Under a previous chairman, or two, Cov appeared to experiment with ways of ‘improving’ the match day experience. There were fireworks, of a sort, as the players ran out, which always amused me because although the ‘explosions’ were ear-splittingly loud, because Cov played in mid-afternoon and therefore in broad daylight, the visual impact was pretty negligible. And, if it was designed to unnerve the opposition, then it didn’t have any effect there either, given that we seemed to lose far more games at home than was acceptable.
The other, and even more bizarre, entertainment that was proffered to the crowds around that time was the introduction of cheerleaders. There were a number of problems associated with this, the most relevant being that the vast majority of spectators just weren’t interested. Young girls, of various shapes and sizes, parading a variety of what appeared poorly rehearsed routines in front of what was then, and still is to some extent, a mainly male and ageing audience, was never going to work.
20 minutes before kick off the speakers would blare out Toni Basil’s ‘Hey Mickey’ (never really a great favourite of mine) and out would step fairly scantily clad young ladies, complete with pompoms, displaying various degrees of natural ability. It was always a challenge to see who would be first to spot the Corporal Jones impression at the end. All talk had to stop as the music was so loud, those with hearing aids suffered fits and many of us didn’t want to stare in case we were seen as being unhealthily interested. And to exacerbate the situation, the whole scenario was repeated again at half time.
I know it was an opportunity for the cheerleaders to practice in front of an audience, and I’m sure they must have got quite nervous about performing, but it never was going to be a hit with the typical Cov fan.
I’m clearly at risk here of all sorts of ‘isms’, but it was clearly the wrong place at the wrong time. I apologise should any parent of said cheerleaders be reading this, but it needs saying in case those in the know should ever decide to repeat it. Please, never again.
All-in-all, it was a disaster and after a few attempts, and with clearly little support amongst the crowd, the idea was shelved. It might work well in America, or even in some of the sports’ arenas over here, but it certainly wasn’t, and still isn’t, the right way to go for us. And it was a shame for the girls involved and for the adults who worked with them as they must have spent a lot of time choreographing the dances; it just wasn’t appreciated.
What I suppose I’m trying to get at, in a roundabout way, is that I think Jon Sharp is going about improving things off the pitch in exactly the right way. Marquees/beer tents (not marquis as I inadvertently wrote previously!) and better catering facilities will impact on the enjoyment of supporters far more than fireworks or cheerleaders ever would. Short queues and good food and drink will entice the casual rugby spectator back, not rockets and razzmatazz.
It is so important that we encourage families to attend; young children should be made to feel really welcome as well but there are better ways of achieving this. Give the little ones a free flag in Cov colours to wave about. Or a piece of card with ‘TRY’ emblazoned on one side and ‘PENALTY’ on the other. Such relatively simple and inexpensive additions should ensure more involvement and interest in the game itself, particularly if Uncles Aggy or Phil rehearsed this with the crowd just before kick off!