I wonder how many Coventry supporters this time next year would welcome a similar announcement from Roland Winter to that made by Richmond’s rugby Director, Steve Hill in yesterday’s edition of The Rugby Paper?
13 points ahead of second placed Hartpury College with only 6 games to play, the southwest London side look favourites to gain promotion to the Championship, and deservedly so.
However, far from looking to turn the club into a full-time outfit and compete on what would be a more even footing, Hill is adamant that:
We will not be going full time professional, nor will we be recruiting full time professionals
He rightly points out that there is a history of promoted clubs disbanding sides that got them up which has resulted in them having to ‘start again’. Instead he will keep faith with the players who have performed so well this season and recruit in the positions where he has targeted the most need.
It’s a brave decision and one that is sure to have caused much debate within the club. A few weeks ago the rumour was that the Richmond Board were divided as to whether they even wanted promotion, with many members feeling that they would be better off remaining in National 1 as a semi professional side (but accepting the £530,000 in lieu). Whether this is true or not, I’m not sure, but given the yesterday’s article, I would imagine there is something to it.
What is extraordinary, to me, about the whole thing is how Richmond can possibly believe, should they be promoted, that they will be able to compete with the other teams in the Championship, all of whom are full-time. Rowland Winter has said that just to compete with the top teams in National 1 the players are going to have to increase their training from two to three nights a week so how Steve Hill can expect to match teams whose players are training 5 days a week is bizarre to say the least.
It must put them at a huge disadvantage, but I guess there is an argument that says the belief of the DoR in the players will certainly create a sense of confidence in the team as a whole – at least until they start losing a few games.
Coventry produced two notable performances against Championship sides Ealing Trailfinders and London Welsh in the Summer friendlies last year, winning one and narrowly losing the other, but I doubt very much even without injuries we could have sustained those level of performances throughout the season. What’s happened since then would suggest we couldn’t. There will also be more travelling as a result of the British and Irish Cup fixtures and a corresponding increase on the demands made on players, many of whom will be in employment outside of the club.
Will Richmond supporters relish the challenge of matching themselves against the big guns of Bristol, Doncaster, Bedford and Leeds or would they fear the worst and be contemplating a long season which will be pretty much a relegation battle from the word go, with most games potentially ending in a thumping for the newly promoted Richmond?
You have take the opportunity when it comes and to decline the chance of promotion would be unforgivable, although this certainly doesn’t look to be the case with Richmond any longer. As a Cov supporter faced with that situation, I’d want us to go full-time and recruit the strongest possible squad given the limitations of the budget. There would be an increase in attendances at least in the short-term (depending on how successful the team is) and presumably advertising and corporate entertainment would also bring in increased revenues so there would be a decent budget on top of the £530000 payment received for being in the Championship.
Both Coventry and Richmond have suffered in the not too distant past the terrible effects from overstretching themselves financially in order to gain promotion. Indeed, Richmond was eventually placed into Receivership in 1999. It reformed a year later and started in the 9th tier of the English league system, so the fact the club is sitting pretty on top of National 1 just 16 years later is all the more remarkable.
It’s hardly surprising that the directors might be a little reticent to commit themselves once again to full-time rugby but were it Coventry in this situation (fingers crossed for Coventry over the next couple of seasons), then I would want to be able to compete with other teams on equal terms.
The original question I posed at the start of this post is really an academic one, given that Jon Sharp has said on several occasions already this season that he is putting in place a management structure that will pave the way for full-time rugby at the Butts. Speaking about the appointment of Rowland Winter, he said:
This decision has been made in order to prepare for the next phase in Coventry Rugby’s development and is taken in the context of the need to create a full time coaching, and eventually playing, structure that is locally on hand to create all the infrastructures needed to progress to the next level and, most importantly, to succeed within it. ..
I get the impression that he is expecting the team to be able to go full-time, or at least to go some way towards it, whilst still in National 1. If that were to the case then it would give us a massive advantage over other teams in the league, with perhaps the exception of the newly relegated side who might be able to maintain their professional status for at least the first season in National 1 as Jersey and, most recently, Ealing Trailfinders have done.
Fair play to Steve Hill, though…clearly he is a man of principle and someone who is prepared to let his current squad prove themselves at the next level rather than breaking up the squad and recruiting afresh .
I don’t know how many people who read this blog also closely follow the unofficial Coventry messageboard, but I imagine it must be almost everyone (except probably my two daughters who read only the posts and that’s out of loyalty to their dad and because they know I’ll test them when we meet up…).
The reason I ask is because I just wanted to respond to a comment on the messageboard that I think was grossly unfair to the person it was aimed at (and extremely rude) and one that fails to understand what most supporters think and feel. Whilst I obviously won’t mention names or repeat the rather unpleasant response, I will make a comment on the subject matter; that of rumours.
A poster was vilified for merely saying he’d heard a rumour and asking if anyone else had heard the same thing…at no point did he say he believed in it, he just wanted ascertain whether there was any truth in it.
Now it strikes me a fair few of the threads on the messageboard will contain within them something someone has heard said second hand, some idle chit chat or bit of gossip that is of interest but which might be incorrect or only part truth. Posters will comment on it or ask others to respond in an attempt to determine whether or not it might be true. Indeed, they might actually say that it seems to be the case and they’re inclined to believe it…I’m not sure what the problem with that is.
It also means that the club have a pretty good idea of what is being said and can respond to it in the most appropriate way (or not).
606 on 5Live is full of gossip. Part of the fun for any spectator is picking out the fact from the fiction and arguing over it in a friendly way. It’s what supporters do all the time.
And given that there is so much speculation and uncertainly at the moment, to ask on the messageboard whether anyone else has heard something seems extremely sensible; quickly rumours can be identified and discarded. Certainly you don’t expect personal remarks to come back at you when all you were doing is enquiring of people who are better informed and will probably have a better, or different, take on what is currently happening. We’re all intelligent readers, able to read between the lines and interpret things accordingly.
And it’s a bit patronising to be told to go and ask the players to find out if there’s any truth in what is being said…there are any number of reasons why that might not be possible, or you might not feel comfortable doing that. And not all players are as receptive as others, especially at the moment. Living that bit further away from Coventry as I do, I rely on what others tell me a lot of the time and just separate what I feel is and isn’t likely to be accurate.
I’d even go further and say part of the fun of being an ordinary, down-to-earth supporter is speculating on what might or might not be happening – I’ve spent 7 months doing just that…and in many ways that’s part of the function of the messageboard, isn’t it, to share news and opinions and to ask if things you’ve heard are true or not? I’ve been corrected several times on things I’ve written based on what I’d heard…and am always grateful when people do take the time to explain the reality of the situation and always in a polite and courteous manner.
And sometimes if a rumour is doing the rounds, then maybe by sharing it you are actually benefitting the club because if there is a definitive answer the uncertainty stops there and then, rather than being passed on over and over again.
The original comment on the messageboard was made in good faith and deserved to be treated as such.
Whispering grass the trees don’t need to know…the closest I could get to the listening to rumours and, anyway, its worth a reminder of just what a great voice Don Estelle had and just how superfluous to the song Windsor Davies was…