October was a landmark in the history of Newport Athletic Club with its incorporation as a limited company to better able compete in the professional era and it ceasing to be a members' club. It also marked a much more professional attempt to market not just Newport rugby team but also its assets such as the clubhouse in order to generate additional revenue. A prime motivation for such moves was the ongoing debate in Wales regarding how many professional clubs were needed, and which of them should be offerred preferrment by the WRU were a new cross border professional league to be established.
The following article is typical of the ongoing debate and was published in the match programme for Newport v Romania in January 1999:-
"The Debate goes on! But who decides?"
"By Tony Brown Chief Executive"
"Last December, the eight Premier Division Clubs were invited by the W.R.U. to submit their individual answers to ten core (meaning essential) and desirable criteria in order to be considered for future advancement by the W.R.U. into an Anglo-Welsh League."
"Newport met all the core requirements and the only area in which the Club did not fully qualify was in regard to rugby results over the past 3-5 years, although this was not required as essential. In any event, Newport considered that its recent poor performance to a great extent was a consequence of financial disciplines to keep the Club solvent."
"One would have hoped that the Clubs concerned, having completed their presentation, would have left the decision to the W.R.U, although there does seem to have been an orchestrated campaign by some Clubs through various newspaper columns to advance their cause, particularly with regard to rugby in Gwent by Ebbw Vale."
"Obviously Ebbw Vale are of the opinion that their claim for so-called "super club" status will be considerably enhanced by their issuing a stream of press releases stating that they are the obvious Club in Gwent for preferment by the WRU."
"It is time for Newport to respond - indeed, our supporters would expect no less from the Club. It seems, reliably, that the Ebbw Vale presentation to the WRU made several claims as to their future intentions and, from Newport's perspective, it would be useful to examine these."
"1 .Ebbw Vale intend to develop Eugene Cross Park, which is owned by the local Council, into a 9,500 capacity stadium. Newport, which owns their own ground, already has a stadium licensed to hold 14,500."
"2.Ebbw Vale intend to build a second storey to their Clubhouse to contain hospitality facilities. Newport had a similar facility in place at the turn of the century."
"3.Ebbw Vale intend to upgrade their floodlights to international standards. Newport have had these in place for many years."
"4.Ebbw Vale intend to appoint a union approved Director of Rugby. Newport already has Allan Lewis, who must be one of the most respected coaches in Welsh rugby to-day."
"5.Ebbw Vale intend to develop a youth strategy. Newport already have one, with an under nineteen side that were last seasons Welsh champions and unofficial British champions, having defeated Leicester at Moseley earlier in the year. Two of the current Welsh squad, Chris Wyatt and Ian Gough, have progressed through Newport Youth. Presently, it is estimated that no less than sixty-eight players in the three senior Welsh Leagues are the product of Newport Youth."
"6.Ebbw Vale claim to be financially viable. If this is the case, one could logically ask why they suddenly found a financial black hole some weeks ago which compelled the Club to put their best players up for sale. Newport had a surplus of assets over liabilities of almost 1 million pounds when the Club was incorporated in August last year."
"One could go on. For instance, what is the point of spending enormous sums of money developing Eugene Cross Park when apparently 40% of their games will be played in Cwmbran? How many Ebbw Vale supporters would be prepared to support the Club when a round trip of some 50 miles is involved? In fact, why not travel the extra five miles and play at Newport where all the facilities Ebbw Vale still have to build are already in place?"
"There are other areas which require addressing. Again, it is a core criteria laid down by the W.R.U. that a Club must be a focus for a community of reasonable size e.g. a minimum 10 minute drive/travel time for a population of 40-50,000. Ebbw Vale had a population of only 24,000 at the last census whilst that of the Newport County Borough totalled 137,000 and is the third largest town in Wales. Ebbw Vale has an inadequate road link and no railway station."
"Newport is situated at the gateway to Wales, off the M4 corridor and only 12 miles from the Severn Bridge. It is one of the few rugby grounds to be situated in its town centre, some ten minutes walk from Newport station, which is one hour forty minutes from London Paddington on the Great Western."
"The Ebbw Vale Chief Executive, Ray Harris, is quoted as saying "Everybody says ignore history, but you can't ignore it". So let's not ignore it. Newport has a history and tradition which ranks it amongst the world's great rugby clubs, substantially more so than that of Ebbw Vale."
"Ebbw Vale may, on the surface, have made a more impressive submission to the W.R.U. than did Newport, but, in the event, no amount of flashing lights and glitzy presentational flummery can disguise the fact that there can logically be only one Club in Gwent to represent the area. Ebbw Vale may decide to call themselves Gwent Steelers or Gwent Vikings or even Gwent Broncos, but they cannot, in the final analysis, claim to meet adequately the criteria laid down by the W.R.U."
"Ebbw Vale do not meet them but Newport do - fully."
"Whether the W.R.U. take these matters into account during their deliberations is another matter. If there is any justice then there can sensibly be only one Club that can properly represent the rugby interests of Gwent - Newport."