8:20am Friday 16th November 2012
By Chris Kirwan
TONY Brown believes it can be short-term pain, long-term gain for Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.
Brown breathed life back into Newport RFC in the late 1990s and turn of the millennium when he attracted the likes of Gary Teichmann, Simon Raiwalui, Shane Howarth and Percy Mont-gomery to the Black and Ambers.
It continued in the early days of the Dragons but the region has floundered since the benefactor left in 2005.
He acknowledges that times are tough – “the regions and Welsh rugby as a whole is in a terrible mess” – but believes that recent steps to get their house in order can allow the Dragons to thrive.
“When Chris Brown came in the club was up to its ears in debt,” said Brown, no relation to the chief executive, who arrived in March.
“I brought him in and he is doing a first class job – the big thing was to stop going bust and we have done that.
“Chris is a business man who understands the necessity for corporate events and hospitality.
“The first thing we had to do was set the finances straight and I sent a letter around to season ticket holders asking for them to stay with us and see it through.
“That’s what we are trying to do and we have had to cut back on the playing budget on the basis that we do owe so much money.
“The big burden is the stand but you can either invest in the infrastructure, like we did, or the team. You can’t do both.
“And our new stand gives us a huge opportunity for spreading our wings because we are doing a superb job in terms of the business now.”
Brown rejoined the board in January 2011 and pumped yet more money in when he spent £3 million on the £5.5 million Bisley Stand (with chairman Martyn Hazell putting in £2 million).
That facility – which is in use throughout the week – has opened up new revenue streams for the Dragons but they are struggling on the field, second from bottom of the RaboDirect Pro12 and on a six-game losing streak.
But the 75-year-old from Surrey, who was inducted into Newport RFC’s inaugural hall of fame this year, believes the region is worth fighting for.
“In 2005 I wanted to leave the club debt-free but then we decided to go ahead on that bloody stand!” said Brown, whose passion for Welsh rugby burns as bright as ever. It ended up costing £5.5 million and I put in £3 million and Hazell £2 million. But I am in no hurry to have anything back because I wanted to give something back to the people of Newport.
“I want them to have something to believe in. I am back on board again because I do think that there is something here worth holding on to.
“We are going through a difficult time at the moment on the pitch but we just need to get through this season “Then we hope we can reinvest some money so that we can take on the other regions but the first thing that had to be done was save the region altogether, because it could easily have disappeared.”
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