GlobalWelsh Connect is live Find out more    | Join Connect
Zara May Zara May Share

Business Spotlight: Dragons RFC

19 Feb, 2024

Based at Rodney Parade, Newport, Dragons RFC are one of the four regional rugby teams in Wales who embrace talent and community across all rugby clubs within Monmouthshire, Caerphilly, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Newport.

The Dragons joined GlobalWelsh’s Business membership programme in 2023. We caught up with commercial director, Jonathan Westwood, commercial manager Dan Nicholls and Adam Palfrey, from Orchard Connects, who is working as a sponsorship and business development consultant to the Dragons, to talk about the Dragons rebirth under new ownership and why they’re the team to support…

Can you tell us about the Dragons RFC and your recent “rebirth”?

Jonathan: To give you a bit of history, the Dragons emerged onto the Welsh rugby scene in 2003, as one of the four professional regional teams in Wales. Our inception coincided with the introduction of regional rugby in Wales, a development backed by the support of the WRU. We’re based in Rodney Parade, Newport, and our crest colours reflect our history in the city of Newport. We also work in partnership with Newport County Football Club which has driven more of the community into the stadium especially with games such as the recent Manchester United FA Cup game. The Dragons represent a wide region from Newport to Ebbw Vale and we’re passionate about reaching out to the wider community to garner support for the club.

Dan: Fast forward to today and the club has three new owners; David Wright, David Buttress and Hoyoung Huh, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and investor, and have appointed Graeme Bradbury as Interim CEO. David Buttress actually initially got in touch with us through GlobalWelsh. Being from Cwmbran himself he had a huge affinity to the area and supported Pontypool RFC as a kid. David Wright involvement in the club started when he was with HRA Pharma and their product Compeed became our headline sponsor. Together David and David worked with Graeme to form a consortium and took the club into private ownership in June 2023.

Regional rugby has been turbulent in recent years, however, since going into private ownership we can envision a truly positive change for the future. We’re in a very strong position to grow the brand and we’ve been extremely fortunate to have a mass of home-grown talent joining our first team. While the league is challenging due to the quality of the South African, Irish, Welsh and Scottish teams, we can see real progress. We’ve had amazing support from the community since 2003 and we’re excited to keep engaging with the future generations of Dragons fans!

"Having three world-class businesspeople at the helm completely changes how we view the market and how we can disrupt it. We know that the club needs to be more than just rugby and Newport County."

Why should businesses get involved with the Dragons?

Adam: Having three world-class businesspeople at the helm completely changes how we view the market and how we can disrupt it. We know that the club needs to be more than just rugby and Newport County. 

There are much wider opportunities for Rodney Parade especially when looking at partnerships and sponsorships. Since the new owners have come onboard, brands both inside and outside of Wales are viewing the Dragons in a different light and understand that this is now a business, as well as a rugby club. Orchard (Cardiff-based media and events company) decided to get involved midway through 2023 and since then the club has had some great conversations with brands and individuals who want to get involved. 

There’s been a lot of support from local businesses in the Gwent area and now we’re looking to connect with people overseas which is where the diaspora could make a big difference. We are more than just a club and for many businesses in the area, Rodney Parade becomes their meeting place. We would love to encourage this for other businesses too as the atmosphere is always vibrant.

How important is rugby to the Gwent region?

Jonathan: Culturally, rugby is hugely entrenched in the Gwent region. There are more clubs in Gwent than any other region in Wales, and when looking at land mass, potentially more than in any part of the world. Almost every village and town has a team and through the history of teams like Newport, Pontypool, Newbridge, Cross Keys, Abertillery, Tredegar and Ebbw Vale, who were all key members of the merit table in Gwent, it’s part of the Gwent DNA. Historically, rugby has had a huge impact on the community here in Gwent and having a team with such inspirational players for the next generation to look up to means it will continue to ignite and inspire new players and fans for the future.

"We’re on a brand new journey and confidently building a sustainable and profitable commercial operation here at the club. Whilst we are business, community is the beating heart of the Dragons."

What exciting things are coming up at Dragons RFC?

Dan: From a commercial point of view the Dragons are a great vehicle for opportunities as we’re very up and coming. We have new credible owners and fresh ideas for expanding the club and our offerings to fans and partners. We want people and businesses to get involved now and grow with us. We’re not the finished product yet but if you follow us and some of our upcoming projects you’ll see just how far we’ve come and our level of ambition. 

Adam: We’re on a brand new journey and confidently building a sustainable and profitable commercial operation here at the club. Whilst we are business, community is the beating heart of the Dragons. All of our current profits are being reinvested back into the business to build the community and strong teams which is the foundation for success.

How can the GlobalWelsh community support your ambitions as a club?

Jonathan: There are so many people scattered all over the world who have an affinity for Gwent and through GlobalWelsh we’ve been surprised by how many of those also have a connection to rugby. We’ve met quite a few people through GlobalWelsh and their events that we wouldn’t have met otherwise.  It just goes to show that anyone could be a fan and just because they aren't wearing the jersey doesn’t mean they’re not loyal supporters. 

"The GlobalWelsh Connect platform gives us a massive opportunity to engage with people from different places and backgrounds and invite them to become a part of the Dragons community - or even join us for a game."

How are you engaging with the wider community in Gwent?

Dan: Recently we’ve been doing work with Blaenau Gwent Council and we’ll be appointing five regional officers to look after the region and develop an income stream and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) approach for local businesses. 

We’re also doing a gateway project where some of our community staff are going into local junior schools every fortnight to engage with the students. We’ve gone into around 125 schools now and we’re not slowing down. We also want to highlight that the Dragons are more than just Newport. 

What are you looking to achieve from being a GlobalWelsh business member?

Jonathan: Simply, we’re looking for opportunities to build relationships. For too long we didn’t form strong mutually beneficial relationships and we know this is the way forward. We want to promote what we’re doing, share articles and advertise upcoming events to people who have an innate affinity to our work both at home and away. The GlobalWelsh Connect platform gives us a massive opportunity to engage with people from different places and backgrounds and invite them to become a part of the Dragons community - or even join us for a game. 

Dan: We would also love to become more involved with the entrepreneurial community in Gwent and see how we can all work together to support the region. Entrepreneurs are the economic foundation of the region and come with the best ideas and biggest ambitions. We’d like to start by hosting some business-focused events at Rodney Parade so we can share knowledge and pinpoint exactly what is needed to boost the region. We are excited to work with GlobalWelsh on this. 

Utilising Rodney Parade as a venue and drawing on the expertise and experience of our new owners and the wider GlobalWelsh network to help entrepreneurs and business leaders learn, overcome challenges and grow their businesses is a win-win. The more economically successful the region is, the more that rugby and other sports will benefit!

Where do you see the future of the Dragons?

Adam: We’re looking to continue building relationships with some of the best players that Gwent has produced in decades. We’ve just re-signed a few and we can’t wait to encourage future talent to look at the Dragons as an exciting career opportunity. 

Ultimately, the talent we have currently have chosen to sign with us over bigger clubs because they want to support their local team and give back to the community which is a key value-add. Recently Welsh rugby has been losing a lot of talent to English clubs and clubs abroad. We want to stop this where we can and keep these local players in Wales!

Discover GlobalWelsh Connect

Become part of a growing online network of Welsh people working together for the good of Wales by supporting others, exploring business opportunities and sharing knowledge.

Discover GlobalWelsh Connect

Related Articles

View All
Business Spotlight

Business Spotlight: Wales Perfumery

04 Jul, 2024
Business Spotlight

Business Spotlight: Corryn Biotechnologies

14 May, 2024
Growing wales' largest community, online. 99 Days 99 Hrs 99 Mins 99 Secs Discover GlobalWelsh Connect