Spreading the word, laying the foundations and Newport RFC
Remember the lyrics to Spandau Ballet’s ‘Communication’? – the one with the chorus that went:
Communication let me down
And I’m left here, I’m left here
Yes, you can probably guess where I’m going with this…
…but you’d be so wrong.
If ever I’d been asked to pick one song that best reflected many of the concerns Cov supporters voiced last season, then it would have been ‘Communication’:
Communication always leaves me in incomplete
The grass is greener, but it’s grown beneath my feet…
Telex or tell me but it’s always second-hand
Weeks of frustrated supporters voicing their concerns with little acknowledgement from an increasingly beleaguered club.
Ok, that maybe a bit harsh, but that’s how it seemed, especially in those dark, winter months when things seemed at their worst. And if you read back over some of the posts in this blog during that period, I clearly wasn’t the cheerful chappy I am at the moment.
How things have changed…
On Saturday we got the first few grumbles, centring principally on the pricing policy for the home game against Ealing Trailfinders – a full £10 with no reductions as a member.
I can see why that might grate with season tickets holders, many of whom will be picking up their memberships tickets over the next few days, having forked out £180 for the privilege. The situation wasn’t helped by the club giving out free tickets in Coventry city centre the day before which meant that those not in receipt of the handouts had to pay £10 on the gate, whilst others who might well not be regulars down at The Butts, got in for a fiver.
Personally, I’ve no object to free tickets being given out – but soften the blow a bit, perhaps?
Anyway, irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the way it was all done, the next working day, yesterday in effect, Cov put this message up onto the offy site:
Offer for Season Members this Saturday 20th August
Coventry v Newport
3.00pm Kick Off
Gate entrance will be £5.00 to Season Members only on production of their Membership Card. Please note that gate entrance will be £10.00 if you can’t produce your 2016-17 Membership card at the turnstile!
Spread the word
It would appear that someone from Cov had listened to supporters and the club has responded quickly and positively…how refreshing is that?
Even had the club said something along the lines that whilst they were aware of concerns, they were sticking with their current pricing policy, well that would have done me…but this is a great result and represents really good PR on the Club’s part.
And with only a minimum of moans required!
Move over Spandau Ballet.
Janet Jackson come take a bow:
It’s traveling faster than the eye can see
Information in the sky
Messages beamed across the atmosphere
Transmitted by you and I…
Remember the Midland Bank – or the ‘Listening Bank’ as they preferred to be known…? And the TSB – or the bank that liked to say ‘Yes’…
Well how about putting them both together…?
‘Welcome to The Butts – home of the listening club that likes to say yes…?’
The club can have that one for free.
Well done, Coventry Rugby – much appreciated.
Anyway, that’s helped to spread the word a bit…
At this point, I should have inserted Janet Jackson’s ‘Communication’…but it’s such an awful song (sorry, JJ fans). Here’s Spandau Ballet instead.
I never was a new romantic…
…but made up for it after the divorce…(bum bum).
No excuse to play a classic anyway, so here it is…
I really enjoyed Paul Smith ‘s piece about Cov in the Coventry Telegraph yesterday.
It featured a video clip of Rowland Winter talking about his decision to move to Cov, together with an article that really focused on some of the difficulties that RW had to confront on his arrival.
If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s well worth a read, if only to remind yourself of the enormity of the task at hand…
Whilst the article is probably worthy of a post on its own, given its importance in outlining just what RW is trying to set about doing here, I really only want to refer to the last couple of paragraphs.
Towards the end of the article he highlights one of the reasons for the club’s inability to achieve second tier rugby:
The problem historically has been they have always tried to nail that in a year; it has been a case of: ‘we haven’t won the league, let’s get better players’ rather than ‘why haven’t we, what’s behind the outcome?
I think this is the reason why, as a spectator, I’m now far more willing to give the club time to achieve that goal than I was last season. For example, we knew in August that the club’s intention was to make a push for promotion over the coming season and that in order to do this, they have recruited well with strength in depth.
Whilst I’m sure it wasn’t the case that the club felt this was all that was needed to top the league, but that’s how it came across. Keep doing what we’d done the season before and the stronger squad will be enough. We didn’t know anything about training regimes, the quality of the support available, how the coaching structure worked or the team were being prepared for a sustained attempt at promotion.
We just accepted that the players were good enough and it was a 12 month plan and that was about it.
Small wonder, therefore, that once Cov began losing games, the supporters’ response was that the players obviously weren’t good enough and the coaches hadn’t got a plan in place to deal with it. It was unfair on the players, short-sighted of supporters and showed a lack of empathy with the fans on the part of the senior coaches.
Since RW’s arrival, I’ve learned far, far more about what is expected of the players and of the coaches, about how the training programme is gradually built up to ensure the players are ready for the start of the season proper and about what the longer term plans are. Because I understand what the coaches are trying to achieve and how they are working towards their goals, if things don’t go as planned, it doesn’t worry me because I know that they are reactive as well as proactive and there’s flexibility built into the system to ensure that problems on the pitch can be addressed of it.
Historically, if we failed one year, the next year there were wholesale changes in the squad, although seldom were the coaches held accountable. And the process would start again next season.
No 2 or even 3 year plan, or at least not one sold to supporters.
RW and Jon Sharp have explained what the vision is, so knowing that it’s not a question of just bish, bash bosh, or sh%t or bust over the course of just one season, I’m not even going to worry unduly if we don’t get the start we’d like come September. I know it’s this is just the start of a journey and that might take 2 or even 3 seasons to reach our destination. I know what is expected and I’ve been happy to, quite literally given I’ve already got my season ticket, buy into the vision.
Whilst Rowland Winter is speaking on behalf of the club and coaches when he says:
We also now have identity and a direction in how we want to play…we’ll bite your hand off for promotion this time next year, but accept it might take two or three years
he might just as well be speaking for most supporters. Promotion this season…not altogether likely, but if it happens we’ll be more than happy to go with it, but much more likely we’re in for the longer haul.
Once again, it’s really back to sharing an understanding of what the club is about with its supporters and getting them all on board by being open and honest with them.
As the title of Paul Smith’s article suggests…it’s all about laying the foundations for success and not trying to build something that just won’t support itself.
I guess you are far more likely to trust those who appear to trust you…
Newport this week, then…
I’m never really sure of the strength of the Welsh teams, given the relationship between the regional and national leagues, although this might help a bit, coming as it does from Newport’s own (impressive) website:
Newport RFC are now one of 12 (reduced from 16 and then 14) semi-professional teams playing in the Welsh Premiership League and are one of the clubs that feed the Gwent regional side Newport Gwent Dragons and in fact they have a number of players who have Development contracts with the regional side. Both sides currently play out of Rodney Parade, Newport.
As well as the Welsh Premiership, Newport, as all other member clubs of the WRU, have the opportunity to play in the Welsh Cup currently sponsored by SWALEC, they also participate in the British and Irish Cup (BIC). So the two main competitions for Welsh clubs continue, leaving the regional sides to compete in RaboDirectPRO 12 League and European Cup competition.
Ironically, Newport Gwent Dragons take on Ealing at home on Saturday, the team we played last week, whilst Newport visit us, having played Rosslyn Park last weekend. So plenty of comparisons are available, should we choose to make them.
Rosslyn Park came away from Newport with a win, 24-26 and although this tells us little at the moment, we will know a fair bit more come the final whistle on Saturday.
It’s clearly going to be another big test…whilst they appear to be a semi-professional side, their link to the Gwent Dragons is surely going to mean that they benefit from excellent training facilities and the pick of some of the best up and coming players in Wales.
We’ll have to rely on the likes of JW and RW to tell us just how strong a side Newport are bringing with them, but they are sure to be a sterner challenge than the Cardiff side we played down in Wales last season. It was that result which really caused many supporters to believe that Cov were about to embark on something special last season…although that feeling didn’t last too long as it happened.
I’m quietly confident we’ll see a further improvement on the performances we’ve seen against Jersey and Ealing, although whether it will be good enough to earn us the win, well we’ll just have to wait and see. Cov have enjoyed some pretty intense games against the Welsh in the past and doubtless this will be another hard-fought encounter. There’s always something about the Welsh playing Cov that makes for an interesting spectacle for the fans.
Whilst we’ve had some decent crowds for the pre-season home games, the reduction in the price for season ticket holders, together with the attraction of watching a Welsh team at the Butts, should be enough to encourage our highest attendance yet in this series of friendlies.
Presumably, from what RW said last week, we can expect to see many of the same faces on Saturday who played against Ealing last week. If that is the case, then it’s a good chance for spectators to familiarise themselves with the squad in readiness for the start of the National 1 league season that begins in the first week of September.
Plenty to look forward to…