Cardiff Blues to make shock Arms Park return

Cardiff Arms Park
Cardiff Blues left the Arms Park for Cardiff City Stadium in May 2009

Cardiff Blues are to return to play at Cardiff Arms Park, facing Connacht there in the Pro12 League on Friday.

The Blues moved from the Arms Park to Cardiff City Stadium in 2009.

Blues chief executive Richard Holland said: "There are no long-term plans in place to move back to the Arms Park permanently.

"However, we have listened to what our supporters are saying and it should be a great occasion to play this match at the Arms Park."

Blues' Wales centre Jamie Roberts welcomed the move on Twitter, saying: "So the Blues are playing Connacht at the Arms Park Friday evening.... amazing place steeped in history.. old school terraces.. loving it."

The move comes amid a worrying period for Wales' four regions.

Concerns have been expressed about the game's funding against a backdrop of poor crowds and news of leading Test players quitting Welsh rugby for French clubs.

The Welsh Rugby Union has commissioned a report into the professional tier's funding that could lead to a shake-up.

In the Blues' case, dedicated valleys rugby fans of clubs such as Pontypridd, whose top-flight status ended in the wake of the launch of the nation's regions in 2003, have not warmed to the Blues.

And when the team switched from the traditional Arms Park home of Cardiff rugby, some diehard fans also turned their backs on the region.

The situation led joint coach Gareth Baber to suggest in December the Blues could move back to the Arms Park.

Following his arrival as chief executive successor to Robert Norster, Richard Holland dismissed the idea.

In a Blues press release Holland said the return does not affect the Blues' 20-year agreement to play at Cardiff City's home.

He said: "Obviously Cardiff Blues still have a 20 year lease in place at the Cardiff City Stadium and moving the Connacht match to the Arms Park has no impact on this agreement.

"These are difficult economic times and we have to explore ways of creating a sustainable future for the region."

Chairman Peter Thomas said: "I am pleased that the club is exploring all available options to us and playing this match at the Arms Park shows that we are listening to our fanbase.

"The licensing constraint means that 8,000 is the maximum capacity we can have on the night, so I hope we have a large crowd there to enjoy the evening."

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said: "The WRU applauds and supports this initiative from the Cardiff Blues.

"In these tough times all of their options need to be considered. It is a bold move and deserves credit."

In May 2008 the Blues signed a deal to play all their home games at the stadium for the following 20 years as Cardiff City's tenants.

In the first two seasons of their existence at Cardiff City Stadium, the Blues crowds averaged 10,000-11,000.

Cardiff RFC have continued to play at the city centre Arms Park in the Welsh Premiership since the Blues moved two miles to the edge-of-town development at Leckwith.

Cardiff City moved across the road from Ninian Park to the new stadium and have continued to enjoy solid support at their new home.

Elsewhere in Welsh rugby, Swansea City have stronger match-day backing than their Liberty Stadium co-inhabitors the Ospreys.

The Scarlets have also had difficulty filling Parc y Scarlets since moving there from Stradey Park.

Newport Gwent Dragons have remained at their traditional rugby home of Rodney Parade and have begun to redevelop the site.