What a WRU buyout of Cardiff Arms Park would mean and what needs to happen next


Exploratory talks between the Welsh Rugby Union and power-brokers at Cardiff Athletic Club (CAC) over the future of the Arms Park are under way.

They are at an early stage and no concrete proposals have yet been put forward about plans for the historic rugby ground, which is the home of Cardiff Blues and Cardiff RFC.

But the WRU is understood to be interested in buying the freehold of the Arms Park from owners CAC , whose membership and trustees would have to approve a deal.

What could a WRU takeover of the Arms Park mean and what’s the likelihood of it going ahead? We assess the state of play…

What has been the catalyst for change?

Project Reset, the name given to the WRU and regions’ attempts to change the way they approach and finance the professional game in Wales.

A new Professional Rugby Agreement will replace the existing Rugby Services Agreement between the WRU and the Blues, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets.

The central element of the new plan is how the five entities – union and four regions – can work together for the betterment of the professional game.

Four areas were identified as being vital to developing a successful way forward – governance, coaching, commercial and development/community.

All five entities had to meet prescribed targets in those areas ahead of a new and greatly improved funding model being put in place, with one of the requirements being regional balance sheets should be cleaned up.

How does that effect the Blues?

Benefactor Peter Thomas has agreed to write off the estimated £14m he has poured into the business over the years.

He is also stepping down as chairman of the Blues as part of the governance reform, which is part of the discussions between the WRU and the regions.

A rainbow during play at Cardiff Arms Park

Is buying the Arms Park part of the proposed reforms?

No, it would be a separate deal between the union and CAC, which has five sports sections: rugby, cricket, hockey, bowls and tennis.

The WRU made a £10m bid for the Arms Park seven years ago – the Blues had tabled on offer of £6m – but it was rejected by the management committee of CAC and its trustess.

It’s believed this fresh WRU offer for the freehold is considerably higher at around £20m.

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Welsh rugby news

Why do the WRU want to buy the Arms Park?

It’s a no-brainer for the union because acquiring the ground would make it far easier to develop the land the union already owns around the Principality Stadium and increase revenue streams going forward. Finding ways to make more money is clearly vital to establishing a future funding model that works for the whole of the game in Wales.

Their plans are thought to include taking over the adjacent ground, plus the Athletic Club clubhouse and the surrounding car parking in the centre of the Welsh capital.

It may also make sense for the WRU, CAC, the Blues, Cardiff Council and any other stake-holders, to come together with the aim of coming up with plans for an ambitious redevelopment of the Arms Park site.

With a new rugby stadium, or partial redevelopment of the existing ground, a development master plan could be extended to include land in front of the Principality Stadium on Westgate Street, which the WRU has already identified as a potential mixed-used development scheme known as Westgate Plaza.

Artist impression of the potential Westgate Plaza scheme

And to widen the scope of any scheme, it could also be extended across Westgate Street to include the site of the current car park owned by Global Mutual.

The scheme could include provision for improved hospitality at events, a hotel, retail, leisure and office space as well as provide much needed new office space and private residential apartments in the city centre.

The WRU also owns the former and now vacant County Court building on Westgate Street, which could be turned into residential apartments.

Such a scheme would be be likely to attract a number of interested parties.

Didn’t the Blues have more recent plans to develop the Arms Park?

Yes, in various guises, but they have been unable to strike a deal with CAC. You can read the details of that impasse here.

Even if the Blues could secure a new long-term lease with development rights for the ground with landlord CAC, their most ambitious plan for a new indoor arena at the current site has been scuppered by Cardiff Council looking to build a 15,000-seater indoor venue in Cardiff Bay.

How much of a say have the Blues got in a sell-off of the Arms Park?

None, because they’re tenants. However, it would be remiss of the WRU and CAC not to involve them in talks with the Arms Park being known around the union world for one thing – rugby.

Could the Blues move to another home venue?

They have history with a three-year stint at Cardiff City Stadium from 2009-12 although, ultimately, it proved to be an unsuccessful venture.

Only a few months ago, they were threatening to leave over the failure to negotiate a new lease with CAC beyond their current deal, which expires in 2022.

Possible sites for a new stadium have been looked at, while existing venues such as the Sophia Gardens cricket ground could potentially be adapted to accommodate a rugby pitch.

Our business editor Sion Barry has looked at all the realistic (and not so realistic) options here.

What has to happen for a deal to be signed?

It would have to pass three stages, having to be approved by the management committee of CAC before being put to its membership at an extraordinary meeting.

But the final say would lie with the trustees of CAC, who would have to decide whether selling off its ‘crown jewel’ prime asset would be in the long-term interest of the organisation.

And it would almost certainly want safeguards over rugby continuing to be played at the Arms Park by Cardiff RFC and, probably, the Blues, who CAC have a 24% stake in.



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