After a tough opening year in the top flight, it’s unfortunate for the newly re-branded Crusaders that confusion still remains over their exact location in 2010.
While the idea of developing a franchise for the whole of Wales to enjoy is a good one, the logistics of such a venture take some working out. How can the club hope to sell season tickets, when there is no commitment to the location of the majority of the games people are forking out for? The future for them might be a half-and-half season ticket, where you can commit to the games in south Wales only, or likewise for games in north Wales only.
Since the excellent appointment of Brian Noble and his coaching team of European Cup winning boss Iestyn Harris and Jon Sharp, there haven’t been many noises coming out of the currently Newport-based club.
However, last week it was revealed that main benefactor Leighton Samuel is unhappy at the way the club have upped-sticks from their traditional home of Bridgend, the base of his business and of course the location of his failed rugby union franchise, and is considering a reduction in his investment, or even the withdrawal of it entirely.
That would leave the Crusaders with a massive problem in the build up to 2010, with little self-sustainability apparent. One possibility for them is to move their whole operation to Wrexham.
There are plenty of positives for a Wrexham move. It’s much nearer to the heartlands, and thus would help increase away followings to Crusaders games in 2010. Also, it’s likely that there are more established rugby league fans living in or around north Wales that Crusaders can aim to attract. It’s a more feasible method of expansion. Why have we skipped to London and ignored the Midlands? Surely expansion should be done on a gradual basis, so it makes sense to tackle North Wales, before we move on to South Wales.
The respective football teams of Chester and Wrexham are struggling, so a professional rugby league side in the region could well become a sporting attraction for those frustrated with the round-ball game. Wrexham FC’s owner Geoff Moss is already keen to bring Super League matches to the Racecourse Ground.
However, Celtic Crusaders were granted a Super League licence in 2008 on the basis of a business plan which has already significantly changed. Plans for a new ground are apparently now dead in the water, the location of the club has changed, it’s name has changed, it’s coach has changed and the playing squad will be virtually unrecognisable next season from 2009. So much for the stability a three year licence brings.
Is it fair on the failed applicants that the Crusaders can choose to move wherever they like, and start afresh?
Perhaps, in hindsight, the south Wales expansion was too ambitious. Perhaps the answer was closer to home. Wrexham could well stretch the boundaries of rugby league far more effectively than going further afield.
Either way, a decision has to be made over the future of the flailing Welsh franchise, before their licence opportunity comes to a close and their Super League dream becomes a nightmare to forget.