CO-OWNER David Buttress has revealed that the Dragons were on the brink of 'being no more' after the Welsh Rugby Union rejected a takeover deal last summer.

The Rodney Parade club were taken into private ownership by chairman Buttress, David Wright and Hoyoung Huh, who are all equal partners, at the start of September.

It was the end of a long process after the governing body had taken over the Dragons in the summer of 2017.

Yet in between a heads of terms agreement being struck at the end of June and completion, the takeover was on the brink of collapse.

The Dragons going into private ownership was a condition of the new six-year funding agreement between the Union and the professional clubs.

“I can reveal this now that it’s all done, but I will never forget a Tuesday last July at 6pm when I finished a call with the WRU where they had rejected our deal,” said Buttress, who only kept a small group in the loop to avoid panic.

South Wales Argus: Dragons co-owner David ButtressDragons co-owner David Buttress (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“We had said the process was done. It was over. So, I was preparing to go on the Thursday to Ystrad Mynach to tell the players and the guys at Rodney Parade that we had failed to buy the club and it was going to be no more.

“It was that close and I didn’t sleep that night at all. I wrote an email to the WRU at around 3am in the morning, although I sent it at 7am, with a load of ideas about how we could restructure a deal to get it resurrected to save the club.

“Luckily that did the trick and we jumped on a call on that Wednesday to pull that deal back to life and the rest is history.

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“It was the hardest deal that I’ve ever done and if it wasn’t for the fact that I love the club, the place and the history of Rodney Parade then I would have walked away.

“I just couldn’t do that, I thought of the team and people who work here, everyone who has got so much vested in the club as supporters.

“I said to my wife that I had to do this and we managed to turn it around without anyone knowing [it was close to collapse].”

The deal included the Dragons owners taking over the historic nine-acre Rodney Parade site rather than just the sporting operation.

South Wales Argus: PACKED: Rodney Parade is also home to Newport County, who hosted Wrexham in front of a bumper crowdPACKED: Rodney Parade is also home to Newport County, who hosted Wrexham in front of a bumper crowd (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Given that Newport County AFC also call the stadium home, the collapse of the takeover deal would have had huge ramifications.

“We were just way too far apart. There was a lot of debt attached to the club, not least a £4.5million Covid loan,” said Buttress, who is going to be replaced as chairman by Wright this summer.

“There was also a lot of internal politics at the Professional Rugby Board with vested interests from the other teams; the WRU had to be fair to everyone so there was a lot of complexity.

“It wasn’t just two parties agreeing a deal and we were just too far apart – the WRU couldn’t agree to our terms and we couldn’t agree to their terms.

“We were just so far apart but in the end David, Hoyoung and me obviously swallowed a bit more and the WRU worked with us, so we got it over the line.

“But I am not exaggerating – the club was so close to being done.

“I wish the thing that I look back on with most satisfaction was winning something but it’s sorting the ownership because of what it meant for the future of so many people.

“For professional sport in Newport it would have been terminal, but we did do it and got the deal done. Happy days, we move on.”

The takeover was completed but it has been a tough season for the Dragons with the new owners making some big calls.

They have opted to make big cuts in order to be able to invest for next season, hoping that it is short-term pain followed by long-term gain.

South Wales Argus: CHALLENGING: Captain Steff Hughes after the Dragons' loss at GlasgowCHALLENGING: Captain Steff Hughes after the Dragons' loss at Glasgow (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“This year has been tough and there was a £2million hole in the finances,” said Buttress. “We managed to get through after making some tough decisions.

“Now we start to build for the future and as owners we want to invest in the success of the club.

“Hoyoung, myself and David are committed to that and we want to help David, as chairman, grow things a bit next year.

“It will take a bit of time but we want to build towards success, and I think the player announcements that have been made and are to come show that.

“Off the field, we are going to start to make some moves. We have survived and now it’s time to grow towards success.”