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Yakstorm

West Wales throw their hat in the ring

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From the West Wales Facebook page:

West Wales Raiders owner has taken over the running of the bar and restaurant facilities at their Stebonheath Park home to support their aim to become the third Welsh club in the RFL professional ranks.


 
Over the past three years, the Raiders have been making all the right noises to show they are a serious contender to enter the professional ranks of League 1.
 
In a region with very little rugby league exposure compared to other sports they have shown they can manage a club exactly like the other professional clubs in Wales.
 
Not only do they have an under 15, under 17 and two senior teams, but they support, coach and mentor 13 secondary schools, and two universities that are directly linked to the club, and now they have taken the next step in taking over the control and running of Stebonheath Park social club, restaurant and all the bars at the stadium, showing that this team is here to stay.
 
Since the creation of West Wales Raiders they have always had their home ground at Stebonheath Park in Llanelli. Stebonheath Park has primarily been used as a football ground but that changed in 2014 when the Raiders joined the Reds  of Llanelli Town AFC to share this ground as their home. Now they have gone one step further by taking over the bars and restaurants in and around the ground.
 
West Wales Raiders owner Andrew Thorne said: “I’m really pleased to have finally sorted out the details with the council and the other parties and I’m looking forward to working with the Reds and other vested people to take the club and hopefully the stadium to where it needs to be.
 
“Stebonheath Park is a fantastic venue and it is safe to say it is one of the best grass pitches that any Rugby League team will get to play on. The Reds and other football teams have had this privilege for many years.
 
“I’m hoping with some hard work the Social club, restaurant and the other bars around the ground will grow with the sports that play there.
 
“With regards to the Rugby League team, I feel we are more than ready to move to the professional ranks as we are financially stable and have a large and loyal fan base. We have already submitted our expression of interest to the RFL and once the politics of the sport are sorted, hopefully it won’t be long before the RFL takes notice as there are teams all over the UK that want to help develop the sport outside of the so-called heartlands.
 
“It is no secret that I wanted to take over the stadium and it is still my ambition to do that and work with the football to develop a facility where both teams will have all they need to compete at the highest level. I hope the supporters of both sports help support the club so we can help build the club and stadium for the benefit of all who use it.”
 
Chris Thair, chief executive officer of Wales Rugby League said: “This is very encouraging for rugby league in Wales and commitments such as these show how well the sport is developing. Most successful sports clubs have revenue making facilities on site that help support their activities and widen their appeal to the local community. Stebonheath is a quality facility, one we took a televised World Cup qualifying game to last year and I’m delighted for everyone involved in the club and in particular club chairman Andrew Thorne. All our clubs, and indeed ourselves as the National Governing Body, need permanent homes and this is another step forward towards that vision.”

Much like Manchester, I sincerely hope that the Raiders get their chance in the Pro Pyramid.

A third Pro Wales club does wonders for the Dragons player pool and continues to provide more derby opportunities for the Ironmen and Crusaders. 

Ideally the Cardiff Blues and Valley Cougars will join the mix as well (having previously expressed interest).

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Good news.  Steboneath is an excellent little ground with two bars and a café.

My only problem is who the Raiders will play this season with the collapse of the Conference South.

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Good work, the facilities look very impressive. Is that a dreaded running track around the pitch? If so thankfully it looks narrow at least.

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Having met the guys behind the Raiders in CLS games last year, I found them to be ambitious but also level headed, the two don't always go together.  They have a superb set up down there, with scope for improvements as time/money allows. They also appear to have been "based" in the community, both in Llanelli and wider, from the outset which can only help in long term stability.   I wish them all the best, and hope that the demise of the CLS does not hinder their plans at all.

Edited by Styx

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1 hour ago, Swansea Jack said:

Good news.  Steboneath is an excellent little ground with two bars and a café.

My only problem is who the Raiders will play this season with the collapse of the Conference South.

As far as I know, they aren't entering the Welsh league but instead arranging a lot of friendlies, not entirely sure who against. However, this information is a few months old so may no longer be true. 

 

1 hour ago, Yosser said:

Good work, the facilities look very impressive. Is that a dreaded running track around the pitch? If so thankfully it looks narrow at least.

it's a nice stadium, The only problem is the metal bars (to hold advertising hoardings) surrounding the pitch are very close to the ingoal. I've played there a couple times and if it rains you're guaranteed to have someone crash into the metal bar at full speed. I suppose for professional games they would probably pad it though.

My only concern here is where Raiders would get their players from. In fairness they seem pretty good in the last few years in terms of developing their own players, and whenever I have played them they've had some talented kids, but a lot of them couldn't make the step up to League 1. The troubles of South Wales here provide reason for caution with regards to on-the-pitch. 

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Would be great for the Welsh game to have a handful of semi-pro sides. Manchester, West Wales, Scotland?, Cardiff?. The more the merrier!

League 1 must surely split in to conferences soon though?

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Very best of luck to West Wales Raiders.

I visited Stebonheath Park for the Wales v Serbia game and was very impressed with the ground and the facilities. I very much hope we get a 3rd Welsh team in League 1 it can only be a good thing for Welsh Rugby League.

 

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It is fantastic to see that teams want to join the professional rugby league ranks.  If you compare it to 7/8 years ago when I started following the sport and there was Catalan, Crusaders, Gateshead and the two London clubs who were outside the heartlands (plus no doubt many more that I didn't notice back then!!!).  Now we have teams from Coventry, UGAG, Hemel, Oxford, Toronto, Toulouse (again) and with so many more expressing an interest from the USA, Canada, Wales,, Scotland and Manchester.

 

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More positive news a possible south Wales derby,good luck to them,

I would love to see a team based in the city of Swansea.

with Glamorgan ccc playing all there matches in Cardiff and Colwyn Bay now it has left an opening for a summer sport in that area,

they had some good crowds in the past when hosting internationals,a super league team imo would be a success,

 

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Good stuff. Good luck to you all there in Llanelli, I hope it all bears well, You're a credit to the sport

on a cynical note, your quote- 

"hopefully it won’t be long before the RFL takes notice as there are teams all over the UK that want to help develop the sport outside of the so-called heartlands".

I wouldn't hold your breath on that one.

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One of the things that's always been used against us very effectively has been the limited range and width of our appeal. The more clubs we have from outside the trad.heartland the more likely we'll gain a wider audience and that lie will finally be put to bed. Not only that the wider our geographical footprint the more likely we'll attract more and bigger sponsors on board. The more often we look or are made to appear small and limited the less likely new money will be made available. Arguing that new clubs will mean  that old ones will lose out makes good drama and contentious threads but also provide lots of laughter for our competitors in the market place.

I feel the excitement.
I have hope in February, and I might share in the glory of September.
Blow that whistle, ref.
:D

Edited by Oxford
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Been to Stebonheath a few times.  My memory is that it's pretty straightforward to get to and a decent place to watch sport.  As others have said it might be a bit tight for rugby (I've only seen soccer there).

Good on the Raiders for having control of it though - nice to see a club with a permanent base.

I guess that as well as having players commit to league through their own structures having the Neath/Swansea-Carmarthen union clubs on your doorstep must be good for recruitment as well?

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If the league goes to 18, why don't they go with a "Super 6s" and have two leagues of 9 that split into three 6s? 16 regular games followed by 5 super games. That's about how many they want at that level isn't it?

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