TO QUOTE some lady named Liz who seems to have been on the television a lot this week, “one has to say one is impressed.”
I can scarcely believe I am writing the words, but the Rodney Parade groundshare is a done deal, the future home of Newport County AFC as they bid to get out of the Conference and into the Football League.
I obviously come at this issue from a football perspective, that’s just the kind of man I am, preferring my balls to be round rather than oval, but after eight years working in Newport, I do appreciate what this means.
This isn’t just a win for Newport County, the Newport Gwent Dragons and Newport RFC, it’s a win for the city.
That might sound like something they’d say in a Disney movie or, indeed, in the fawning coverage of the Jubilee, but trite as it sounds, this is a victory for Newport.
Even Sir Terry Matthews was impressed when he learned the news, saying, “that’s the shake-up they needed I think, all working together”.
All three of the city’s premier sporting sides had disappointing seasons in terms of their league standings and all three clubs, it appears, are struggling to match some of their rivals when it comes to the bottom line of pounds and pennies.
There should be an economic benefit to each of them with the Exiles moving in as they’ll easily attract crowds somewhere in between the average attendance of the Dragons and Newport RFC.
It is a move that can galvanise the County and there is no way the rugby clubs would’ve become involved if they didn’t think it could also enhance their brands and, presumably, their coffers.
Many Newport County fans won’t have been to Rodney Parade – or ‘Dave’ Parade as some Exiles supporters are already calling it – but will have heard only good things. It is a brilliant facility in comparison to Spytty Park and, most importantly, it’s in the city centre which should attract far more casual supporters.
As a facility to take potential new signings to it’s as good as anything in the Conference and it’s no wonder boss Justin Edinburgh pushed so hard to see it happen.
But, ultimately, the credit lies with the men in suits and it’s a hearty ‘well done’ to all of them.
All we’ve ever heard in the past is that it wasn’t feasible for County to make the move because the rugby lot would never give up primacy of tenancy. Even a fortnight ago people were predicting gloomily that the move wouldn’t become a reality.
It’s inconceivable that this process will be smooth sailing throughout and that there will never be a fixture conflict, that the pitch will remain pristine and that there will be instant success for all the Newport clubs.
It’s probably just as fanciful a notion to expect harmony between all supporters. Already we’ve seen some on-line sniping.
But as the past few weeks have shown, these kind of issues are to be expected and can be overcome. This move is for the greater good of Newport sport and the rewards can be reaped by everyone involved next season and beyond.
Congratulations to the board members who made this a reality and here’s to a long and productive partnership between the three clubs.
Newport sport is on the up and the legacy of this move could be massive. So forget which shape ball you like and simply get behind the move. Because the success of each respective club will hopefully have a knock-on effect.
The future of Newport sport is looking brighter and finally our biggest football team and rugby team are working side-by-side to help the other grow and improve.
When have we ever been able to say that?
l Elsewhere, the Exiles made their biggest signing of the season with the appointment of Stephen Dance as general manager.
I’ve said it before and it bears repeating, County are a full-time professional football club with budgets and transactions often totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Therefore they must employ full time professionals to run the club, as any other business would do.
County’s volunteers are first rate, but it’s time to start viewing them as a luxury, not a necessity.