Pontypool to pay off court costs and remain in Championship
PONTYPOOL have pledged to pay off the costs of their court battle with the Welsh Rugby Union and take their place in the Championship.
It is yet to be determined how much Pooler must stump up after losing their High Court showdown when they battled against demotion from the Premiership.
WRU lawyers estimate that the case cost £400,000, though that figure is being negotiated and could increase or decrease. But director Dai Watt insists that the club will not go into liquidation and drop down the Swalec Leagues.
“Even if it takes a few years we will face up to the costs,” he said. “It is not in anyone’s interests for Pontypool to go into receivership, and liquidation is not even being considered.
“We are looking at a three-year plan (the Championship will be ring-fenced for the first two seasons) and to continue our recent financial policy – we have stayed in the black and haven’t run up debts.”
Nonetheless, Pooler – whose turnover in the Premiership was around £190,000 and playing budget around £150,000 – face a severe drop in funding from the WRU.
In fact, the £5,000 they will get for playing in the Championship will effectively be returned to the Union.
When the idea of a revamped Premiership was first mooted there was talk about the culled clubs being given parachute payments but that is no longer the case.
Given that Pooler have very few assets – Pontypool Park is council-owned and they do not have a clubhouse for income – they plan to meet the costs through pledges, sponsorship, advertising and grants.
Pooler have been living within their means over the past few seasons and that will continue.
Therefore the side that takes to the field on the first weekend of September will be last year’s development side with a sprinkling of older heads.
Pooler had been building a squad while their courtroom battle was in progress but, despite good turnouts in pre-season, those plans are now in tatters.
A number of individuals who have been training with the club are likely to head elsewhere and there is more disruption to the coaching team.
Last season’s head coach James Chapron left at the end of the campaign because of his commitments with the Dragons academy and assistant Shaun Connor also left to take up a role with the Ospreys.
The pair have now been followed out of the exit door by defence coach Mike Hook, who has been manning the fort along with team manager Shaun Rees and last season’s development XV boss Matthew Chapman.
Pooler plan to appoint a new head coach and a forwards specialist but even if the likes of prop Nicky Blake, front rower Jamie Jeune, flanker Luke Dyckhoff and fly-half Sam Mills do commit to the club, it promises to be an extremely challenging season.
Nonetheless, former owner Frank Stanton, who is no longer at the club in an official capacity but remains an advisor and sponsor, believes the club can bounce back.
Stanton and his wife Merril took over at Pontypool Park when the club dropped down to Division One East in 2006. They secured a return to the Premier-ship at the second time of asking.
“With the likes of Bargoed, Ebbw Vale and Newbridge, there are going to be some pretty strong squads in the Championship,” said Stanton.
“There may be some dark days ahead but I honestly don’t see them being on the wrong end of beatings – there is a spine of the squad that knows all about Division One.
“There will be a three-year plan and the ring-fencing provides an opportunity to give the development guys 80 minutes of tough rugby every weekend.
“In 2006 there was pressure on us to bounce back immediately but that is not so intense this time.
“There could be some hard times on the field but the experience will serve them well and the club will embrace this challenge.”