So Cardiff Rugby Day has been and gone, and the club now enters a new era of it’s 145-year history, embracing our heritage and capitalising on the reputation as Cardiff as a capital city.
Over the last few days I’ve looked back at some of the players, coaches and performances we’ve seen from Cardiff Blues over the last 18 years, with some tough times undoubtedly, but some incredible times too as we won three trophies, got within a kick of a Heineken Cup Final and saw some of the best Welsh and World talents grace the pitch at the Arms Park and Cardiff City Stadium.
Now is the time to look forward though, and assess what happens next as we return to being Cardiff Rugby and look to build from a current spell of mid-table obscurity and struggling to qualify for the Heineken Cup towards competing regularly at the top table of both competitions.
It is important to say that change will not happen overnight, despite what the social media comedians will no doubt say when we inevitably lose a few games this season. “You’d have won that if you were the Blues”, “good job you changed names for this”, “should have dropped Cardiff from the name”. Yeah, yeah, very funny!
The major driver behind returning to embracing the heritage and capitalising on the reputation of the fastest growing capital city in Europe is to gain commercial success. Companies want to partner with brands that are well-established and respected, and a rugby club formed in 1876 and described as “The Greatest” is certainly that.
As we know all too well, money is not exactly flush within Welsh rugby, and any extra revenue streams that we can generate for ourselves have to be explored. If it results in even a 10% increase in sponsorship income then it’s worth it already.
On top of that there is also a potential increase in income from merchandise with supporters overwhelmingly backing this move and there being a tangible excitement over a first blue and black kit being produced for 18 years.
That’s the aim for the commercial arm of the club now, to raise those revenues and get us on a good financial footing to ensure we maintain a sustainable business, first and foremost, and ultimately are able to put together a budget that allows us to close the gap on particularly the Irish sides.
The change can have a short-term impact on-field though, and it’s an impact that we have already begun to see in the back end of last season, as the club tries to benefit from a clear identity that the team can build a culture and a playing ethos around, harking back to some of the glory days we have seen in the past.
Dai Young has come in as director of rugby, a man who understands Cardiff Rugby inside out having played 139 times for the club over two spells and coached for nine years before departing in 2011. He’s implemented a style of play based on speed of ball, getting the best players into space and encouraging individual expression.
Now it’s for the players to build that culture and utilise the history of this great club to inspire them to future glory.