It’s the most crucial year since…..well, the last time we had a crucial year. Some will argue it’s the most crucial year in the club’s 140 year history. Others will say, that’s hyperbole and it’s only the most crucial year since 2003 or possibly 2009 when we made the ill-fated move to City Stadium.

The year 2017 will determine the future of Cardiff Rugby both on and off the field. It may even determine whether Cardiff Rugby exists into the future.

You’ll notice that we’ve deliberately said 2017, not the 2017/18 season. Yes, that’s how crucial the next few months are going to be. By Christmas we should be able to read the writing on the wall or the tea leaves in the cup because some big, big decisions have to be made before then. But before we discuss what these decisions are let’s review where we are at the moment.

Cardiff Blues have made heavy financial losses (see our blog ‘The Truth is Out There’). In the year to June 2016 they lost £1.45m compared with £667,000 the previous year. We suspect their losses to June 2017 will exceed £1.5m and who knows what the situation could be in 2018. There will be the loss of BT sponsorship and repayment of loans to the WRU (unless these are deferred). On the positive side there will be increasing income from the new Pro14, at least £500,000, and there are suggestions it could be a lot more. Franco Van Der Merwe has been off-loaded to London Irish before playing a game for us. Let’s assume that this saving is around £200k including on-costs.

So the financial situation is still dire and the Board of Directors is understandably no longer prepared to carry these losses and they have no significant assets like a ground as this is owned by Cardiff Athletic Club (CAC).

Which brings us to the first off-field challenge: the on/off redevelopment of Cardiff Arms Park. This is the means by which the Board sees the current debts being payed-off and an income stream established in the future. But the relationship between the Board and CAC has deteriorated in recent months due to a significant lack of trust and confidence. The abortive ‘babysitting’ deal with the WRU created a major rift between the two bodies. It is essential that this is mended and mended quickly. The clock is ticking on the ground lease and a deal needs to be done in order to bring some confidence to the discussions which Cardiff Blues will have with the WRU about the revised Regional Services Agreement (RSA).

Talking about the revised RSA, there will be an expectation that Cardiff Blues is seen to be more ‘regional’. To be fair, its development work has always been regionally based but it is also politically important to be seen to be giving credit to regional clubs and to seek to embrace potential supporters from wider than the Cardiff base. Both these issues have been addressed in detail in previous blogs, ‘What is Regional Rugby: The Player Pathway’ and ‘What is Regional Rugby: The Supporter Pathway’. The point here is that these issues need to be addressed as a matter of urgency if evidence of progress is to be provided to the WRU.

When Clive Jones was unveiled as the new Director of Development, Cardiff Blues Chief Executive Richard Holland said: “Due to the ongoing financial challenges the business faces, we must put all our efforts into developing from within if we want to be competitive in the future.” Now most people would see that as a good thing not just to reduce costs but to see lads from the region excel at the highest level.

But, and this is a big but, will these youngsters be ready to take on the Pro14 in 2018/19 and how much time will they get this season to show their potential?

There are over 20 senior players whose contracts come to an end in the summer of 2018. The Board will need to make a decision about the renewal or otherwise of these before Christmas. Many will be thinking about their future as we speak and it’s nothing for players to sign for another team months in advance in order to secure a new contract.

It is essential that the Board decides on its financial plan now for 2018/19 onwards not just to avoid the Van der Merwe embarrassment but to secure the services of senior players. There would be nothing worse than procrastination and players start leaving due to uncertainty.

In addition to player contracts, Danny Wilson’s contract comes to an end in 2019. There is little doubt that he is highly regarded by the Board and the supporters. His technical abilities as a coach are without question and his off-field personality exudes honesty and transparency, something the Board could usefully copy.

The club will want to keep him, irrespective of the team’s performance at the start of the season. The big question will be ‘does Danny want to stay’? He won’t have been happy to lose Franco before the fella’ played a single game. If the board seek to make further savings by cutting the professional player budget then there is every possibility that Danny will walk.

Alan Hanson once famously said in 1995, ‘You can’t win anything with kids’ when referring to the Manchester United team of Giggs, Scholes, Beckham and the Neville brothers who, of course, later went on to dominate the English Premiership. Well, Cardiff Blues has an outstanding crop of youngsters coming through but it would be a huge risk to rely mainly on them. We suspect that a lot of negotiations will take place behind the scenes trying to get the balance right between seasoned professionals and up and coming youngsters. At least, let’s hope that a lot of negotiation will take place because if the Board simply imposes a wage cap then the situation could descend into chaos.

So there we have it – ground redevelopment; regionalisation; RSA; player contracts; coach contract and financial challenges as well as the day job – all needing to be addressed over the next few months. Any one of these issues could have a significant impact on the club but as a collective they could result in a tsunami of devastation if they are not handled carefully but with a degree of urgency.

Let’s hope the Board can rise to the challenge; their track record to date does not auger well. They need to up their game significantly and show some real leadership. How they go about addressing these issues will be just as crucial as what they do. Trust and confidence aren’t words that immediately spring to mind but that’s what’s needed when dealing with people because it’s primarily a ‘people’ challenge that they face in the list of issues to resolve.

People can be awkward and difficult. People can be infuriating. But its people who make things happen. If you don’t develop relationships through open and honest dialogue, don’t be surprised if people don’t respond in the way you would like.

“The fields of industry are strewn with the bones of those organisations whose leadership became infested with dry rot, who believed in taking instead of giving…who didn’t realise that the only assets that could not be replaced easily were the human ones.” – Le Roy H. Kurtz




  • Mon, 11/09/2017 - 21:15 reply


    Great piece,sounds like it needs someone to bang heads together. My wife and I have had season tickets for 12 years along with 2 Sons and recently 2 grandsons unless things change drastically we'll heading to the Scarlets next season.I have also heard this a lot from friends and other supporters .

    Hope this can be resolved and the board and CAN see sense.

    I will keep following you on Twitter keep up the good work.





  • Tue, 12/09/2017 - 08:33 reply

    Results on the pitch are everything.

    People love to be part of a successful club, it gives you 'bragging rights'.

    Cardiff used to be a great club that other teams would acknowledge as a difficult place to come and win.

    The uncertainty is evident in the atmosphere on the terrace. People's discontent is audible at games and in the pubs and bars before and after the games.

    I feel there is a belief in Danny Wilson but he does need the backing in both financial and personnel issues.

    Arguably there has been an arrogance about the club since it went regional and maybe we do need to look at the success of other regions in terms of their positive outlook, marketing, player purchase and on field success. 

    In any other business, there would be a focus on senior management at this point, given that the business is currently failing.

    I hope something positive happens soon in order to secure the future of my home club.


    Leighton Harding. 

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