EBBW Vale chairman Jon Jones has set the target of the club being debt-free next year after successfully slashing costs last season.

The Steelmen had a tough time on the field until a change of fortunes in 2020 left them on the brink of securing their Premiership status before the Welsh Rugby Union cancelled the campaign because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ebbw have got used to being towards the top of the table since returning to the Premiership in 2014.

They won the title in 2016, were runners-up in 2015, fifth last year, sixth in 2018 and eighth in 2017.

However, they were battling against the drop with Bridgend in 2019/20 after making the decision to cut costs and tackle their debts.

That move put the Steelmen in a much stronger position to deal with the financial implications of coronavirus.

“This year we had a significant number of sponsors without whose backing we would be unable to operate as a Premiership club,” said Jones in a season review on Ebbw’s website.

“Their financial backing and enthusiasm for the club is of immeasurable value. The donations from The Friends of Ebbw Vale and individuals has been of tremendous assistance in the last 12 months and long may it continue.

“Through the off-field work, increased sponsorship and realigning of our cost base we will enter the next months having reduced the club’s debts by around 70 per cent.

“This is a great achievement but we still have to focus on completing the job in the next 12 months which I believe is a realistic target.”

South Wales Argus:

The Steelmen were one from bottom when the season was ended by the WRU, with an eight-point advantage over Bridgend plus a game in hand.

“The season was a tough affair as we went through a transitional period on and off the field,” wrote Jones.

“For the more recent supporters it was a new experience to be in a battle at the bottom of the table and not at the top.

“Many of the players brought in have gained invaluable experience in this fight that will allow them to contribute to the future success of the club.

“One of the contributory factors to our struggles has been a truly amazing injury list that kept our medical team of Dr Rhys Thomas and physios Rhys Shorney and Saran Wyburn extremely busy.

“It was only on our final game that the 23 named by the coaches on a Thursday actually were the 23 who represented the Steelmen in a game, such have been the injury and availability issues that have dogged the coaches and medical team over the season.”

Ebbw’s form improved after the turn of the year with draws against Llandovery and Carmarthen Quins and victories against Pontypridd at RGC at Eugene Cross Park.

That came after the return of fly-half Rhys Jones and arrivals of wingers Mike Powell and Aaron Grabham, utility back Ryan Evans and lock Corey Talbot.

“Our results improved markedly in 2020 as new recruits added quality to the team in what was a very competitive Indigo Premiership Division,” said Jones.

“The players, coaches and officials of the club were confident that we would maintain our Indigo Premiership status on the field and were disappointed not to be able to do this but were fully supportive of the decisions and measures put in place by the WRU around rugby in Wales.”

Jones paid tribute to secretary Karl Offers, treasurer Mark Hathaway, president Mark Powell and the club’s gang of helpers.

“These officials are backed up by a great bunch of volunteers who man gates, put programmes together, sell them, run buses, look after mascots, serve food, run social media and manage kit,” he wrote.

“I would also like to finally pay a special tribute to the players who stuck with us despite our financial situation and retained a great work ethic and team spirit despite our on field struggles.

“The very small coaching group of Greg Woods, Lewis Roberts and team manager Darren Venn worked tirelessly through the pre-season and the in season to ensure we remained as an Indigo Premiership club, accepting the financial circumstances and just getting on with the tasks in hand without complaint. All of the above deserves huge thanks from us all.”