblance of planning for the future.
To do that the new Director of Rugby should be looking at a three-year deal at least in order to devise and implement a strategy for the rugby department, as well as work under a degree of trust from senior management that sends a message to the players that the man in charge has the backing of the board.
Hopefully a good length deal has been or will be signed in the immediate future and an announcement made as soon as possible to provide clarity to supporters and sponsors over the direction of on-field leadership.
The Arms Park’s future
Back at the start of the year it came out that Cardiff Blues were hoping to agree a temporary agreement with Cardiff Athletic Club that would see the current lease for the ground extended for a period of three years on the same terms to allow a longer agreement to be reached.
This is linked to the coronavirus pandemic which has interrupted negotiations over securing the long-term future of the Arms Park, but as of yet, with the current lease due to expire in just 10 months time at the start of February next year, there has been no announcement over what the plans are for the historic ground.
It continues to be the case that it should not be difficult for Cardiff Blues and the Athletic Club to agree a new lease, considering the two organisations are inextricably linked as per the articles of association of Cardiff Blues Ltd, but with distrust on both sides and CAC seemingly not meeting at all during the pandemic, the issue continues to drag on into a third decade.
Meanwhile supporters are left to worry over what the future holds for Cardiff Rugby and Cardiff Arms Park.
Recruitment and Retention
It’s the yearly merry go round that gives supporters hope and heart attacks in equal measures as rumours link big names with arriving and star players with departing, particularly in Welsh rugby with our ever perilous financial state and complicated web of off-field politics that players sometimes get spun up in.
This year has been no different for Cardiff Blues, with particularly the potential departing of big names causing headaches as Jarrod Evans has been incessantly linked with a switch across the Severn Bridge while half-back partner Tomos Williams is also believed to be out of contract come the summer.
In the meantime Rhys Priestland was linked with and then confirmed to have signed a contract to play at the Arms Park next season, while Dragons second row Matthew Screech is also set to make a return to the capital to bolster second row stocks.
With actual announcements few and far between so far a few new contracts and confirmation of any signings would be handy alongside the announcement of Dai Young staying put in order to have an idea of what the squad will look like for the 2021/22 season as this campaign is now over.
Peel or not to Peel
Second only to the Jarrod Evans saga has been the Dwayne Peel saga this season, as the former Wales scrum-half signed a contract to be the senior assistant coach at Cardiff Blues from this summer, looking after the backs and the attack, only to recently put himself at the centre of a legal dispute by exploring the possibility of reneging on that deal and joining the Scarlets in a similar role.
Although the public word from the Arms Park is that Peel has signed a contract and is expected to honour that by taking up his job on the 1st August, the private feeling seems to be that his head has been turned by the club where he spent most of his playing career and that they are resigned to losing him.
Sorting out a release agreement for Peel now needs to be done sooner rather than later to allow Young to look at potential replacements if he so wishes to bolster the coaching staff in that area, and allow all at Cardiff Blues to look ahead to next season with the certainty of what that staff will look like.
Senior management engagement
It’s now been four months since the last direct communication from either the Chairman or Chief Executive with Cardiff Blues supporters, meaning some sort of newsletter or virtual Q&A is due as we begin to look ahead.
There would no doubt be plenty to cover including the aforementioned contracts, recruitment, legal wranglings and Arms Park leases, as well as the financial state of the club, the progress of a supporter director being appointed and what the plans are to sell season memberships ahead of 2021/22.
Having wallowed in self pity for the last week it’s time to start looking towards what is still an exciting future, and hopefully the club can get that going over the next few weeks with a series of announcements to bring some clarity and positivity.