Newport Gwent Dragons have announced a radical decision to establish themselves as a fully independent region with a view to attract fresh investment.
The side are currently jointly owned by Newport RFC and the Welsh Rugby Union, but the proposals would see both parties transferring their shares to new owners once they are satisfied with their investment plans and intentions for the region.
Chief Executive Stuart Davies has been working on the proposal with the board of directors for the last year, and its foundation was laid in a strategic plan for the business signed off in June 2015.
It is hoped that this landmark decision will lead to improved results and a much brighter future for the Dragons, whilst also providing greater clarity and direction for the business at large.
“This is a hugely important decision that will hopefully enable a new chapter to be written in the Dragons’ story,” Davies stated in an official statement released by Newport Gwent Dragons.
“I am excited by the potential we have and the prospects that this moment brings, and the search can begin in earnest now for the people who wish to take a place at Welsh rugby’s top table and embark on what could be a great adventure.”
Under the plans, the region’s balance sheet will be significantly improved via the capitalisation of loans and writing off of debts, meaning that any new investment can be injected straight into the business and the rugby team.
Whilst Newport RFC will maintain ownership of Rodney Parade, the Dragons will sign a lease with them to continue to play at the ground and run the venue.
The arrangement will provide Newport RFC with visibility and security of income, and allow them to focus entirely on running a successful Premiership side. A shareholders’ meeting will be called shortly.
The current Newport Gwent Dragons board of directors is made up of Chairman Martyn Hazell along with seven fellow directors, including major contributor Tony Brown and Newport RFC Chairman Will Godfrey.
The Newport Gwent Dragons board will continue in their current capacity, and will consider augmenting the board, until such time as new investors or owners are in place.
“This is very much a start, not an end, and there is much work to be done before the full picture is in place,” Davies added.
“In any event however, it is both timely and appropriate to acknowledge the bold nature of the decision taken by the Board, and the huge contribution that the likes of Tony Brown, Martyn Hazell and Will Godfrey have made to professional rugby at Rodney Parade throughout some difficult times.
“Perhaps only those ‘on the inside’ can truly appreciate what they have done, but take it from me their legacy is a significant one.
“I would also like to thank the WRU for their support of the proposals, their patience whilst we have been bringing about change, and their assistance in taking the plan forward.”
“The time is right to hand over the reins and in the process hopefully secure our prosperity and competitiveness,” said chairman Martyn Hazell.
It is a great privilege to be Chairman of one of Wales’ four professional rugby outfits, and this is a wonderful opportunity for someone with a passion for rugby to take a seat at the helm and help shape our future.”
Newport RFC Chairman, Will Godfrey stated,
“Newport RFC understand and support the aspirations of the Dragons and will assist in helping them achieve their aim.,” said Newport RFC chairman Will Godfrey.
“Naturally there will continue to be a relationship between the two businesses and we will begin working immediately on the detail surrounding that.”