A PROPOSAL which could see one of Welsh rugby’s four regions disbanded have been branded as “short-sighted”.

Today (Wednesday), the Professional Rugby Board – the organisation featuring members from the WRU, the Dragons, Ospreys, Cardiff and Scarlets – will meet to discuss the future of Welsh rugby.

Ahead of that meeting, city leaders and businesses - and the Argus - have called for the idea to be scrapped because it would be damaging both to Newport and to rugby.

The board commissioned a report which put forward a number of proposals, one of which included cutting one of Wales’ professional regions from the start of the 2023/24 season.

The Dragons have been seen as potentially being under threat should such a decision be made, and with just two wins in this year’s United Rugby Championship, the Rodney Parade outfit have offered the lowest return of any of the regions on the pitch.

After the news broke, Dragons chairman David Buttress Tweeted: “Worrying is a rubbish waste of time.

“Fighting, believing, building, backing ourselves and sticking together is what I will spent my energy on. We have a long way to go together yet.”

And Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan lamented an “absence of any clear direction or a clear strategy” when asked about the proposals.

Ahead of the meeting, Newport East MS John Griffiths branded the proposal as “short-sighted”, and highlighted the impact that having a professional rugby side had on the city and local businesses.

South Wales Argus: John Griffiths has criticised a proposal which could see one of Wales' regions cut. John Griffiths has criticised a proposal which could see one of Wales' regions cut.

“Our city has a proud sporting history and pedigree and having the Dragons at Rodney Parade is a big part of that,” he said.

“The businesses in the Maindee and city centre area also benefit from the increased footfall on matchdays.

“I know during the height of the pandemic, professional sport and especially the rugby was missed by many, including myself.

“Any proposals to cut the game in one of our Welsh regions, wherever that is, would be short-sighted and send the wrong message to our future stars of tomorrow.”

Newport West MP Ruth Jones also spoke about the impact the Dragons have on local businesses – both in boosting income on matchdays and through sponsorship opportunities.

South Wales Argus: Ruth Jones said the Dragons provide a boost for in Newport.Ruth Jones said the Dragons provide a boost for in Newport.

“Having the Dragons here in Newport has been a huge boon for our city, they’ve played host to a range of Wales’ finest international players over the years and provide a great opportunity for young people to get involved and watch the game,” she said.

“As well as this, having regular high-level rugby played here in the city has benefited businesses of all kinds, both from trade on matchdays at Rodney Parade and from the sponsorship opportunities provided.

“I would expect the Dragons to remain a key part of any proposed changes made by the WRU, especially after repeated investments made in our region.

“The players, fans and staff deserve nothing less.”

Tony Cook, landlord of The Dodger, warned that some businesses would not survive without the matchday boost from the Dragons. 

“Rodney Parade has a huge impact on local businesses in the area,” he said. “Some wouldn’t survive without it being there.

South Wales Argus: The Dodger in Newport. Picture: Google Street ViewThe Dodger in Newport. Picture: Google Street View

“We do well off the Dragons and Newport County.

“Newport needs to have a stadium in the town centre.”

And Sam Dabb, manager at Le Pub, said: “We’re not a sports pub but we do benefit [from the Dragons on matchdays].

“We’d definitely see a financial impact [if they were disbanded].”

Newport East MP Jessica Morden expressed concern over the impact any decision to cut the Dragons would have on the grassroots game in the region.

“Cutting any of Wales four professional sides would represent a deeply short-sighted move by the WRU, and I am particularly concerned by speculation that the Dragons could fall foul of any such decision,” she said.

South Wales Argus: Jessica Morden has expressed concern over the impact of proposals to cut one of Wales' regions.Jessica Morden has expressed concern over the impact of proposals to cut one of Wales' regions.

“Gwent is home to more rugby clubs than any other Welsh region, and some of its most historic names in the likes of Newport, Pontypool, Ebbw Vale, Newbridge, Cross Keys and more.

“Players from Newport East like Ben Carter, Harrison Keddie and Joe Davies have come through local clubs like Caldicot RFC and Newport HSOB to play for the Dragons and represent Wales at age-grade or senior level - showing a system that can work well with the right investment.

“Cutting the Dragons would jeopardise these pathways.

“Such a move would also be to the detriment of the valued and hugely successful schools and community work the Dragons undertake, as well as to all the local businesses who support the region and benefit from matchdays at Rodney Parade.

“Rather than cutting them, the WRU should be working in parallel with the Dragons to grow the game in one of its heartlands, and ensure that the right funding is in place to help the region as it seeks to identify and harness rugby talent from across Gwent.”

Jayne Bryant, MS for Newport West, said that the looming threat of a region being disbanded was not healthy for Welsh rugby.

South Wales Argus: Jayne Bryant described the proposal as "not healthy" for Welsh rugby.Jayne Bryant described the proposal as "not healthy" for Welsh rugby.

“Newport has a long and proud rugby tradition, both in the amateur and professional game,” she said. “However it seems that ever since the regions started we have always had the threats of being disbanded hanging over us.

“It is not healthy and the WRU need to produce a proper sustainable plan with a level playing field for all four of its regions.

“Dragons Rugby is an integral part of top-level Welsh rugby and, top-class rugby at Rodney Parade is an integral part of Newport.”