The next two weeks will shape County's future – Chris Blight
THE next fortnight will shape the future of Newport County AFC, according to chairman Chris Blight.
By the end of that short period the Exiles should know if their desired move to Rodney Parade will happen and the playing budget for next season will have been set.
The Exiles came up short in their big day out at Wembley in the FA Trophy final, but their financial compensation of £67,000 for getting there is significant compensation.
That doesn’t take into account the Exiles being due 45% of the gate receipts for the final and an estimated £30,000 from merchandise sales.
That is on top of £67,500 in FA Cup television revenue and money from the sales of Danny Rose and Paul Bignot to Fleetwood and Blackpool respectively for undisclosed fees both believed to be around the £50,000 mark.
The Exiles did, however, budget for an average crowd of 1,900 for home games and lost around £8,000 per match with the average attendance closer to 1,400.
But the financial position of the Exiles is far better than it might have been and the board of directors expect to finalise a budget for next season with manager Justin Edinburgh within 14 days.
Edinburgh has already begun the process of renewing contracts for next term and identifying transfer targets but that’s the secondary issue at the moment with County’s proposed move to Rodney Parade the current focus.
The Argus can reveal that representatives from the Newport Gwent Dragons and Newport RFC will meet with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) today to discuss the potential plans to have Newport County as tenants for next season. The Exiles are working to a deadline of May 31 to finalise their decision one way or another.
The need to make the move has increased with Newport Council informing the Exiles that they will not be able to address the long-standing drainage issue at Spytty Park with the estimated cost of the procedure around the six figure mark.
It promises to be a busy time for everyone connected with the club and chairman Chris Blight pulled no punches in assessing the importance of the days ahead.
“This week is very important with regard to Rodney Parade and our proposal to move there,” he said.
“The final decision has not yet been made, people have strong opinions either for or against the move but, ultimately, we feel it’s in the best interests of the club.
“There are still pertinent questions that need to be answered and we believe that the WRU will explain their position in a meeting today.
“We are waiting to discover if there are to be any issues set in a tablet of stone that are insurmountable, because so far there haven’t been any.
“We are trying to consider every hurdle and obstacle and ultimately our stance is simple, to achieve success we feel we need to be at another ground.”
Blight explained the situation regarding Spytty Park.
“When we moved to Newport Stadium Councillor David Hando shook hands on a deal whereby the council would endeavour to support us whatever level of football we were playing at,” he said.
“However, it has been made clear to us that the money isn’t there to sort out the drainage situation, just as it wasn’t there to bring the ground up to Football League standards.
“We (the board of directors) paid for that out of our own pockets and that isn’t a particularly advantageous situation.”
Blight expects to offer boss Edinburgh a “competitive” budget for next term but feels the ground where they will ultimately be playing their games will factor into the kind of players they can attract.
He offered the analogy of not attracting top snooker players to a tournament played on a table with a ripped cloth.
Blight also underlined his desire to see greater fan representation at board level and confirmed the club expect to announce details of the AGM in due course.