CAMPAIGNS: LOBBYING; Welsh Rugby wins cash scrum

Client: Welsh Rugby Union/South Glamorgan County Council PR Team: Lowe Bell Good Relations/Westminster Communications Campaign: Milennium Stadium at Cardiff Arms Park Timescale: June 1995 - February 1996 Cost: Lowe Bell Good Relations pounds 25,000, Westminster Communications (est) pounds 25,000

Client: Welsh Rugby Union/South Glamorgan County Council

PR Team: Lowe Bell Good Relations/Westminster Communications

Campaign: Milennium Stadium at Cardiff Arms Park

Timescale: June 1995 - February 1996

Cost: Lowe Bell Good Relations pounds 25,000, Westminster Communications

(est) pounds 25,000



Despite rugby being the Welsh national sport, its national team has been

in the doldrums for some time, failing to emulate the success of the

teams of the 1970s.



Last summer, with lottery cash up for grabs, the Welsh Rugby Union

joined South Glamorgan County Council to approach the Milennium

Commission for funding.



The proposal was to build a new national stadium at Cardiff Arms Park in

time for 1999, when Wales hosts the Rugby World Cup.



The first bid in August 1995 was rejected partly because it had involved

moving neighbouring club Cardiff Athletic down to Cardiff Bay, which the

Commission was unwilling to fund.



A revised bid, using the existing stadium ‘footprint’, was prepared for

presentation to the Commission on 15 November 1995. To meet the

decision deadline, the plans had to be unveiled to the public at the

worst possible time - two days after the national side’s early

elimination from the 1995 World Cup.



Objective



To harness enough public and political support to influence the

Millennium Commission to part finance the project.



Tactics



As in the first bid, the Cardiff office of Lowe Bell Good Relations

handled the communication of the idea in Wales, concentrating primarily

on media relations. This time around lobbying firm Westminster

Communications was also brought in to provide strategic advice and help

with the presentation of the bid.



Lowe Bell positioned the campaign as a fresh start and the hope for the

future of Welsh rugby. Noreen Bray, managing director of Lowe Bell

Wales, says although the disaster on the playing field couldn’t be

avoided, its strategy ensured the announcement would be universally

welcomed. The agency also set out to highlight the economic, cultural

and social regeneration opportunities that the project presented for

Wales.



It used a broad range of print and broadcast media to convey the

excitement and potential of the stadium - supplemented with posters,

leaflets and exhibitions, under the slogan ‘Make it Happen’.



A ‘cascade’ programme of briefings included presentations to rugby clubs

and other relevant organisations, telling them how to drum up support

through public consultations.



Meanwhile Westminister organised an exhibition at the 1995 Tory Party

conference to raise the bid’s profile.



In the closing stages the bid team commissioned a MORI poll which showed

seven out of ten Welsh people supported the stadium in preference to a

Cardiff Bay Opera House.



Results



In a period of just six weeks leading up to the bid, the campaign

enlisted support from an estimated 130,000 people both directly and

through key organisations and companies.



On 23 February 1996 the Commission agreed to meet half the stadium’s

pounds 92 million rebuilding costs.



Verdict



The team won the bid despite reports of tense relationships between the

WRU and the council, with the council keen to loosen the grip of the

rugby authority over what would be a prime asset. Lowe Bell Good

Relations achieved a broad spectrum of support and public excitement.



Through its experience of similar bids Westminster was able to provide a

critical overview in preparing the case and help to smooth out internal

politics. An effective combined effort and, a year on from the zenith of

the campaign, the cranes are now poised to begin work on Welsh rugby’s

future.



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