‘Terrible’ TV programme sparked £4million investment in Welsh rugby club


As he surveys the reworked environment at The Wern, Sir Stan Thomas’ ideas return to the place all of it started.

“About six years in the past, there was a TV programme about Merthyr referred to as Skint ,” he explains.

“It actually, actually upset me as a result of what it portrayed was a few dozen individuals who have been drinkers and taking medication.

“It wasn’t widespread. It wasn’t proper by the entire neighborhood, removed from it.

“It was one little patch of Merthyr, however right here we have been being referred to as one of many worst cities in the entire of the UK.

“I assumed, ‘properly, let’s try to show them unsuitable’.

“It was a query of how can I assist. I assumed the most effective factor for me to do was take a look at the alternatives by sport and see if I can encourage younger youngsters to come back and take part.

“It didn’t matter which sport, however I might decide on rugby as a result of I’m an ex-Merthyr rugby participant and begin there.”

That plan culminated in what we see immediately, with the membership’s residence at The Wern having modified out of all recognition, with a powerful new clubhouse and gymnasium to go together with the substitute pitch.

It’s an bold challenge which is the most recent instance of the monetary backing the multi-millionaire Thomas has pumped into the membership.

“Up till about 2007, our clubhouse was up on the floor on the other aspect of the highway,” he recollects.

“After I was residing in Jersey, I used to be approached by the committee who mentioned they needed to vacate the premises as a result of it was owned by the council they usually needed to construct homes there. They requested if I might purchase one other constructing for them.

“So I purchased the outdated RAFA membership for them in 2008. That was aright, that constructing, nevertheless it wasn’t match for goal and we all the time needed to return to The Wern.

“So I made a decision to take a position up right here and develop what we’ve finished.”

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Thomas has additionally invested closely within the on-field operation over the previous couple of years, serving to safe three Premiership titles and the Welsh Cup.

So, is he prepared to say simply how a lot cash he has put into the membership in complete?

“I feel if I advised you, my spouse would go up the wall!” he replies.

“It’s huge cash, greater than £4million.”

Any regrets about that?

“None in any respect. Removed from it,” he insists.

“We had a variety of success due to what I invested in and it’s inspired kids to come back up right here and take part.

“The place we used to have 30 or 40 kids taking part in, now we’ve received over 200.

“That’s occurred over a interval of 4 to 5 years.

“By having the amenities we’ve received right here, we’re bringing all these kids up.

“You’ve got tons of of them coaching and operating about and getting some train.

“I simply need to see the city again to a scenario which I noticed within the Fifties and ’60s the place everyone appeared to be match and powerful.

“Individuals couldn’t spell ‘cocaine’ again then. They thought that was only for having your tooth out.

“There was no such factor as medication in Merthyr in my day.

“I need to try to put that horrible TV programme behind us, so we’ll see Merthyr in a unique mild altogether.

“That’s what it’s all about for me, attempting to do one thing for my hometown.

“I’m one one that has finished one thing for my neighborhood and I might like to see different rich people doing the identical for his or her cities.”

Sir Stan Thomas (proper), with (left to second proper) Merthyr RFC chairman Justin Griffiths, WRU chairman Rob Butcher and WRU chief govt Steve Phillips on the balcony of the brand new clubhouse at The Wern

Reflecting on the brand new amenities at The Wern, he mentioned: “It’s vital to notice it’s now referred to as Merthyr Rugby and Neighborhood Membership, not simply Merthyr Rugby Membership.

“Now we have received 1,400 folks residing in Ynysfach, which is the realm, and they have one store up there.

“I went as much as the bottom final Saturday, the primary day of opening since lockdown, and there have been various folks there who I hadn’t seen earlier than.

“They mentioned ‘we dwell regionally and we will’t consider what we’ve received right here now, we’ll turn into members instantly’.

“We’re getting folks which are excited by Merthyr RFC and the amenities we’ve received right here, with the brand new clubhouse and the fantastic, fully-equipped gymnasium.

“We even have plans for a second pitch which we hope to develop earlier than the top of this coming season for a second workforce and a girls’s workforce.”

Thomas – the brother of Cardiff Blues president Peter – additionally has huge ambitions for the Premiership.

He feels the 12-team semi-professional league wants enhanced assets to allow it to play a key position within the Welsh recreation.

Funding from the WRU might be right down to £50,000 per membership from subsequent season and Thomas believes that’s method brief of what’s required.

“The A licence, which requires us to fulfill sure standards, is costing us £130,000 a yr,” he mentioned.

“We are able to’t afford it. The 12 golf equipment within the Premiership ought to have a minimal of £300,000 every.

“We’re solely getting £50,000 subsequent season, that’s £600,000 in complete. We’d like £3.5m.

“Let’s not less than have the A licence paid for. That will value 12 occasions £130,000, which is £1.56m.

“Just a few years in the past, we have been getting round that. There have been 16 golf equipment getting £96,000 every.

“I don’t really feel we’ll get the most effective out of the Premiership if we aren’t in a position to give the gamers the suitable teaching and medical assist.

“If the golf equipment haven’t received the cash for the A licence, they will minimize the cash to the gamers they usually received’t play.

“Boys which were having £15,000 a yr aren’t going to play for £4,000.

“It’ll destroy the Premiership and if there is no such thing as a Premiership, there is no such thing as a pathway to the areas.

“To my thoughts, it was a silly transfer dropping our cash and placing the Championship up from £8,000 to £16,000, when they’re novice sides.

“There was a acutely aware effort by the earlier administration to downgrade the Premiership. There isn’t any doubt about that.

Sir Stan Thomas in entrance of the bar inside one of many rooms within the new Merthyr RFC clubhouse

“If the WRU paid the A licence cash, the golf equipment can be united and grateful and provides nice assist to the Union.

“I’ve spoken to Rob Butcher [chairman] and Steve Phillips [chief executive] on the WRU they usually have been listening. They have been very supportive.”

Thomas believes the Premiership must be the stepping stone to the skilled recreation in Wales, quite than the regional A groups which have performed within the Celtic Cup.

“I don’t get the sense of the A groups,” he mentioned. “They play half a dozen video games after which what do they do?

“These Academy gamers are averaging about eight video games a season. They need to be taking part in common rugby within the Premiership to provide them game-time.

“That is what the boys need. They need to play rugby, they don’t simply need to be coaching and sitting watching a recreation of rugby. That’s no good to them.

“If I had my method, I wouldn’t have Academies. I might have all of them taking part in within the Premiership.

“For those who take a look at somebody like Wyn Jones. He has come by from Llandovery and now he’s a British Lion.

“You possibly can identify no finish of gamers who’ve come by the system of taking part in for a membership and getting higher after which as much as the following league. That’s the best way they arrive by. They don’t simply soar right into a area.”

WRU chief govt Steve Phillips was on the official launch of the brand new amenities at The Wern and gave his ideas.

“Hats off to Stan. It’s outstanding what he has finished.

“Truthful play, when it comes to a give-back to the neighborhood, it doesn’t get any higher than this, does it? It’s distinctive.”


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