I will fight for the Dragons, says chairman Martyn Hazell
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons chairman Martyn Hazell has admitted the turmoil surrounding Welsh rugby is making it difficult to plan for the future at Rodney Parade.
There has been plenty of talk but very little action in the bid to help the ailing regional game.
However, a proposal that is reportedly being considered by the Professional Regional Game Board – which was set up in December – is to concentrate funding on just two of the four regions.
The thinking is that it would allow them to be more competitive in the Heineken Cup while the other pair would be downgraded with lower budgets.
Sights being trained on the Dragons is nothing new but chairman Hazell, a representative on the PRGB, admits that it is now making life hard at Rodney Parade.
“These are difficult times (for Welsh rugby) and tough decisions need to be made, but everything has to be done in the right way,” he said.
“I will fight tooth and nail to keep the Dragons going.
“It is very difficult planning for the future because players and sponsors ask whether we will continue to be around and as a board we need to find some answers quickly, ones based on common sense and fairness.
“Something needs to be done because there is not enough funding to sustain four teams in the Heineken Cup.”
The Dragons have increased their playing budget for next season and are in the middle of their recruitment. They will, however, come up short of the £3.5million salary cap.
“We have put down a marker by taking on Dean Ryan as rugby consultant and we are looking to invest in strengthening the squad for next season,” said Hazell.
“We are working hard to become a sustainable business but are hopeful that this is compatible with increased investment in our team.”
Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis speculated in an interview last month that it might even be necessary to cull a region, while a weekend report said that the Union had held talks with the Scarlets last summer about them recruiting from the Ospreys.
Those discussions came while the Swansea-based region were threatened with a winding-up order over an unpaid tax bill.
Rob Davies, an investor at the Liberty Stadium, claimed: “There is no doubt the union were planning a future without the Ospreys.
“Their plan was to introduce a new region in North Wales and that the Scarlets would take our players.
“I had been told during the summer that the Scarlets’ recruitment policy was to be based on recruiting players from us because we were going to be put out of business.
“Then we were told by people in the game to be prepared that the Heineken Cup would be going ahead without us. It’s incredible but we know this for a fact.”
The idea of the Ospreys – RaboDirect Pro12 champions and comfortably the best and most successful of the regions – being downgraded appears ridiculous.