ONE of Wales’ most famous rugby clubs has been saved after a fan pumped more than £100,000 of his own money into the club to stop it being wound up.
Pontypool RFC diced with death as recently as last week as a result of costs incurred in their longrunning legal battle with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) over the club’s relegation from the Premiership.
“It was on the brink last week,” entrepreneur Peter Jeffreys, 53, who ploughed in vast sums of his own money to help the club said.
“Everybody thought just because we’d found the money to pay the WRU and that the club were playing that everything was OK but it wasn’t.
“We’d found the money for that but there was no more money in the club. No money to pay our own solicitors in the case, no money to pay the players, we would have paid the WRU but been finished.”
The club agreed with the WRU to pay £160,000 towards the Union’s costs fromthe High Court case, with £40,000 of this coming from Pontypool’s two relegation parachute payments which they will now no longer receive.
Another £35,000 came from the five current club directors, including legendary former front row favourite Graham Price, as well as former owners Frank and Meryl Stanton, while the remaining £85,000 came from the Pooler supporters’ fighting fund.
But that left the club still with an outstanding bill for their own solicitors and with no more money in the club to pay players and run it day to day.
That was until Mr Jeffreys, a former hospital nurse and self-made millionaire and owner of medical services provider Medinet stepped in.
Mr Jeffreys, originally from Cwmbran but now living in Newport, agreed to pay the players and coaches for the remainder of this season out of his own pocket, and also put forward £60,000 towards paying the solicitors, in addition to £22,500 he gave originally to the fighting fund.
Club director Dai Watt, from Cwmbran, then also put an additional £15,000 in to settle with the solicitors.
“I did it because I didn’t want to see the club go,” said Mr Jeffreys.
“It’s a great community up there at the club and some people who might have wanted to save it didn’t perhaps have the financial means to do so.
“I could have gone and sponsored the Dragons for what I’ve put in and I’m certainly not in it to get my money out again.
“I’m more involved now than I ever really wanted to be to be honest but I love the club, my dad brought me here, my sons come here, it means a lot to me.”
The club now wants to get a corporate structure in place so it can generate its own revenue streams, and hopes to renovate the hospitality area under the main stand to attract investment.
“The club is guaranteed to be here now next season and we want people to come and get involved, be it players, supporters or sponsors, there’s a clean slate,” said Mr Watt.
While the WRU said it couldn’t comment on individual figures they confirmed an agreement had been reached with the club.
Fresh start – and return to top flight is aim
PETER Jeffreys said the club had plans to start afresh in the summer.
“We were going to redo the hospitality area under the main stand this season, but as it is now, we’ll leave it until the summer and do it up appropriately.
“Without meaning to sound patronising, we need to bring more of a corporate structure to the culture of the club to help complement the rugby, because it couldn’t carry on being run like it was.
“I want to get more businesses involved.
“I want us to develop even better links in the community and obviously, to try and just get the club being run well so we don’t have to face this kind of situation again, because I’ve said I won’t be here to bail it out twice.”
Club director Dai Watt said: “We’ve got a new deal with Rugby Heaven which we had put on hold when the club was in trouble, so they will nowbe selling club shirts in their stores.
“Hopefully, we can build the club up, so we can make sure the club is ready when we hopefully make it back to the Premiership, which is where we all want to be.
“It is a two-year plan, but the club has a fresh start now.”
‘I want to buy this guy a pint’ - Pontypool legend, Bobby Windsor
POOLER legend, Bobby Windsor, pictured, hailed the news as “tremendous.”
“I’m back over Christmas and I was dreading it, because I thought there wasn’t going to be a club to watch, so this is tremendous news.
“I want to buy this guy who’s helped save the club a pint. It’s fantastic what they’ve all done and any help I can give them, I will.
“Hopefully, the club can go from strength to strength now, perhaps follow an example of someone like Bridgend, who have gone down and now got back up again.
“I’m looking forward to getting back for Christmas now.”