Teetering on brink
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