Okay, the EU referendum it most definitely wasn’t.
And, in the end, voting for the Supporters’ Club was no more than rubber stamping those who had already expressed an interest in re-launching the Committee that was last convened some 9 years ago.
But to continue the comparison, there were certainly more ‘Outs’ than ‘Ins’, with a turnout of around 35 or so present yesterday evening.
CREXIT wins the day, perhaps?.
Whilst 35 is encouraging, it does show that there’s a great deal of work to be done to persuade Cov supporters to jump on the bandwagon and join the SC.
However, the commitment and endeavour of those involved in the newly elected SC, as well as those others present, appear such that once it become clears what joining the SC will offer, many of the Cov faithful will want to be involved.
The evening started with Peter Rossborough explaining how the meeting would unfold, whilst also stressing just how pleased he was that there was a desire amongst supporters to re-launch the SC. He offered his own thanks to Cliff Bennett for leading the preliminary discussions and driving things forward over the past months, something I think was acknowledged by everyone present (this was further re-affirmed by PR at the end of the meeting).
The presence of Peter Rossborough, Lara Hunter and Rowland Winter was a significant factor for me. Many, many years ago I was a member of the SC, but in those days it seemed far removed from the club, with little or no contact from the board or management. To be honest, I joined simply because I got a discount on away travel on the away-day coaches. I think there might have been a pin badge available or a tie, but little else. Those supporters involved in an official capacity within the SC back then clearly worked hard and their job must have been made all the more difficult because there was so little input from the club itself.
Not so this time around.
To have Peter, Lara and Rowland there suggests there will be far more support. Indeed, some of what Lara said indicated that Cov are being very proactive in their support of the SC. The communication channels are certainly open and information has been traveling back and forth for some time now, enabling the new Committee to provide opportunities to supporters which reflect the value the new management places on the involvement of club’s supporters.
Anyway, that’s how it seems to me and the three of them certainly get a big thumbs up from me, as does Jon Sharp.
So…to the meeting.
The agenda…see below:
3.Purpose of meeting
4.Objectives of the Supporters’ Club
5.Items for information/discussion
6.Date of next meeting
Items I and 2 were dealt with quickly, with the only apologies coming from Graham Bayliss. Graham used to be the Treasurer of the previous SC and given he had put himself forward for the same role in the new SC but was unable to attend, his apologies were duly tendered.
Item 3 – Purpose of the meeting:
–Presentation by Rowland Winter;
–Presentation by Lara Hunter;
–Election of Committee;
–Rules/Constitution of the Supporters’ Club;
–Cost of membership.
Despite the above, Lara got the ball rolling.
She introduced herself as the Business Development Manager, explaining that her role was one concentrating mainly on developing ‘sales’. She had made available to those present copies of the business brochure which she had put together (a very professional looking one, too). The brochure is designed to sell the club to prospective customers interested in investing in the club in one of many different ways available.
Lara encouraged those present to think about ways Cov could introduce new businesses to the club, however small. She invited anyone who had potential contacts, or ideas of developing additional business links, to get in touch with her.
As far as supporters are concerned, Lara hinted that she was working on additional benefits that could be offered to supporters, as well as improved information being made via the via the website (including a ‘who’s who’). She was well aware of the criticism directed at the club website and was keen to stress that a new website is on its way and should be up and running in 6-8 weeks and definitely before the start of the season.
Lara went on to confirm that the majority of last year’s sponsors are all on board, with only a few smaller ones moving on. The club has reached an agreement with 3 local taxi firms to advertise the club on their vehicles…which is apparently a very cost-effective way of spreading the word.
Seems a ‘fare’ idea to me.
Lara finished by asking if there were any questions from the floor…there were a few concerning:
– the inclusion of a junior section on the website (I think this was misunderstood as it became a brief discussion about mini-rugby rather than the provision of a section on the website for younger supporters – but I could have misunderstood it, too!);
– further engagement with the local junior clubs, with whom we have good relationships;
– the degree of involvement from the club.
Rowland Winter then talked a little about the squad.
He began by confirming that they began their pre-season schedule last Saturday with the ‘Rat Race’ (see previous post). Interestingly, one or two of the those players retained from last year knew little of the city or its history, something that RW wants to instil in his squad. I guess the more you know of the community, the more you become attached to it and the more you’ll give back to it.
PR repeated that last season there were players traveling 100 miles just to train and who seldom travelled on the team coach and only visited the club to train or play on matchdays…the different approaches between this season and last are already very evident.
RW then went on to talk about the Development Squad.
The club is still recruiting for the DS, although they now have the majority of the players needed. In the last few weeks since advertising, they’ve had 60+ applications but have only taken on 4 in addition to the players already taken on board), suggesting that they are being very careful to pick only those players whom they feel have real potential to break through to the senior squad.
He suggested that the club will move these youngsters on if they don’t look like they can live up to expectations and they will need to prove themselves both in training and in the monthly Wednesday games, which will be against the equivalent of National 3 opposition. He mentioned Joe Foreman for whom this will be a make or break year – if he can’t make the jump to playing National 1, he’ll have to move on.
As for the senior squad – 90% have returned in good shape which is pleasing and all but scrum-half Peter White have a clean bill of health and will be fit for the start of the friendlies. White has had a minor operation on his hip ,but he will be ready to return by September – he is the only prolonged absence.
Cliffie will be fit for the friendlies, which is excellent news.
RW displayed a full squad list, by position (could this be put on the website?), together with Development players, too. Most are on at least 2 year contracts.
23 of the 39 man squad are aged between 18 and 25 (including the Development Squad), the rest are the more senior players who will most likely be starting (I’m not sure if that includes the coaches?).
RW expects to retain 85% (?) of his squad at the end of the season and wants to bring to an end the widely-held view that Cov is a club that makes wholesale changes year-on-year.
Interestingly, 14 of the current squad are full-time, which means that they will be involved in 15-20 hours of community work, supporting Matt Price in his community role. It also means that RW has additional time available to work with these players outside of the evening sessions and that can only be to the club’s advantage. He hopes to be able to increase this number in 12 months time, provided budgets allow and he can persuade the Board.
He did also say that it would be particularly difficult for the retained players this pre-season (the likes of Poole, Price, MacBurnie, Knox and so on), given they will be increasing their weekly training from 2½ hours a week to a potential 18.
RW put up a detailed development plan of the sessions available up to the beginning of the season and beyond. On Mondays, the club will train at Stoneleigh and on Tuesdays and Thursdays they’ll be at the club. Tuesday’s are for technical work, Thursday’s for attack.
RW is more than happy for supporters to go along to the Tuesday and Thursday sessions and watch the players train.
Many clubs spend the first few weeks of the pre-season training without the ball, but that’s not the approach RW is taking and again he reinforced the fact that his team will play with width, from touch to touch, and that at times it will be edge of the seat stuff.
Lots of tries but a fair few points conceded, too!
As far as the friendlies are concerned, the games before Ealing will be very much experimental, with 20 minutes sessions or players being pulled on and off to get the right combinations. Ealing will be the first ‘competitive’ game, with a squad of 25. On the final Saturday, the Development squad plus some of the senior squad will play Colchester and the rest will form the squad to play against Bury St Edmunds at 3.00 pm (presumably this squad will be close to that for the first league game the following week?).
RW finished by acknowledging that the club was aware that a lot of supporters had been extremely disgruntled with the club last season over its lack of communication. John Wilkinson has already (effectively imo) started to address this, but he also encouraged supporters to talk to him (RW) and the players.
Asked about taking on DR players, he said there was no need at the moment and feels that they aren’t usually effectively replacements for long-term injuries. The club have only spent about 85% of their recruitment budget for this season, so the idea is that should the club need to buy in players to cover for injuries, there are still some funds available. With a professional back-up team (physios, fitness coaches, nutritionists etc) the club are proactive rather than reactive. If the monies not there and a players is needed, then maybe he’d have a look at DRs.
I’ve probably missed a couple of questions, but hey-ho.
RW did ask me if I had a question and sadly I didn’t at the time, but I do now – albeit too late -I’d like to know if it’s his intention to rotate the squad or always play his best team (once he knows it of course!)…?
Looking forward to the ‘pm’ as I type…
Election of the Committee
As I mentioned at the start, it was all very straightforward. A couple of questions preceded the ‘voting’ – one of which was to confirm whether this was a re-launch of the old committee (using the same bank account and similar constitution) or the formation of a completely new SC.
Well, it’s definitely a re-launch and apparently there’s still £900 left in the account!
So the Committee is as follows…
Chairman – Cliff Bennett
Secretary – Quent Melhuish
Treasurer – Graham Bayliss
Events – Nigel Harrison
Media – Rob Carter and Tim Smith
Members without portfolio – Paul Ingleston and Steve Hood
Objectives of the Supporters’ Club
Cliff Bennett, having been voted into office, then took over (although he did oversee the nominations and voting on the back of no-one else offering!). He took us through some suggested ‘objectives’, and whilst most people felt these look fine, it was suggested that the ‘organisation of coaches for supporters’ should be added to the list.
–To be the official supporters’ voice and to liaise with CRFC;
–To liaise with CRFC to maintain and improve the facilities for supporters;
–To support CRFC, players, coaches, staff etc, both on and off the pitch;
–To foster good relationships between rugby supporters;
–To promote the values of
‘OUR CITY…OUR CLUB’ (as opposed to Your City…Your Club).
Cliff asked the floor about suggested SC fees and the consensus was around the £20 mark, although it depended on what was offered in return.
Cliff, supported by Quent Melhuish, went through various possible scenarios, including:
- additional information via social media, with opportunites for SC members to respond;
- discounted merchandise;
- discounted travel on coaches (I’m not sure this was mentioned, but it was discussed at an earlier meeting);
- social opportunities (an example of this was a mid-week opportunity for members to meet with a referee to go through changes to the laws and perhaps review clips of Cov games to explain the referees’ interpretations of the laws in match situations;
- a bi-monthly newsletter
What the SC won’t be is simply about arranging travel.
A suggestion from the floor was that perhaps the SC, via the club? (I know Lara commented on this), could look at arranging discounts with hotels when traveling to games where maybe the coaches be in operation.
Another was to re-launch the 100 Club as a way of raising additional funds for the club.
I stopped taking notes at this point, I’m afraid, but just before the meeting ended, Quent hoped to arrange the first official meeting of the Supporters’ Club within the next two weeks.
Cliff ended proceedings by giving a vote of thanks to RW, PR and Lara for their support.
A final comment from me – one of the most refreshing things to come from the Club, and in particularly from Rowland Winter, is the willingness to be so open with supporters.
As far as I’m aware, we’ve never, publicly at least, been offered the sort of information that RW provided last night. There was a complete breakdown of players by position, stats about age, fitness and so on, together with details about full/part-time contracts. It wasn’t expected, but greatly appreciated.
And here’s the thing – when supporters are treated so fairly and with such respect, you’re much more likely to give something back. Certainly, that’s the case with me. This ‘open door’ policy is one that will bring back supporters, especially if the communication continues to improve as it is at present.
Twice last night the phrase ‘might oaks from little acorns grow’ was used – and it seems apt.
Small steps at first, but hopefully this is the beginning of something much bigger.
The futures bright, the future’s blue and white.