First of all, I would like to wish you a very Happy New Year from all of us at Cardiff Blues.
With 2018 now upon us I felt it was the appropriate time to update our supporters on affairs at Cardiff Arms Park, and I intend continue this in the form of a monthly CEO's newsletter.
Recruitment and retention.
We have been extremely busy in terms of recruitment and retention and you will undoubtedly have noticed a succession of contract announcements in the last couple of months.
With such a large number of players out of contract in the summer our priority was on retaining the bulk of these.
Due to Danny Wilson’s forthcoming departure at the end of the season, I have taken a lead on these negotiations in consultation with a recruitment panel.
So far we have retained 11 key players - most recently the likes of Lloyd Williams, Matthew Morgan, Ellis Jenkins and Rey Lee-Lo - and made Olly Robinson’s move permanent.
I am delighted with the progress we have made in this area and with the continued emergence of some excellent young players I am very excited about the future.
There are areas of the squad we have identified that will require strengthening whether by further contract renewals or fresh recruits but that decision will lie with the new head coach and general manager of rugby.
There will be further announcements in the coming weeks so please make sure you are following our social media accounts to be the first in the know!
With regards to the new head coach, excellent progress is being made and we are speaking to a number of interested parties.
The Welsh Rugby Union continue to be a great support in this. It goes without saying that it is imperative we make the right appointment to maximise the potential of this very talented, young squad.
Finding and appointing the right candidate is currently my number one priority and I can assure you that you, as our supporters, will be the first to know.
Cardiff Athletic Club negotiations
Negotiations with Cardiff Athletic Club continue and I have scheduled an all-party meeting early next month in the hope that we can move towards concluding discussions.
All parties have expressed a desire to come to an agreement. This will secure the future of top-class, professional rugby at Cardiff Arms Park in a fit-for-purpose facility, which will also protect the heritage of both Cardiff RFC and Cardiff Blues.
I would like to thank the members of the Cardiff Athletic Club management committee for their continued efforts towards this goal and hope the positive progress continues.
On the pitch
I am sure you will all agree that the recent New Year’s Eve derby proved a great occasion despite the disappointing result.
It was a great performance against the reigning champions and a game we should have won but it also demonstrated the potential we have here both on and off the pitch.
With a huge European Challenge Cup clash against Toulouse as our next home game at the Arms Park, I truly hope we can attract another big crowd.
Of course we would have preferred a Saturday or a Friday night game and Sunday is not ideal but it does give you the chance to come down with the family and we certainly need your support.
A victory would virtually put us in the quarter-finals of the competition, which would be a great boost and wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a knockout game at the Arms Park?
In the Guinness PRO14 we remain fourth, which would warrant an automatic Champions Cup spot due to the Cheetahs ineligibility, but we remain level on points with Connacht.
With nine Championship matches and two in the Challenge Cup pool stages remaining, I’m optimistic we can kick on to achieve our goals of securing top tier European rugby for next season.
It would also be irremissible of me not to mention the achievements of Taufa’ao Filise, who made his 250th appearance for the region last week. It is a remarkable achievement in the modern era and it was great to welcome Fa’ao’s family into hospitality with us before his children – Sila, Liz and Ben – led the team out.
Once again I would like to reiterate our gratitude for all of your support in 2017 and hope to see you all at Cardiff Arms Park in 2018 – starting with Toulouse on January 14.
Cardiff Blues take on Toulouse at Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday, January 14 (5.30pm). The Blues currently sit top of Pool 2 in the European Challenge Cup and a victory against the French giants could secure a place in the quarter-finals with a game to spare. Call 029 20 302030 or click here to secure your tickets today!