THE takeover deal for the Dragons is in 'a state of paralysis' while the four professional clubs thrash out a three-year budget plan with the Welsh Rugby Union.

The region has been owned by the WRU since the summer of 2017 when Newport RFC shareholders agreed to a deal that included Rodney Parade.

David Buttress was appointed as chairman in September of that year and has been in discussions about returning to private ownership since 2019.

A deal was close for the Dragons, with a 250-year lease for the stadium site, but was then delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and now it hinges on the size of funding from the WRU.

The four professional sides – the Dragons, Cardiff, Ospreys and Scarlets – are thrashing out their budgets for the next three campaigns, a process that is likely to last until mid-January.

South Wales Argus: Dragons chairman David ButtressDragons chairman David Buttress

“Until that is bottomed out we are not going to be able to finalise anything about ownership,” said Buttress.

“Until I know what the numbers are that the Union are going to fund for 2022/23, and we are looking to do a three-year plan up to 2025, then we are in a bit of a state of paralysis.

“The reasons for that are firstly that we are off the back of Covid, which has been a challenging backdrop that has financially hit all professional sport, and secondly that we are in the budget process.

“The budget planning will probably play out until January and then we will know what we are doing, and we will have a decision to make.

“From the heart, I am all in and it’s been a hard period during Covid because emotionally I am very connected to the Dragons and I feel fully committed and want to do it. Financially I have got to use my brain and look at the numbers.”

An agreement was reached between the WRU and the four sides in June that runs up to 2023 that sees them split £23m for the current campaign and £23.5m next season.

The Dragons are the only one of the clubs to be owned by the governing body and there is a desire from all parties for them to follow the same structure as their rivals.

South Wales Argus: Rodney ParadeRodney Parade

“The Union and I have agreed that the Dragons should be in private hands,” said Buttress.

“The principle is there but the two caveats were Covid, which held things up, and the last month or two has been about what the numbers look like.

“The WRU is in effect the biggest investor in the four teams and until we know that number… my heart is that we are doing it, but my head is that we have to see the numbers.”

That is because the financial risk would switch from the governing body to Buttress and his backers.

“The Dragons has a cost base of circa £11/12m and has circa revenues of £10/11m, so every year as an owner you are taking a risk of anything from hundreds of thousands to a million quid,” said the chairman.

“As private investors we need to know how much money the WRU are going to invest in the next three years, especially off the back of Covid.

“Let’s not forget that we are going to have to repay the Covid loans; the Dragons has a £4.5m loan that has to be factored in, and when I started off these discussions pre-Covid that wasn’t there.”

The repayment of that loan is being negotiated with the professional sides pushing for it to be over 15 to 20 years.

If the deal goes ahead then the Dragons would have a 250-year lease on the stadium site plus the offices and land where there is currently a marquee.

They would be free to develop that area while the Union could build on the ‘cabbage patch’ and clubhouse.

The Memorial Gates, unveiled in 1923 to the members of Newport Athletic Club who died in World War One, have grade two listed building status.

Any deal for the Dragons is highly unlikely to impact Newport County AFC at Rodney Parade with the professional clubs currently having a strong relationship.