Newport RFC were formed in 1874/75 and were one of the eleven founder members of the Welsh Football Union in 1881. The first secretary of the WFU (later to become the WRU) was Mr. Richard Mullock, one of the people responsible for the formation of the Newport club.
Having enjoyed great success throughout the 120 years of the amateur period, Newport RFC suffered greatly when the rugby union game went professional in August 1995. Newport RFC tried to keep its house in order and balance the books, but as it turned out was actually penalised for not spending money it didn’t have and on players they couldn’t afford.
A period of brief success followed in the Tony Brown era between 1999 and 2003, but it was apparent that the number of professional clubs in Wales was unsustainable. At that time there were nine clubs in the Welsh Premiership and the then CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union, David Moffett, proposed a complete overhaul of the Welsh game.
The WRU introduced Regional Rugby in season 2003/04 and eight of the nine clubs became three regions and two standalone professional entities. Newport merged with Ebbw Vale to form Gwent Dragons, later to be renamed Newport Gwent Dragons, but the merger didn’t last very long. Ebbw Vale’s 50% share was taken over by the WRU.
Newport RFC, along with the other famous Welsh clubs, was reduced to a semi-professional level. They did however win the inaugural Welsh Premiership in 2003/04, only losing three games in the process, but since then continued success has been hard to find.
These days there are sixteen clubs in the Premiership playing for the league title and the Welsh Cup. Newport RFC won the Premiership Tier 2 trophy at the end of 2016/17 season.
The Newport Gwent Dragons were put up for sale in March 2016 and were taken over completely by the WRU in July 2017. This occurred after the majority of Newport shareholders voted for the proposed sale of the ground to the WRU in May 2017. Tragically, this meant that, Rodney Parade, Newport RFC’s home of the past 140 years, no longer belonged to the club. Fourteen years of regional rugby had taken this famous old club to the brink and cost them their famous ground.
With the rebranding of the professional team the Newport name was removed from the top level of the game for the first time in its history.
But Newport RFC is a sleeping giant and like a phoenix from the flames it will rise again one day!
John Barrett, Club Historian