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Last Updated: Monday, 18 August, 2003, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Neath bought back from WRU
Brett Sinkinson
The club will trade under the name Neath Rugby Ltd
A consortium of local businessmen has bought Neath RFC from the Welsh Rugby Union-fronted Gower Park Ltd.

The takeover group is led by new chairman and chief executive Geraint Hawkes, a lifelong supporter of the club, which will now trade under the company name of Neath Rugby Ltd.

Gower Park was set up by the Union to save Neath from entering liquidation soon after the game turned professional.

There has been controversy with the recent move to regional rugby, though, with players like Andy Moore and Brett Sinkinson on long-term deals at Neath not being offered contracts with the Neath-Swansea Ospreys.

They have talked of legal action to enforce their contracts, but with the disbandonment of Gower Park it is unclear who holds the responsibility for the old Neath RFC contracts and whether all of the company's debts have been transferred.

It is an exciting prospect to think of what will be achieved now the shackles are off
New Neath chairman Geraint Hawkes
Hawkes, 36, is chief executive of RKL Plywood, a sponsor of Neath over the past few seasons.

He will oversee the day-to-day operations at the club together with general manager Richard Austin.

"We have a lot of work to do in a very short time as the season is nearly upon us," said Hawkes.

"But there is a dedicated group of volunteers in place who I am sure will continue to be actively involved in administering the club.

"I plan to turn back the clock and get Neath RFC doing what it has always done best, developing rugby players from the grass roots upwards.

"We intend to take the club back to the local people, making the clubhouse a focal point for the community, running age group rugby teams, and community development programmes.

"We will be the proud host of regional rugby for many years to come, and the ground will be further developed to ensure it provides a suitable home for these matches.

"Neath RFC has had a fantastic level of success over recent seasons, effectively with one hand tied behind its back through the severe constraints placed on it by the WRU.

"It is an exciting prospect to think of what will be achieved now the shackles are off.

"We have already assembled a strong playing squad, with an excellent coaching staff, and we need the local people to continue to be behind us."

  • Neath RFC will play their first friendly of the season at the Gnoll against Bonymaen on Tuesday night (19 August, 1900 BST).

    The club have decided to offer their supporters free entrance to the game.

  • Back-row forward Hywel Jenkins has been released from the Neath-Swansea Ospreys squad for disciplinary reasons.

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