South East Wales

Player and legal bill concerns for Pontypool Rugby Club

A rugby club says it lost players and still faces a legal bill of hundreds of thousands of pounds after it lost its fight against relegation.

Pontypool Rugby Club went to court earlier this year to fight plans to reorganised the premiership by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).

The club argued that it was a victim of "abuse of power" but the High Court disagreed.

The WRU said it was putting the matter "firmly behind us" and moving forward.

"We lost a lot of players after last season, and it's inevitable those players needed to play in the Premier Division, so there was a point during the summer where we wondered exactly whether we'd have a team to put on the field," said Pontypool's president, Graham Price.

The former British Lion added: "The coaches and the backroom staff have done a wonderful job really."

Legal bill

Earlier in the year the club went to the High Court to try and overturn the Welsh Rugby Union's decision to drop them from the Welsh Premiership to the new National Championship Division.

The club failed in its bid and will have to pay their own legal bill and the WRU's.

A figure of £400,000 has been reported, but the club believes it will be less than this.

Hefin Archer Williams, a solicitor specialising in sport at Leo Abse and Cohen, says even a bill of a couple of hundred thousand pounds could end a club of Pontypool's size.

"Bearing in mind what we're talking about is figures in the region of hundreds of thousands, that's two hundred thousand plus, then most certainly it could.

"Because, with the greatest respect, a sponsor probably hasn't got a bottomless pit, and if it's having to pay ten, fifteen, twenty thousand as a contribution towards costs, it can't then probably afford to pay that equal figure to the club."

He added: "It's like any other industry, if it can't afford to pay its legal bills, it may either have to reduce its costs even further, or alternatively like any other business go into receivership, be wound up, or have to cease trading."

Image caption David Bishop kicks the ball for touch during Pontypool's match against Australia in 1984

The club, which dates from Victorian times, became famous in the 1970s for its stars Charlie Faulkner, Graham Price and Bobby Windsor.

They were immortalised in the Max Boyce song Pontypool Front Row.

In a statement the WRU said it is "pleased and relieved for the sake of Welsh rugby that this matter has now been concluded and the reforms of the Principality Premiership Division and the creation of a new National Championship Division will go ahead as planned".

It added that Pontypool RFC is an important club which boasts a proud history.

"The WRU also has a proud history of achieving success and facing up to the challenges of change which are inevitable in developing and enhancing rugby union as a national sport of Wales.

"We can now move on together as one union having put this matter firmly behind us."

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