Bridgend threat to Arms Park

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

STEVE BALE

Pressure on the Welsh to abandon its historic city-centre home at Cardiff Arms Park intensified yesterday when the new Bridgend unitary authority adopted a scheme to site a new stadium outside the town, 20 miles west of Cardiff.

The move follows the rejection by the Millennium Commission of a WRU application for pounds 50m towards the pounds 100m construction of a new Arms Park for the 1999 World Cup. A proposal for a ground at Bridgend was first put forward by planning consultants last February.

The union is now pondering whether to bring forward a less grandiose scheme for the Arms Park, create a new ground as part of the Cardiff Bay development or move out of the city altogether, an alternative that is looking increasingly attractive.

Bridgend's scheme would provide a 100,000-seater ground with ancillary facilities, akin to those at Twickenham, that the lack of space makes impossible at the Arms Park. An adjacent railway station and car park for 15,000 cars would be included.

"We are proposing to build a stadium for the 21st century, not refurbish something to keep us in the 20th century," Jeff Jones, the council leader, said yesterday, adding that the redevelopment of Cardiff Arms Park was "flawed, ill-considered and designed to bankrupt Welsh rugby".

The leading clubs in England and Wales flexed their muscles with yesterday's announcement that member clubs of the Heineken League's First Division, joined by Wasps and Harlequins, had met with Rick Parry, the chief executive of football's Premier League.

The Welsh clubs now intend presenting their "blueprint for change" to the WRU, with the Parry connection adding to the pressure on the unions to accede to their clubs' insistence on increased power and influence. The Courage Championship's First Division grouping had another meeting yesterday, as did the Rugby Football Union's commission on professionalism.

PILKINGTON CUP Third round: South: Lewes v Camberley; Weston-super-Mare v Henley; London Welsh v Richmond; Exeter v Redruth; Tabard v Lydney; Metropolitan Police v Reading. North: Leeds v Fylde; Bridlington v Winnington Park; Worcester v Liverpool St Helens; Macclesfield v Walsall; Coventry v Stourbridge; Otley v Rugby (Ties to be played 4 November).

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