The story so far…
It’s 8 weeks almost to the day since the announcement of Rowland Winter’s appointment as the new Director of Rugby at Coventry.
Not long but already so much seems to have happened that perhaps it’s worth taking stock of all the changes that have so far started to take place .
- Defence, scrum, lineout and backs coaches all signed (with Rowland* Winter to take on Attack) and all full-time;
- nutritionist and Analyst also signed;
- Jobs presently advertised for First XV Manager, Head Physiotherapist and Head of Performance;
- Players retained from this year’s squad have been announced, together with those in final talks;
- The core of the next season’s squad has been signed;
- A Nighthawks side will be up and running from September, playing approximately 10-12 fixtures – to include several of Henley College players;
- The community work already being carried out by the club will be extended;
- Training will be increased to three nights a week;
- Potential links with Northampton and Wasps to be explored;
- Training facilities around Coventry being looked at ;
- Links with junior clubs to be strengthened;
- 3 (?) interns to look at media, sports science, IT etc.
(I might be being extremely dim here, but on the official website I can’t seem to find news items once they have ceased to appear in the scrolling dialogue box. I tried to find RW’s original statement he released onto the website, but couldn’t. There doesn’t appear to be a search facility either – maybe that’s something for the interns! Apologies if it’s me…).
Considering Rowland Winter is still very much the man in charge at Cambridge RFC, this is a pretty impressive beginning and once Coventry becomes his sole focus, I rather expect things will take shape even more quickly.
As a supporter though, there are still some areas that perhaps could be added to a separate ‘to do’ list. These might not be as important or urgent as the above, or at least most of them, but they will add a supporter’s enjoyment of the club and as such are likely to go down well with most of the Cov faithful. And once the wider rugby community in Coventry understand that there is change taking place, perhaps these are more likely to encourage them back into the fold.
These areas include:
- A complete overhaul of the official website
- More communication between the club and its supporters, both day-to-day and specific events
- More opportunities for youngsters to get involved in the club – through the internet, match day programme etc
- Better use of social media to keep supporters up-to-date of key events, team lists, updates during games etc
- Better access in the ground for the old and infirm
- More staff behind the bar at peak times
- More willingness to meet with supporters outside of one or maybe two forums
- More offers of discounted entry for non-members (maybe offset by discounts on club merchandise for members)
- Possible sponsorship by the club of a couple of coach trips to some of the further away places we visit…priority given to those who travel to other away games by coach
I’m sure there are lots of other things I haven’t covered – but it’s not for me to decide what should be on the new DoR’s agenda; it should be something agreed by a cross section of supporters working with the club.
Way, way back in September, in the very early days of this blog, I suggested that a representative(s) from the club met up with a small group of supporters (following a request from the club via the messageboard, perhaps) perhaps every 4-6 weeks.
Their brief would be to look at precisely the sorts of things that are mentioned above – focussing on media/communication with supporters, the website etc. The club could clearly show what is being done presently, what its hopes are for the next few months and what any longer term plans might involve. The group could put forward additional thoughts/ideas from supporters following a thread on the board, with a designated person from among those present feeding back to everyone via the board following the meeting.
The agenda could be controlled by the club if necessary, although it shouldn’t really need to come to that.
A meeting in the clubhouse over a drink or two and a sandwich midweek in the evening, four/six times a season…a chance for everyone involved to meet and chat.
At the moment it might be ‘our city’, but sometimes it doesn’t feel particularly like ‘our club’.
And, of course, it’s not as we aren’t shareholders.
But, if you are going to make a big play on the ‘Your city, your club’ soundbite, then it’s only right that supporters become more involved in its development – perhaps that’s being a bit disingenuous towards the club, but it has felt as if we’re at times, particularly this season.
I think a lot of my frustration, and I appreciate this is a personal response and not shared by everyone who might read this, stems from the fact that sometimes it feels supporters becomes secondary to the wider aims of the club.
For instance, the Board has a clear vision and one that, if it comes to fruition, will have real benefits for the club on and off the pitch:
The most important thing is that 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
This from Chairman Jon Sharp at the back end of last year.
It’s what every supporter wants and no matter how disillusioned some supporters are, we should all get behind what he is trying to achieve. He has acted quickly and decisively, well before the end of the season, to try and ensure the club is more professional, and therefore more competitive, in readiness for next season. Not everything has gone smoothly and there is much to be done in terms of communication, but at least the vision is clear.
However, great as that statement is, there is no mention of supporters.
Now it’s a one-off remark, which I’ve pulled from a longer article and needs to be read in a wider context, but it is an example of how the potential contributions of supporters to the success of the club is sometimes overlooked.
And a club like Coventry, with such a large potential fan base, really ought to be measuring it’s success not just financially, but also in terms of its appeal to the supporters.
All 851 of them on Saturday.
Okay, poor results are going to impact negatively on attendances, but we have seen a significant drop which does need addressing and I’m not convinced it is purely the result of disappointing performances.
As a Cov supporter, the chairman has done the right thing, however disappointing it is for Scott Morgan, who remains a hugely popular figure.
And it appears that his successor is someone who also shares Jon Sharp’s vision and is beginning to put into place structures that will enable the rugby side of the club to potentially meet the chairman’s high expectations in the mid to long term.
There is hope on the horizon (if not in the squad) and I’m sure as the names of the new players coming in are announced, this will continue to build.
I would like to think, however, that the new management team will have a slightly better feel those supporters who have felt a little too far removed from the club this season and a little less inclined to make the journey down to the Butts with quite such regularity.
If they can get the supporters on board, then life becomes a little easier. And with the willingness to be upfront and talk directly to supporters through the website, RW has made a great start.
I’m looking forward to the next update already…
*I was quite rightly mildly berated on the quiet for incorrectly spelling RW’s name (I know who you are!). I do apologise…I’ll try and ensure it doesn’t happen again….