Wales

Neath rugby fans: 'Wind up the club so we can rebuild'

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Media captionFans say the situation is heartbreaking

The supporters club of Neath RFC have said they want the club to be wound up so they can take it over.

They said it was "heartbreaking" but they had the "commitment" and "ability" to make it successful again.

A winding-up petition against the club, which trades as Neath Rugby Limited, will be heard at Cardiff Justice Centre on Thursday afternoon.

The club's owner Mike Cuddy, whose construction firm collapsed in July, has been asked to comment.

The "Welsh All Blacks" are one of the oldest rugby clubs in Wales having been formed in 1881. They dominated the amateur game in the late 1980s, but are currently bottom of the Welsh Principality Premiership.

Image caption "This is the first time we actually want the people who are trying to close us down to win," says Dawn Williams

Dawn Williams, the vice-chair of Neath Rugby Supporters Club, said people were "in utter disbelief about what's happening".

"This ground is where my heart is....if you cut me I bleed black," she added.

The club has previously faced financial problems - but Ms Williams said "this is the first time we actually want the people who are trying to close us down to win".

The 48-year-old thanked Mr Cuddy for his help and investment in the club but said it was now the time for him to leave.

Image caption Mr Cuddy blamed his ill health and no one stepping in to help for the demise of the Cuddy Group

When Cuddy Group went into administration in the summer, Mr Cuddy reassured Neath RFC fans and partners that it would not have a negative impact on the fortunes of the club.

Gerald Morris, who runs hospitality at the club, it has been a "very painful" few months for all those involved.

"We have the determination, the commitment and the people with the ability as well as the support in the club...to rebuild for this club to go forward and be successful again in the future", he added.

He said supporters were now working on a "rescue plan" for the club and they had a consortium of investors who would be willing to step in if it is wound up.

'Time for fresh start'

In a statement Neath Port Talbot council, which owns the freehold of the Gnoll ground and is a creditor of the club, has expressed its "serious concern" about its future, and said "it was time for a fresh start".

In a statement issued last week 54-year-old Mr Cuddy said he intended to "rebuild Neath Rugby" in its present company structure but anticipated relegation to a lower division.

Image caption Mike Cuddy says his health remains frail

He added that during his 25 years at the club he had invested over £1m supporting the club.

He said his health remains "extremely frail" but offered to meet a small group of supporters as soon as he was fit enough.

This is not the first time the club has had issues with its finances.

In 2012, it fought off a winding-up order from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over unpaid tax after settling the debt, and in 2014 it faced a winding-up petition over unpaid business rates owed to Neath Port Talbot council.

Three years ago supporters asked the Welsh Rugby Union to intervene in the ownership of the club.

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