Dragons move to allay fears of financial crisis
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons have moved to quell fears about their financial future that were prompted by a request for fans to buy their season tickets early.
A plea issued to supporters penned by director Tony Brown caused alarm bells to ring in some quarters.
In it he writes: “Similar to the other Welsh regions, Newport Gwent Dragons, as well as Newport RFC, are facing liquidity problems.
“The new (Bisley) stand cost us considerably more than its original budget and the region has had no proper direction for some years.
“Despite the generosity of our directors, our debt is considerable.”
It goes on to state: “If we can get through the next six months then I am confident that we can build for the future and create great rugby at Rodney Parade once again.
“Please renew your season ticket and, if possible, ask your friends to join you. Your continued support is absolutely critical to our future.”
Some fans have mistakenly associated the use of the phrase “liquidity problems” with liquidation while the reference to six months raised some eyebrows.
Chief executive Chris Brown, no relation to Tony, insists it is merely a request for supporters to stay loyal after a challenging season on the pitch.
He stressed that the Dragons are in a sound financial position despite uncertain times in Welsh rugby and that their on-field recruitment plans remain unchanged.
“It’s a difficult time for regional rugby and it just seemed appropriate to both Tony and I that he should comment on it,” said Chris Brown, who was appointed earlier this year.
“If he didn’t, then people might have assumed he is no longer interested, which is certainly not the case. We were concerned about the performance on the pitch and are keen to ensure that people renew (season tickets).
“But I would certainly put people’s minds at rest. I have absolute belief in the future (of the Dragons).
“I think that we are in reasonable health. We have some debt around the stand but that is not unreasonable and the loan is a long-term one.
“The stand did go over budget but that is not a surprise when it comes to engineering projects.
“We are actually well placed in that we own the freehold of Rodney Parade, something that many of our rivals do not.
“Being in debt is not unusual and I believe that we have a business plan in place that will allow us to prosper.”
Central to that plan is making the most of the conference and hospitality facilities in the new Bisley Stand, hence their hopes of a groundshare with Newport County.
Brown didn’t shy away from admitting that there are challenges ahead for the regions, who are discussing a financial review by Pricewaterhouse Coopers that was commissioned by the Welsh Rugby Union.
“People should be worried about the state of Welsh rugby but it’s not a problem that is confined to this country – people should be worried about the state of professional rugby full stop,” he said.
“If you look at the accounts of the regions then you will find that they lose money but I think we (at the Dragons) are in a good position.
“And when it comes to on-field matters we are looking forward to announcing some new recruits in the coming days and weeks.
“I would encourage supporters to stick with us and there are some good deals if they buy their season tickets early.”