THE proposed takeover of Newport Gwent Dragons by the Welsh Rugby Union has hit a major sticking point over the over the length of a commitment to playing professional rugby at Rodney Parade.
The governing body has been in talks over a deal that would also see them take control of the Newport RFC-owned ground.
The Dragons have been hunting for fresh investment since last April and have made progress a number of times only to be hit by setbacks, a situation that led to the WRU, joint-owners, stepping in.
Talks with the Union had reached an advanced stage with Dragons and Newport chief executive Stuart Davies saying last week that: “We are not over the line yet. It’s my sincere hope that we will be shortly”.
The WRU are keen to get a deal, which in turn would have involved some private investment, sorted swiftly but the takeover has hit a severe hitch.
The stumbling block is the length of any commitment to playing professional rugby at Rodney Parade with the Rugby Services Agreement between the governing body and the four regions expiring in 2020.
The Dragons had hoped for at least a 10-year pledge to keep a professional side in Newport – along with a 10-year lease for the Black and Ambers to remain at their historic home – but there is reticence to make such a commitment by WRU chiefs.
There are grave concerns about what the future holds for both the Dragons and Newport RFC.
The Friends of Newport Rugby Trust met with WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips and chairman Gareth Davies last week to express their fears about the Black and Ambers selling Rodney Parade, having no asset to generate income and the brevity of a 10-year lease.
Their concerns are exacerbated by board members Martyn Hazell and Tony Brown wanting a portion of their loans, Hazell around £1.5million and Brown £3million, back. Around £1million is also owed to the WRU and
Any proposed deal for a WRU takeover that includes the sale of Rodney Parade would need the backing of 75 per cent of Newport RFC shareholders. There are around 1,000 listed shareholders and it would be one vote per shareholder.
Stuart Davies is scheduled to meet with Dragons supporters in the Bisley Suite at Rodney Parade at 7pm on Thursday to give them an update.