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.
To harness enough public and political support to influence the
Millennium Commission to part finance the project.
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
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.
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.
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