EDITOR'S CHAIR: Is Newport's sporting ground-share dream turning into a nightmare?
8:39am Thursday 22nd May 2014 in News
EARLIER this week I paid my first visit to Swansea's Liberty Stadium, to watch the Wales versus England under-21s football international.
For the non-sports fans among you, the Liberty is the home to both Premier League football club Swansea City and regional rugby side the Ospreys.
It was built by Swansea City Council and a developer-led consortium, with its £50 million cost met by revenue from a retail park built adjacent to the stadium.
It is a great venue and the perfect example of a ground-share, with equal billing given to the football and rugby teams that use the stadium.
If it has a downside, then it is one it shares with most new sports stadia in Britain, in that it is built on an out-of-town site.
Rodney Parade in Newport does not have such a problem, being in the centre of the city and easily accessible by foot, road or rail.
It is also shared by rugby and football teams, three in fact as Newport Gwent Dragons, Newport RFC and Newport County AFC all use Rodney Parade as their home ground.
But while Swansea might be the shining light of sporting ground-shares, sadly the same cannot be said of Newport.
My sources tell me relations between the football and rugby sections at Rodney Parade are at rock-bottom.
The two men who run the day-to-day businesses - Dragons chief executive Gareth Davies and his County counterpart Dave Boddy - are both positive, experienced, go-ahead characters who understand the need for the ground-share and desperately want it to succeed.
The problems seem to lie elsewhere at Rodney Parade.
There seems to be a suggestion - and this is my opinion based on attending all but one of County's home games this season and several of the Dragons' - that the football club is seen very much as a tenant rather than a partner by some among the rugby section's powerbrokers.
It seems ridiculous to me that from next season the football club will have a separate shop and ticket office to the rugby sides.
Such a move simply emphasises the divide between the two sporting codes at Rodney Parade. The ground-share does not seem to involve much sharing.
The worst possible scenario would be if Newport County ended up seeking an alternative home venue should the relationship between them and the rugby section break down entirely.
If that happened then it would be a disaster for the city's premier sporting clubs.
A genuine ground-share, allowing the clubs that use Rodney Parade to be equal partners at the venue, playing an equal role in its development, is the only sensible way forward.
There are a host of commercial arguments in favour of a Liberty Stadium-style operation at Rodney Parade.
The site is ripe for redevelopment and certainly has the space to become an all-seater (or part-seated, part terraced) stadium fit for top-level rugby and football.
County might only be in League Two and the Dragons may have had another poor season but the potential is there.
Swansea City had only just been promoted to League One when the Liberty Stadium was opened. Look at them now.
The rumblings I hear from inside Rodney Parade are worrying - and should be a concern for all genuine sports fans in Newport.
I understand there have been rows about issues like the pitch, match postponements and advertising hoardings.
Perhaps somebody independent needs to be brought in to arbitrate between the two codes and find a way forward. Perhaps heads need banging together.
I am amazed that there are those who still cannot see the long-term benefits and potential of the Rodney Parade ground-share.
It is the best way for the sporting clubs themselves to grow and - because of the stadium's location - it can provide huge benefits for the city as a whole, particularly as the city centre redevelopment takes shape.
Put simply, Newport needs to take a leaf out of Swansea's book.
Comments are closed on this article.