Neath RFC sold for £1.00 and becomes a Community Interest Club


The following is an excerpt from Wales on-line covering featuring the new structure at Neath RFC and an interview with Matthew Young, the new club owner.

"Neath RFC have been bought for £1 amid plans to make the famous Welsh rugby side a sustainable community-run club.

Only four years ago, the club were in dire straits after the collapse of then owner Mike Cuddy's construction business. That left them fighting off two winding-up orders and saw them relegated into the Championship amid an exodus of players.

However, after Cardiff-based finance company Jardine Norton took over the club and put Matt Church in the role of CEO, fortunes started to change - with the club getting back on track and winning promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt following some Covid-affected years.

And now, while being back on an upwards trend, the club have been bought by new chair Matty Young, with the intention to turn Neath into a community interest company and make the Gnoll a modern hub for the town.

"I want to thank Jardine Norton for enabling the club to survive in 2019 and their inward investment and support enabling the club's promotion back to the Premiership in 2023, all with a couple of years of Covid in the middle," said Young. "They have kept their promise to pass the club in its entirety to the community at the best possible time, giving the community the opportunity to carry it forward.

"With all we've been through with Covid and everything else, they've effectively bankrolled us to get through. We're in a real position now where the club and stadium can be sustainable. They've kept us going and they've kept their promise to give the club back to the community. They've carried it through.

"I'd like to thank Matt Church as well, the previous CEO, as he's been excellent during my time here. He's offered a lot of experience and guidance. The players and staff deserve thanks for winning the cup and the historic promotion. With all that coming together, even with challenging times ahead, it'll protect the club for future generations."

Crucially, Young believes that the club can be sustainable moving forward.

However, he says it will depend on complete buy-in from supporters and local businesses. While things like grants will be more readily available as a community interest company, things like sponsorship and even getting people through the gates will be vital.

"We've got a financial plan in place," he added. "That plan means we need people at the gates and supporting the club.

"That's absolutely vital because ultimately a sustainability plan doesn't work without stakeholder buy-in which includes supporters. It's not just on the gate.

"We need local businesses to buy into it. Success of Neath RFC will, I genuinely believe, grow the entire town and community. We'll be able to put more events on. We work closely with Neath College and Neath Council. Hopefully we can do more events like festivals.

"We need to not just preserve the rugby, but other events. Again, it needs buy-in from everyone, especially businesses. At the moment, we need sponsors to give us that start-up and that chance.

"I've looked at the finances and I believe there's a sustainable model there. The core of it is Neath Rugby.

"There will be things like grants. But what we've got to do in the first instance is show governing bodies that we are self-sustaining. We're not far off it, but there might be some cost-cutting exercises in terms of energy.

"If we prove we're sustainable, then we can really enhance the stadium. I want to see the main stand completely done out.

“We hope to work closely with supporters, schools, colleges, community groups, local authority, town council and the WRU, to deliver what they would like to see at The Gnoll. Whether it be festivals or sporting events, with their knowledge and guidance we will do our bit to provide growth for the entire Town and Districts.

"It should be more than a sporting hub. It should be a complete hub for the community.

"You've got girls rugby and they've done absolute wonders. You've got the junior rugby too which is the future. Walking rugby is important and that addresses mental health issues in men. But there's other things away from rugby that meet there. It can be a community club with a complete buy-in from businesses.

"It can be a modern hub that modernises as it goes. I mention sustainable and there's a big push on not just sustainable energy, but sustainable economy."

One thing Young is keen to get across is that this isn't just him taking over the club on his own. Plans are in place to put together a community board that will draw upon various areas of expertise, with Young calling on all involved to make the club a success moving forward.

He also stresses that every penny will go back into the club and the support that the players and coaching staff need around them.

"The main thing is this isn't me taking over the club," he explained. "This is part of the process where, at the moment, I'm the sole chairman. But I'm setting up a community interest company where we'll be appointing people to that board once the paperwork goes through and it's changed to a CIC.

"Hopefully that will be very soon. We're looking for board members who can bring a diverse set of skills and experience. They'll be volunteering. Where my expertise are is marketing and engagement.

"But we need someone who is an expert in governance, someone who can give us legal advice, someone who is the fabric of the club who knows the rugby and the town itself. We need that diverse board. I've spoken to some people who have provisionally said yes, but we need more.

"There's huge challenges ahead. Who could have predicted Covid or the cost of living crisis. There'll be unexpected challenges. We haven't got big owners to bankroll us if anything goes wrong.

"We've got to build reserves up. That will be challenging. The first challenge is getting sponsors, then it's getting grants to make the building more sustainable.

"Despite those challenges, it's really, really exciting. It's in our hands. If we get people to buy-in, I know we have the right people to push this forward.

"Essentially, the deal was a pound. Me and the owner spoke for a long time really. At first, it was just an hour. Eventually, it became something.

"We recognise that this isn't a commercial enterprise. The main beneficiary from this is the town. There's such a community benefit from this. It goes further than money.

"You can never get that value commercially that you can for what it brings to the community. We talked and ultimately I bought it for a pound. I think I had to borrow half of it!

"It's been one hell of a ride so far and there's a long way to go yet. Long may it continue for years to come. That Maltese cross represents so much to so many people. That's the most valuable thing that the community own at the moment."



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