Attendances, away support, a response and finally a huge positive
Despite what has been a disappointing season so far, Coventry’s home attendances continue to be highest in the league. The present average of 1160 is still considerably lower than the 1500 + of last season but attendances generally across National 1 are down this season. It’s probably a lot lower than the club were hoping, but the fact that they’ve remained constant throughout what’s been a ‘difficult’ season is a positive….
Plymouth, who have an average attendance of 1026 for the season could only pull in 754 for last week’s home game against Blaydon and have now fallen to 3rd in the attendance table behind Darlington Mowden Park who are averaging 1029, this despite Plymouth’s impressive record of wins over the last 12 games or so.
Whilst it was suggested on the messageboard that Darlington’s numbers were inflated when we went up there just before Christmas, I felt the size of the ground contributed to the feeling that the crowd was smaller than it actually was. Given their position of only 7th in the league, like Coventry, they clearly have a loyal fan base and should they ever find themselves in the top 3 and pushing for promotion, I could see their gates increasing greatly.
There are some interesting stats that can be extrapolated from the current National attendance figures. For instance, the total attendance for National 1 so far this season (according to Statbunker, which appear pretty accurate) is 82,606 of which 12,758 come from Coventry’s home games, or 15.5% of the total from only 6.25% of the total number of games played (it not entirely accurate given that some teams have played a game more than others but the averages give a pretty fair reflection a team’s attendance over the season so far).
It does amaze me how some teams survive in our league. Take Blaydon for instance. They average just 191 supporters per home game. They are never going to benefit from much additional away support, other than from Wharfedale and Hull perhaps, and situated as they are in an area which is far from densely populated, they must really struggle financially. You can only admire the club for competing as they do at this level. They must have to work exceptionally hard to attract sponsors, especially given the low attendances.
Whilst Coventry might be top of the ‘home’ attendance league, they are certainly not a draw for the other clubs in National 1. Whilst the season is far from over, Coventry’s average away attendance is only 521 and we are 10th in the table. The team that attracts the biggest attendances on its travels is Rosslyn Park at 675, with Richmond in 2nd place on 587. With Rosslyn Park away on Saturday, we will move up the table but it is an interesting talking point…
Maybe the fact that teams like Fylde, Esher and Loughborough are also above us is indicative of the fact that we are no longer seen as a ‘big’ club in this league any more, even if we like to think we are! Or maybe it’s down to the fact that Fylde and Esher play a more expansive and entertaining style of rugby at the moment ( Hull are below us…).
What is disappointing in all this is that Coventry aren’t able fill a coach with 35+ supporters to the away games. It’s a strange one for me because so many of the away games I go to are well attended, with a lot of people choosing to make their own way by car, often sharing the driving which makes huge sense and makes the whole day a lot cheaper.
However, there are still a lot of supporters who make their own way to away grounds by public transport. On three of the away games I’ve been to this season, there has been no coach (Darlington, Esher and Rosslyn Park) purely through lack of numbers. I think Steve Tibbatts has one of the hardest, most thankless jobs in trying to organise the coaches to away games and I should have mentioned his contribution some time ago – it is remiss of me. I ‘m amazed he’s had the patience to do it for such a long time.
I don’t believe the reason coaches often aren’t filled with enough supporters to make them financially viable is simply apathy on the part of supporters alone, even in such a poor run of form as we are presently in. I think much of the reason is to do with cost – even by coach, you’re adding an extra £15 or more on to the cost of the day. Coventry isn’t in one of the leafier areas of the country, areas where some of the teams in our league are based. For me, it’s more a matter of cost.
It’s a shame that the teams in National 1 can’t work together on this, offering a package to all travelling supporters, whatever the team they represent. To soften the blow of away day travel, home clubs could perhaps offer a reduced price (perhaps 25 or even 50%) entry to away fans (with season tickets to prove their allegiance perhaps, or an official club pass of some sort) and the away club could offer a 50% subsidy on the cost of the coach (an option, not a requirement). Bare with me here…
Away clubs wouldn’t lose much revenue, if any, as away support should increase to compensate…it would be more costly for the home team, should they decide to take up this optional part of the package. However, Henley (whose average home gate is in the mid-300s) offer 4 free coaches (which would be 8 under this proposal) to away games during the course of the season, provided through a local sponsor. It is an area that perhaps could/should be explored by the club.
Players and coaches both agree that away support does make a huge difference and adding an extra 40 or 50 Cov supporters to the similar number who often make their own way to the crowd would make a significant difference to the atmosphere of an away ground and hopefully lifting the performance of Cov to an even greater level.
It might also make Steve’s job a little easier…presuming that is he still intends to stay in the role.
Just a thought, anyway.
Following this weekend’s walkout by Liverpool fans in protest at the club’s match day pricing policy, the owner’s released the following statement today:
A great many of you have objected strongly to the £77 price level of our most expensive GA seats and expressed a clear expectation that the club should forego any increased revenue from raising prices on GA tickets in the current environment.
After an intense period of consultation with LFC management we have decided to make major revisions to our ticketing structure for 2016-17
At the risk of continuing to upset some readers, it does seem that there a lesson to be learned from this for those in control of clubs, whatever the sport. It would have been easy for the Liverpool owners to dig their heels in and claim they were being held to ransom…but they didn’t. They listened and responded. And good for them, too.
Some will say it opens the flood gates and plays into the hands of dissident supporters out to disrupt and provoke – and perhaps it does when taken to that extreme. But the important thing was the Liverpool owners listened and responded quickly and decisively…and with their supporters in mind.
The problem for me is that whilst the messages from Coventry RFC supporters expressing disappointment and concern might well be being received, rarely are they acknowledged, so supporters are left feeling their views, whether right or wrong, aren’t valued.
It just takes a simple statement explain why things are as they are and what the vision is for the team (not the facilities/stadium) in the short, mid and long term and certainly I’d feel far happier as, I would hazard a guess, would many others. Yes, the Board have appointed a new Director of Rugby, but that is their response to the results, as it should be. That’s different to having a dialogue with supporters, and so involving them in the process.
I accept that the management of any team aren’t really obliged to make themselves accountable to supporters, other than perhaps on the pitch. But when results aren’t going as planned then perhaps it is incumbent on them to be more visible and proactive…after all, supporters provide an immediate and essential revenue and if the service provided doesn’t match their expectations, supporters will become increasingly frustrated. As they are at the moment – just look at the Messageboard at the moment. That’s not me being hypercritical, it’s just the way it is.
I don’t know what the solution is to the present injury crisis or to the departure of players…and it might well be that the management don’t either. There might be no solution…the squad is fixed near enough and it a question of ‘mend or make do’…if that is the case, let’s hear it. No one is going to be critical of someone who holds their hands up and says I haven’t got an answer. It also shows an understanding that the club is just as frustrated as we are – we’re in it together, this is where we are – give us some time and we’ll give it our best shot. That makes us part of the process – it’s basic human nature to feel needed and wanted. It’s just good PR.
Selecting the squad must be a nightmare, but unless we know what the problems are regarding injuries and unavailability, we don’t know how bad it really is. If we are to make informed comments we need the information to do so. You can’t blame supporters for offering what might seem to some ill-informed opinions if the information is there can you, RR? Or perhaps we shouldn’t express opinions, full stop?
(Comment box is at the end of the post ↓)
One poster on the messageboard made the comment that within the blog I now seem to be looking for any opportunity to be critical.
I kind of understand where the poster is coming from, but if this blog is to be an honest representation of how I think and feel with regards to Coventry at any one moment in time, then it is as it is. I remained optimistic longer than most, but there isn’t a great deal to be that positive about at the moment, is there?
I said the appointment of Rowland Winter was exciting, albeit somewhat inevitable, but was disappointed for Scott Morgan because of the manner of the announcement and what the fact that he wasn’t given much time to change turn things around. I certainly am rarely critical of individual players, although I do have my favourites, as do we all, I guess.
But despite problems on and off the pitch, there is one area of the club that continues to merit much praise and recognition, and that is the community schools work led by Matt Price in his role as Head of Community Rugby.
The outreach work that Cov gets involved in is so important not just in developing in the young an interest in the game of rugby and, hopefully, the club itself, but also in developing the key skills of team work, leadership and communication. As a former teacher in the inner ring of Birmingham for 31 years, we rarely saw any sportsmen or women within our school – the very people who are such good role models for youngsters brought up on a diet of fast food and video games. And it wasn’t for the want of trying.
It’s essential that clubs take such a lead and the club (including the Board and other players), and Matt in particular, should be given huge credit for the work they have done, are doing and will doubtless continue to do. . It’s something I’ve highlighted before, but it seems particularly appropriate today given the following tweet:
— Matt Price (@PenguinPrice) February 10, 2016
I’m sure Matt will be back next year, as competitive as ever, whilst also continuing to develop the current community programme. This tweet, a response to the work Matt was involved in today, kind of says it all:
— SherbourneFields (@Sherbournetweet) February 10, 2016
Well done to everyone involved.
As far as the community programme is concerned, ‘Your city, your club’ is the perfect #hashtag.