Welcome to the latest CEO newsletter as we approach an incredibly exciting few weeks for Cardiff Blues. As mentioned in January, this is something I aim to issue on a monthly basis to keep our supporters and partners fully informed on what is going on at Cardiff Arms Park.
I have also asked our management team to look into scheduling the next Supporters Q&A, which we will communicate in due course.
On the pitch:
We are now entering an absolutely pivotal period of the season with five consecutive Guinness PRO14 games and then a European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Edinburgh.
At the start of the season a target was set by rugby to qualify for next season’s Champions Cup and to secure a Challenge Cup quarter-final.
The latter part of that has already been achieved and as it stands we are in those qualifying positions in the PRO14. This next block of games will be decisive in our quest.
Four of those five games are at Cardiff Arms Park, which gives us a real opportunity to push on and I hope you will all be behind the players. Both the coaches and players always mention how much of an impact a packed CAP has.
There has already been huge interest in our quarter-final up in Edinburgh and it sounds like there will be a large travelling contingent of Cardiff Blues supporters, which is brilliant.
Please keep an eye on Cardiff Blues Supporters Club (@CardiffBluesSC) for details on our supporters’ HQ in Edinburgh - I will definitely be joining you all for a dram!
It promises a great occasion and if the squad needed any extra motivation then the prospect of a home semi-final at the Arms Park certainly delivers.
Recruitment and retention
We remain very busy in terms of recruitment and retention on both the coaching and playing front.
The last announcement we made was Nick Williams, who has become a key role model and leader within the squad, and there are a number of further announcements to come.
However, the number one priority at the moment is on securing a new head coach for the 2018-19 season and beyond.
I’m very pleased to say we are making good progress and are being supported through the process by the Welsh Rugby Union. The emphasis has been on ensuring we secure the best possible candidate, who is the right fit for Cardiff Blues and the criteria we require.
We are in the latter stages of negotiations with a number of candidates. I appreciate your patience and understanding but there is nobody that wants to get this all concluded as much as myself and any further details must remain confidential. However, as soon as the process is concluded we will communicate directly with you, our supporters.
Cardiff Athletic Club negotiations
I am sure you have all seen the statement issued yesterday regarding negotiations with Cardiff Athletic Club over the granting of a new 150-year lease at Cardiff Arms Park.
It was not a decision taken lightly but Cardiff Blues can simply do no more to reach an agreement.
Negotiations with CAC have been going on for 10 years and at great legal costs, which recently we have picked up for both parties.
Throughout the negotiations I have been involved in during the last six years, we have agreed to the majority, if not all of the Athletic Clubs requests, including comprehensive protections around the heritage – the Cardiff name, the colours, the Gwyn Nicholls Gates, a museum and more.
Included in the last wave of negotiations was an offer of an £8million payment. It appeared that all parties had reached agreement however at the eleventh hour CAC turned the proposal down, which is incredibly frustrating following such a long period of protracted, expensive and positive negotiations.
I can confirm that we are in arrears on rent due to CAC, which is down to cash flow challenges but this has always, and will always, be paid albeit sometimes late. This was discussed as a matter of priority at yesterday’s board meeting and the board agreed a solution to ensure full payment of the rental arrears. I would like to thank CAC for their support and understanding.
I must reiterate that it has always been our preference to remain at Cardiff Arms Park and should CAC provide us a proposal then we will always listen to it, however as a company we can do no more and with just four years left on the lease we must protect the future of professional rugby in Cardiff.
Having tried for the last ten years to extend the lease, the board must act now to explore options for a new stadium or the alternative is to run the risk that we are homeless in 2022.
There are a number of exciting opportunities, which we will now pursue to ensure Cardiff Blues have a long-term fit-for-purpose home and thus a long-term future.
Six Nations and more
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of our players currently on international duty, whether with Wales, Wales Under-20s, Wales Women or in the case of Blaine Scully and Anton Peikrishvili with USA and Georgia.
We are very proud of our international players and it was a fantastic opening weekend for our teams in their respective Six Nations campaigns.
I am sure you are all very excited about the clash with England on Saturday but don’t forget we have our own vitally important encounter with the Toyota Cheetahs at 7.35pm and your support will be absolutely essential to the boys.
We have sold out of tickets for our double-header event in the hospitality marquee but there is still room in both the Pack Bar and the clubhouse so why not join us for the Six Nations showdown before backing Cardiff Blues in the Guinness PRO14!