It's time to move on, says Cornish Pirates owner Dicky Evans
Cornish Pirates owner Dicky Evans has confirmed his intention to relinquish control of the club this season.
Evans led the Championship side up through the leagues from the onset of the professional era in rugby union.
His ultimate ambition of taking Pirates to the Premiership has been hindered by the lack of a stadium capable of meeting stated criteria for the top-flight game.
The proposed Stadium for Cornwall’s prospects were boosted this week when Truro City Council’s request for a judicial review into development work connected to the project was thrown out by the High Court.
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Evans is putting plans in place to ensure the club remains in a strong position for promotion when the stadium is due for completion in 2016-17.
He said: “I’m 68 in a month’s time and I have been doing this exactly 20 years this season and it is time to move on. In terms of the future of the Pirates, I’m very keen that the club is handed over clear and free of any debt to a group of like-minded people.
“I have spoken to my lawyers. Cornish Pirates is owned by the family trust, but I have three kids and I have to look after them, I can’t keep putting this sort of money into the Pirates.
“We will set up a transition period now so that next year the Pirates will be owned by Penzance and Newlyn Rugby Limited. That will be a private company owned by like-minded people with little blocks of shares.
“They will have their own board. I will put in about £400,000 with a couple of people, and that will be sponsorship, and I will continue that on a two-year rolling basis.
“I will convert all my loans to equity and sell the club for £1 to about a hundred people who will put in up to £5,000 each, which will go into sponsorship each year.
“We’ve got £350,000 from the Rugby Football Union and a bit of Sky television money, that’s £750,000. Then we’ve got £250,000 in gate money. Altogether, it will about £1.3 million or £1.4 million, which is good money for this level of rugby.
“I can’t keep selling shares and everything else to keep the club going. I think it is time we looked to get to Truro and give it one more crack before I drop dead. I’ve got another good ten years in me, hopefully, and I’m not a quitter.”
Evans’ unwillingness to concede defeat is evident in the plans he has devised. With the financial side of the operation clearly defined, he wants to secure the futures of the playing staff and coaches as well build stronger links with other local clubs.
He said: “By Christmas, I’m hoping to have signed on about 20 players for the next two years – not the next one year – and then we’ll keep the old hands like Gavin Cattle, Alan Paver, Chris Morgan and Laurie McGlone as well. I’m hoping they will move on to help coach other sides around us as well.
“We want to do a bit of an Ulster with the local clubs, so by the time we get the stadium built, everybody is backing the Cornish Pirates and everything associated with it.
“I’m looking for a long-term relationship with people like Paver and Cattle, I met them this week, to try to secure the future of the Pirates.
“If we can keep this team together, we have got a damn good squad and a couple of good coaches. Although, they might have to take a bit of a pay cut, if they want to sign a three-year contract with us along with Paver, Cattle and company.
“Paver is Cornish through and through, even with his car bumper stickers, and Gavin is a lovely boy.
“What I’d like to see them doing is getting their level four coaching badges and then coaching people like Redruth – we’ll pay for them.
“We’ve moved Kyle Marriott into marketing. He is a bright kid but he has a very bad injury and we don’t know how long he is going to be out. We’ve briefed him and he will take over the marketing, getting players sponsored. We have a lot of doors left open with that.
“We want to promote from within and try to carry on where we left off with [former CEO] Josh Lewsey. He was driving us forward like the pied piper and brought Cornwall together. We have to make sure his legacy isn’t lost.”
One part of Lewsey’s legacy, Friday night home games under lights, will not continue. Evans’ frustration at having to move Pirates’ home fixtures back to Sunday afternoons was palpable.
He said: “The atmosphere for the game against Ulster was fantastic, it was a great game of rugby but there were 1,326 people here. Where is everybody? I just don’t understand it.
“I’ve never seen rugby in Cornwall like this, ever, in all my life. That game in the British and Irish Cup was as good as the Premiership was four years ago. Ulster are a good side and we played some superb rugby – where are all the people?”
Evans said that moving to a more central location within the county was crucial.
“We’ve got to be in Truro, that would be the ultimate move and I think we can do really well with sponsorship and everything else there,” he said.
“Our sponsors here are terrific. A little club like this raises £250,000 a year from the local community but we have to be realistic, Truro is the place to be. We could have gone to Plymouth but that would be anathema to anyone who is Cornish.
“We have got a terrific community guy in James Coles, who is looking good and we are doing some really good stuff with the kids in the holidays.
“We want to keep Cornish Pirates firmly in everyone’s view until we get this stadium and we can move on, get some good companies involved to help.”