Proposed plans for the Butts, where are they now, recruitment and the elephant in the room…

So now we know a few more details about Jon Sharp’s proposed development of the Butts Park Arena.

On RucknMaul yesterday and also in a feature in yesterday’s edition of the Coventry Telegraph, the Coventry Chairman expanded on previous comments about acquiring the leasehold to the ground from Chris Millerchip, a former Coventry player of the early 80’s, born and bred in Coventry and a previous benefactor to the tune of at least £50000, according to his Coventry Rugby Club business profile on

Given Millerchip’s connections to the club, it would seem likely that Jon Sharp’s intention of:

acquiring, personally, the whole of the land from the railway line down to The Butts Road and from side to side. Not just the area where the pitch and stand is.

is likely to happen and indeed the paperwork is ‘ready to go’.

He also appeared to end any further speculation that Coventry RFC were entertaining the idea of a ground share with Coventry City, although at the same time accepting that it had been looked into but that there were just too many restrictions.

I presume that also rules out something similar with Coventry United, although this wasn’t addressed.

It would seem that Jon Sharp is looking to steer away from developing additional sporting opportunities, preferring instead to develop entertainment and conference opportunities through improving the non-rugby facilities and increasing the amount of corporate hospitality capacity (I’m sure I’m not the only one whose eyes start to glaze over at this point?).

All very well, but what will be the impact on the success or otherwise of Coventry RFC on the pitch. Well, the hope is that it will, in the Chairman’s own words:

give us superior income and allow us to improve the squad and put this club back where it should be.”

All very exciting and something we’d hoped for since first moving into the the Butts Park Arena back in 2004.

However, whilst the debate rages as to which came first, the chicken or the egg, there can be no such confusion over the debate as to where the money will be initially spent; on developing facilities or improving the team.

It is the income generated from the corporate interests of the club, via the expansion of the facilities, that will improve the squad. So facilities first, then

Presumably it will be a while before the rugby side of the club sees the financial benefits, providing of course that the business ventures are successful.

However, overall a very positive announcement and John Sharp should be congratulated on having both the vision and the business acumen required to bring it all to fruition.

In Jon Sharp’s own words, quoted both on the radio and in the paper:

I’m committed to the development of Coventry Rugby and to see the club consolidate it’s success, both in terms of the commercial success, business success and in terms of playing success.

Great to hear but…


I would just rather him have said….’both in terms of playing success and commercial, business success’. It’s nothing much, just a change in the order of words, but their meaning alters somewhat depending on the said order…

Rugby first, or business first…?

To someone investing millions in such venture, the answer to that question might not be the same as for someone investing £180 on a season ticket, however great that sum is to them.


In a previous post (Cov Player Appearances to Dec 2015) I’d worked out that Coventry had used 38 players in total in just 14 games with only 10 players having started in 50% of the games.

The statistic will have changed slightly as a result of two additional games being played since then, but the basic premise hasn’t, namely that Coventry haven’t been able to achieve a consistency in selection and this must surely be a contributory factor in Coventry’s underachievement so far this season.

There are players who may have had one or two games only to then disappear. Given we are now half way through the season, it would be great if the club could give an update on where these players presently are. If they’re at Broadstreet, then some of them aren’t playing first team , if elsewhere, where?

Some are injured, again it would be really useful to know where they are in terms of their recovery/recuperation.

It’s something Coventry really don’t excel at and yet it shouldn’t be too difficult to do – 20 minutes with Scott or one of the coaches, a few minutes on a word processor and it could be put straight onto the website,  effectively putting an end to moaners like me who keep on going on about the importance of communication. Well perhaps not an end, but certainly it would be a huge step forward.

For instance, it’s just a stab in the dark here, but I’m sure that there are going to be a few people reading this who, like me, would just be interested to know what has happened to the likes of:

Sam Pailor – dropped, injured…? Miss him hugely…

Dan Rundle – how’s his recovery progressing?

Dom Lespierre – great player but absent last week with no explanation…bizarre

Matt Jones – again no word at all on his injury or progress, or expected length of absence, a key player yet complete silence

Rikki Stout – apparently moved on but only a rumour?

Graham Turner – re-signed. Any news?

Haloti Malitika – thought he’d acquitted himself well early on in the season but returnees meant he became surplus to requirements, now where is he? Doesn’t seem to be playing for ‘Street

Joe Foreman – definitely appearing regularly for ‘Street

Liam Munroe – not played for ‘Street for a few weeks, injured?

Adam Canning – illness and injury? Is he on the mend? Would have come into his own with Jones’ absence. Fine prospect.

Courtney Roberts – looked another great prospect, dropped after 4 games, played for ‘Street and now seems to have disappeared totally. Feel sorry for the lad. Completely fallen out of favour?

Caolan Ryan – pulled out of the Ampthill game, but no mention of this by the club at all. Very poor that. Concussion? Presumably nothing  serious.

James Tincknell – on the fringe of the team for a while, but not seen for a few games?

Terry Sigley – moved on?

Joe Carpenter – loaned out elsewhere?

Thomas Preece – recent comeback games for ‘Street but didn’t appear last week. Again, very promising in early games…

Martin Wolfenden – playing regularly for ‘Street

Sam Smith – after a few games for Cov went to ‘Street but not appeared recently

There will be others I’ve missed who aren’t in the match day squad…it just seems that as a player if you’re not in the match day squad then, from a supporter’s perspective, you’re discounted. I’m sure this isn’t the case and I presume they all meet up on a Tuesday or Thursday (or is that just the match day squad plus a few others?). But we never hear of this.

Players like Courtney Roberts have travelled half way around the world to come to Cov and  have become part of the Cov family. Supporters are genuinely interested in where they are and what they’re doing.

Once the initial list of players is drawn up, it would be easy to update and add  or remove names as appropriate.

No big deal in terms of effort, but a huge one in terms keeping supporters informed.

And I guess there are players, too, who would like supporters to know what they are doing, or how they are progressing.

Anyway, it’s a suggestion…


Also on RucknMaul, Jon Sharp accepted that recruitment this season hadn’t been acceptable and that he , Scott and Phil were collectively responsible, and aid he wasn’t going to hold any one person responsible.

Now he’s said something similar about the players coming in not performing to the levels hoped of them, so it’s nothing new. The fact that he holds himself, Scott and Phil responsible is laudable; loyalty is often something to be praised.

Also, the fact that he won’t blame the run of poor results on injuries is refreshingly honest. As he says, Cov just aren’t good enough at the moment. But you don’t have to look too hard to see the elephant in the room in all this, something I’ll come to in a moment.

Such honesty, though does make me feel a little uncomfortable. Those players brought into the club in the close season, the ones whom he is suggesting aren’t performing to the levels expected, are still at the club (or at least I think they are until we hear otherwise!) and there is still half the season left.

Such remarks must cause some division within the squad between the new and the old, whilst also bracketing all those new to the club together which is harsh because there are those amongst them who have been a success.

Whilst there is clearly some truth in what he says, it does seem to lay much of the blame publicly on those new to the club this year, when it is  obvious that many of those who were here last season have also underperformed, yet they are not mentioned. That does seem a bit tough on the likes of Hough, Hope, Thomas and co.

Indeed, Scott at one point (after the Esher game, perhaps) suggested publicly that the coaches and the players (ie all of them) needed to look at themselves too. Far better to say that everyone is underperforming than to single out just  one group of players.

Perhaps I’m oversensitive and always side with the underdog…but I do think Scott’s approach is a far healthier one.

And of course there’s that elephant in the room….the glaringly obvious question that no one seems to be asking…

…if the triumvirate of John Sharp, Phil Maynard and Scott Morgan got it so, so wrong this season, how can’t we help but feel the same is likely to happen again next year? That’s where Jon’s honesty, and loyalty, actually becomes less of a strength and more of a weakness.

Somehow, the three of them are going to have to reassure supporters that things are going to be different. Perhaps there will be better scouting of potential recruits, or they will look more to players who have proved themselves in the Championship – whatever, it is, it will need to be different to avoid the same problems.

Indeed, it is possible that supporters might well hold back from renewing their season tickets until new players have been announced and unless there are some familiar names on the list, they might well feel that it’s a question of deja vu and decide they don’t want to risk another 2015/16 scenario…players whom they are told are at least as good as those already here but who are then deemed to be not up to scratch…?

The warning signs are already there…two supporters, both stalwarts, have indicated on the messageboard in the last two days that the likelihood is that next season they won’t be back. And that is worrying, because if previously loyal and decent supporters are thinking that, those whose loyalty is not so great are even more likely to do the same.

Tough job to persuade the supporters they’ve got it right for next season.

And many players have agents these days, and you can bet that agents will have their ears to the grounds, even now.

And will the comments coming out of the club about this year’s recruits, together with the club’s current league position, have them pushing the players they have on their books in our direction?

Probably not.

Hopefully, Scott and John (presumably without Phil this year) will at some stage communicate to supporters just how things will be different this season.


It’s important to do so because season ticket sales could depend on how much faith supporters have in the club’s ability to create a side that will be at least in the top 3 next year. If they believe that players coming in during the summer aren’t going to have any more of an impact than those who arrived here last year, then they will vote with their feet…

The club needs to begin that process of reassurance sooner rather than later and include senior players confirming they will be staying on next season as they believe there will be a squad in place in September capable of pushing for promotion…

Talk doesn’t always have to be of the cheap variety and buying in quality players is probably costly… the two need to go hand in hand if supporters are going to keep take another leap of faith.


Voting for Coventry’s MVP is now closed. The first of the results, that of the 12th most valuable players as voted in the poll, will appear on Christmas Day…

8 thoughts on “Proposed plans for the Butts, where are they now, recruitment and the elephant in the room…

  1. You bleed blue and white, Paul…however disillusioned you are I can’t imagine you as a turncoat…lol.

    It is going to be a long haul of that there is no doubt. But that goes with the territory really. Post 1990 when hasn’t it been really? Some slight peaks but lots and lots of deep troughs, but there’s always that belief that our day will come, even though it’s always going to be tomorrow and never today.
    We’ll bounce back and come September we’ll be all talking about a realistic chance of promotion…again.

  2. Lol…what the club need at the moment is a Cicero, a great orator and communicator, although he was eventually murdered as an enemy of the state…perhaps anyone thinking of taking up a PR post in the club might need to think twice if that’s the case!

  3. Amen to that, Mick. I’ve been to see Wasps just the once and to be fair they did put on a good show…I do like the way every youngster had a flag to wave and the compulsory piece of cardboard with the legend TRY emblazoned on it. The kids loved it…we’ll never be able to compete with the razzmataz but a winning Cov side is always going to attract a bigger crowd than a losing one…

  4. This morning at the supermarket Pinley RFC Minis and Juniors where doing a collection. Upon talking to so of the adults with them. I did find out that they had visited BPA but the eyes sparkled mentioning Wasps. The youngsters do like the pre match Wasps experience something many of the BPA crowd would not like. To match this we/COV have got huge hurdles to jump. Lets just hope that we can still b playing in ten years time as Coventry Rugby Club.

  5. Good point re: accountability of coaching staff. Of all the characters, I find SM the most likable Triumvir (shall we say Pompey the Great?) so I hope he proves successful in the new brief. If not, I’d reluctantly support change.

    Dealing in cold hard facts, PM has overseen our relegation followed by our 5 worst league finishes since league tables were introduced into English rugby. There is mitigation but I’m not convinced his track record prior to Cov stands up, generally riding the inertia of circumstance at Worcester and B&S (I stand to be corrected as this is a hunch). He’s obviously highly thought of by JS but I see nothing coming out of the club (initiative, marketing, innovation) to suggest we’re being run by a dynamic business leader (he has to be Caeser the populist general although I’m forcing the Triumvirate analogy already)!

    I hope JS’s motives are pure. Although Crassus, the financier isn’t portrayed kindly in history.

  6. Brother Tim, another excellent attempt at signposting the future direction for Cov.
    I too listened to Ruck and Maul last night and didn’t feel there was anything there that hadn’t already been outed into the public domain. JS confirming he is securing the land lease, talks that had been held, the probability that the Sky Blues will be based elsewhere. I think my take on it was very much as yours was, The Corporate side will be the provider of the playing side. JS wasn’t so silly as to put a timescale on it, but was honest enough to take some accountability for the playing side’s lack of progress this season.
    All in all JS dealt quite well with the gentle full tosses that were sent his way. The only time he was caught out, ie unprepared , was Phil Upton’s back question , ” so John can you say that Coventry CIty will not be at the BPA? ” It took JS a little while to respond to Phil’s question for the CWR newsroom .
    It seems Cov will always be playing second fiddle to the new city Premiership side. When you think, just on the current playing side they have, Launchbury, Hassell, Wade, Gopperth and Daly et al….oh and the possibility of Leigh Halfpenny being at the Ricoh arising in the past few days, where will the ‘ walk-up’ neutral want to spend their time , and more importantly , money? It seems Cov are in for a really long haul back.
    I will have to consider if all the shift changes I have to try to arrange for home games are really worth the time and effort .
    It’s getting a little disheartening .

  7. Hi again! You’re right, JS is behind where he’d hoped to be and it gets harder and harder with every passing season. I think he’ll be gutted to have been out of the race before Christmas this season, especially as Plymouth, relegated from the Championship haven’t been as strong as previous relegated teams who usually bounce back up.
    As for the recent promotions, I actually think it’s quite a shrewd move. SM now has total responsibility so that makes bringing in someone new that much easier now the roles are clearly defined. In effect, I guess JS has given him until the end of the season to turn things around and prove his mettle, otherwise it’s his head on the line and he can bring someone else in having been seen to give Scott a fair crack of the whip. Win/win for JS and the moment looking very much like a win/lose for Scott which is a shame because I’d very much like to see him here next season.
    And as for JS acquiring the leasehold…well it would have been naïve of us to assume he wasn’t in it to make some kind of profit on his investment – I don’t have a problem with that at all, provided it’s not at the expense of the playing side of the club…and the jury’s definitely out on that one at the moment. Good luck to him, though…


    Read this article after your blog inspired me google around the subject. You have to say he’s failed to deliver on any of the targets he set three and a half years ago. Of course I appreciate that the club appears to be financially sound and Wasps arrival has and will have a significant effect. However, by Jon’s plans we should have been promoted prior to Wasp’s arrival.

    Interested to know if you are concerned by the recent promotions of the underachieving management whilst the chairman personally acquires the lease of the ground?

Any thoughts:

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