Tee­ter­ing on brink

South Wales Evening Post - - NEWS -

NEATH owner Mike Cuddy has re­vealed he is ready to re­lin­quish con­trol of the cri­sis-hit club.

There is con­tin­ued uncer­tainty sur­round­ing the fu­ture of one of Welsh rugby’s most famous clubs fol­low­ing the de­ci­sion at Cardiff Jus­tice Courts on Thurs­day to dis­miss a wind­ing-up or­der.

That rul­ing means Mr Cuddy cur­rently re­mains in charge of Neath Rugby Lim­ited, but in a new twist, he has re­vealed he is ready to hand the club over to new in­vestors.

In a state­ment is­sued to the Post, Mr Cuddy says is con­sid­er­ing three op­tions – stay­ing at the helm (which he prefers not to do be­cause of ill-health), pass­ing on the club to the sup­port­ers, or sell­ing to po­ten­tial new own­ers, who he has al­ready spo­ken to.

He also takes a swipe at the per­sonal abuse he has re­ceived on so­cial me­dia.

He said: “Fol­low­ing Thurs­day’s court case, in which as I ex­pected, the claim against the club from Jar­dine Nor­ton was dis­missed, with costs awarded, it is now time to con­sider how to best take things for­ward at Neath Rugby.

“We now ex­pect the club’s bank ac­counts to be un­frozen, which will at least al­low the club to start func­tion­ing again. We have a num­ber of po­ten­tial op­tions, each of which I am ex­plor­ing.

“One op­tion is to con­tinue to run the club in its cur­rent form. Un­for­tu­nately, with my poor health this is def­i­nitely not my pre­ferred route at this time.

“A sec­ond op­tion is to pass re­spon­si­bil­ity for the club over to a sup­port­ers group which has ex­pressed in­ter­est in tak­ing it over.

“I un­der­stand the group is led by two for­mer bor­ough coun­cil man­agers, who claim to have gen­er­ated sig­nif­i­cant lo­cal sup­port for their plan to ‘take the club back to the com­mu­nity’.

“I am now keen to meet with this group to un­der­stand the de­tail of their plan, most par­tic­u­larly how they in­tend to gen­er­ate the nec­es­sary on­go­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port which is nec­es­sary for the club to sur­vive.

“While they are cer­tainly en­thu­si­as­tic and vo­cal, I do not have suf­fi­cient un­der­stand­ing of what they are propos­ing to be able to de­cide if this is a vi­able op­tion for the cub.

“Thirdly, I am in dis­cus­sion with a num­ber of par­ties who have ex­pressed in­ter­est in ac­quir­ing Neath Rugby Lim­ited.

“It is clear to me that these par­ties are fi­nan­cially able to sup­port the club and my hope is that they have not been de­terred by some of the on­line abuse that has been aimed at my­self over the past month.

“You cer­tainly have to have a thick skin in or­der to ‘in­vest’ in any rugby or foot­ball club and it’s un­for­tu­nate that in com­mon with most clubs, Neath has a mi­nor­ity of ex­tremely vo­cal sup­port­ers who have for­got­ten the good times we have had now things have be­come more dif­fi­cult.

“As al­ways, the best in­ter­ests of Neath Rugby and its fu­ture health will be at the heart of my as­sess­ment of the op­tions fac­ing the club, to­gether with my de­sire to a avoid fur­ther lit­i­ga­tion against the club.

“I do how­ever need the con­tin­ued pas­sion­ate sup­port from vol­un­teers and sup­port­ers to help see us through this dif­fi­cult pe­riod in our his­tory.”

The dire sit­u­a­tion at Neath has stemmed from the demise of Mr Cuddy’s con­struc­tion busi­ness, The Cuddy Group, which folded ear­lier this year.

A wind­ing-up or­der was is­sued against the club, which sup­port­ers had hoped would be up­held.

They said they were hop­ing that new in­vestors would come on board and re­build the club as a new en­tity.

A state­ment was is­sued by Gra­ham Jones of the Neath Rugby Vol­un­tary Op­er­a­tional Team on the club’s of­fi­cial web­site – the same web­site Cuddy has been pre­vi­ously us­ing to de­fend him­self – on Thurs­day evening.

The state­ment read: “A large group of Neath Rugby Sup­port­ers who at­tended a Court hear­ing in Cardiff on Thurs­day were dev­as­tated when the Judge re­fused to up­hold a wind­ing-up or­der against Neath Rugby Lim­ited, the sole re­main­ing direc­tor of which be­ing Mr Mike Cuddy.

“The wind­ing-up or­der had been lodged by Jar­dine Nor­ton, a Cardiff-based fi­nance com­pany, in re­spect of an un­paid debt of £31,734. The judge’s de­ci­sion re­ferred to pro­ce­dural de­fi­cien­cies which leave open the op­tion of Jar­dine Nor­ton, HMRC and oth­ers lodg­ing a fur­ther windin­gup or­der in the near fu­ture.

“Neath Rugby sup­port­ers have been protest­ing about the lack of lead­er­ship and mis­man­age­ment on the part of Mike Cuddy over a pe­riod of sev­eral years, lead­ing to poor re­sults on the field and wide­spread dishar­mony off the field.

“Sup­port­ers fully un­der­stand the fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties which the Cuddy Group has ex­pe­ri­enced since sum­mer 2018. This is not an is­sue for Neath sup­port­ers. What sup­port­ers are very an­noyed about is Mike Cuddy’s re­fusal to al­low a new group of in­vestors to re-launch Neath Rugby with a fo­cus on en­gag­ing play­ers, sup­port­ers, spon­sors and the peo­ple of Neath in an in­clu­sive man­ner which val­ues the con­tri­bu­tion made by ev­ery­one as­so­ci­ated with Neath Rugby.

“Neath Rugby is now in a very pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion. Mike Cuddy has said that he is bring­ing in new vol­un­teer as­sis­tance in terms of manag­ing the club, along with new in­vestors, but noth­ing has yet been done.

“The cur­rent group of vol­un­teers run­ning the club on a day to day ba­sis can see no ev­i­dence that Mike Cuddy has the fund­ing or com­mit­ment to de­liver on the prom­ises he made as re­cently as Novem­ber 27, in­clud­ing re­build­ing the club on and off the field and set­tling the many fi­nan­cial claims against the club.

“It is go­ing to be very dif­fi­cult for fix­tures to be ful­filled dur­ing De­cem­ber, and be­yond.”

The state­ment added: “Sup­port­ers are hugely sup­port­ive of the play­ers, coaches and med­i­cal team who have re­mained loyal to Neath Rugby and fully un­der­stand that, at some stage, the cur­rent dif­fi­cul­ties at the club may force them to move on to other clubs. This will not de­tract from the ad­mi­ra­tion which sup­port­ers have for all con­cerned.

“Sup­port­ers and spon­sors are asked to re­main uni­fied and committed to sav­ing our iconic club. The amount of sup­port re­ceived from all over the world in re­cent weeks has been re­mark­able, in­deed hum­bling. Our club was founded in 1871 and we all have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure that the club ex­ists for gen­er­a­tions to come.

“The vol­un­teers who run the club day to day can no longer ful­fil their cur­rent roles but are committed to en­sur­ing that the club will be re-launched as soon as Neath Rugby Lim­ited and Mike Cuddy are no longer in­volved with Neath Rugby.

“A small num­ber of new in­vestors have ex­pressed an in­ter­est in sup­port­ing Neath Rugby as soon as Mike Cuddy has left the club.

“No sin­gle per­son will ever be big­ger than Neath Rugby and this will, with­out doubt, be proven to be the case by Neath Rugby sup­port­ers and the peo­ple of Neath alike.”

The Welsh Rugby Union have said they are con­tin­u­ing to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion at Neath, who are rooted to the foot of the Premier­ship ta­ble with just one win to their name.

It is clear to me that these par­ties are fi­nan­cially able to sup­port the club and my hope is that they have not been de­terred by some of the on­line abuse that has been aimed at my­self over the past month

- Mike Cuddy

Pic­ture: Richard Swingler

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