NEWPORT County AFC will play at Rodney Parade for the next three seasons after the club reached an historic agreement with Newport RFC and Newport Gwent Dragons last night.
After a tense final day of negotiations the deal was eventually signed and sealed by the three clubs at around 6pm.
The documentation was sent to the Football Conference and is expected to be ratified this morning, although County chairman Chris Blight views that as a mere formality.
“An acceptable contract has been agreed and sent to the Conference by the deadline that was required,” said a delighted Blight.
“We have agreed a three-year lease with Newport RFC and the Dragons and will now commence our business at Rodney Parade.
“The Conference general manager Dennis Strudwick was involved in the discussions and we faxed a hard copy of the final contract to him and have also sent a copy by e-mail.
“It still needs to be ratified by the Conference but that is a formality.
“Myself, Will Godfrey (Dragons board member and Newport RFC chairman) and Martyn Hazell (Dragons chairman) are all very pleased to have reached an agreement,” he added. “It is history for the city and for the clubs and a real day to remember. It has been a long journey and it has been traumatic but we got there in the end.”
Before the final deal was announced, Conference chief Strudwick told the Argus: “I have seen a draft of the agreement and have been involved. I am satisfied with it and am just waiting for the final document.”
Blight revealed that the Exiles have also come to an agreement with Newport City Council, which owns Spytty Park – the club’s home since 1994. “The council have been extremely helpful. We have dissolved the current lease for Spytty but we do have the ability to go back if things do not work out,” he said.
“That had to be the case because we cannot ever contemplate a situation whereby this club is homeless again. But I expect it to work and I expect that after all the effort we have put into this that the people of Newport will support us.
“We have made this decision to offer our fans a far better match day experience with superb facilities right in the heart of the city.
“It would be a big disappointment if our following didn’t increase after this – 11,000 fans went to Wembley to watch us, hopefully some of them will come and watch us at our new home.”