Swansea & Cardiff football success hurts Welsh rugby regions - Cuddy

Mike Cuddy

Former Ospreys managing director Mike Cuddy believes the success of Swansea City and Cardiff City football clubs is hurting Wales' rugby regions.

The businessman says Swansea's Premier League and League Cup progress and Cardiff's Championship promotion push are "great for south Wales".

But he fears Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets are suffering as a result.

"It's not helping the situation for rugby," said Cuddy.

Championship leaders Cardiff top the average attendances for Welsh teams with 22,041 in 14 home games at Cardiff City Stadium, where the capacity is 26,828.

Meanwhile, the Swans have impressed in their second Premier League season, playing in front of an average attendance of 19,136 in 12 league matches, an FA Cup game and three League Cup clashes at their 20,520 capacity Liberty Stadium.

At the same time, the Welsh regions have largely struggled to attract crowds approaching capacity at their home venues, exacerbating their financial worries.

The Ospreys, who share the Liberty Stadium with Swansea City have the highest average attendance among Wales' regions with 9,590 from 12 games this term.

The Dragons are bottom of the Welsh sporting table with an average of 5,124 in 10 home games.

Cardiff Blues' 11 home fixtures have attracted an average attendance of 8,108.

And the Scarlets lie third of the rugby regions with 8,009 paying customers averaged over nine matches at Parc y Scarlets.

Cuddy, , but who was speaking to BBC Wales in a personal capacity, added: "It's great to see Swansea City and Cardiff City doing very well.

"But people seem to have their eye now on watching [Manchester United striker] Wayne Rooney and talking football rather than talking rugby.

"It'll certainly make it harder... to try and entice kids from taking up rugby... it will certainly make things more difficult.

"That's where the hard work comes in. I suppose we'll have to wait and see [what the long-term effect is on rugby].

"But it's great for the area, great for south Wales, great for Cardiff and great for Swansea and we just have to hope that that continues for the sake of Wales, really."

Cuddy contends that Ospreys are attracting "half-decent" crowds at the home they share with the Swans, saying: "There's still huge interest there and long may that continue."

However, the Welsh regions have seen a host of star players leave in recent seasons, particularly to French clubs.

That exodus has included former Ospreys James Hook (Perpignan), Lee Byrne (Clermont Auvergne) and Mike Phillips (Bayonne).

The Dragons have lost Luke Charteris to Perpignan and Aled Brew to Biarritz, while the Blues saw Gethin Jenkins go to Toulon.

And Cardiff Blues' Wales centre and Dragon's Wales flanker Dan Lydiate already seem destined to join French teams ahead of the 2013-14 season.

Cuddy, that began with their formation 2003, says he predicted three seasons ago an even bigger exodus could take place.

At the time, as financial problems began to deepen, he suggested that Wales could take to the pitch at Test level with hardly a home-based player in the line-up.

The regions' financial troubles were outlined in a that led to the formation of involving the regions and Welsh Rugby Union.

And while Cuddy believes that despite none of the regions reaching this season's Heineken Cup quarter-finals, they are "getting better", but fears a continued drain of players to France can only harm the Welsh teams' prospects.

He added: "They are getting stronger, but unfortunately French rugby in particular, with the wage demands [they are generating], is making it increasingly more difficult.

"There's an awful lot of our very best players gone and it's looking like that many more are on their way, so obviously it's a worry."

Sport Wales: The TV Programme looks at the contrasting fortunes of rugby and football on BBC Two Wales from 19:00 GMT on Friday, 25 January.


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