So we waved our hands as we marched along
And the people smiled as we sang our song
And the world was saved as they listened to the band
And the Banner-Man held the banner high
He was ten feet tall and he touched the sky
And I wish that I could be a Banner-Man
Glory, glory, glory
Blue Mink – The Banner Man
Following yesterday’s post which looked at the national coverage Coventry Rugby Club is at long last enjoying, it now appears that Cov is also currently basking in the international limelight, with several supporters doing their bit to promote the club some 12000 miles away over in New Zealand.
Hats off to Phil Reynolds and Steve Hood, for instance, for seeing the opportunity to sell the club to the Kiwis…
…and their foresight in taking the Coventry Rugby Supporters’ Club mascot, Tuska, along with him in the form of the official CRSC banner.
Quite just how they managed to fit that into their luggage is a question well worth asking on their return, but it is clear that the banner has become an important part of Phil’s journey across New Zealand and will doubtless have resulted in one or two interesting conversations along the way.Who knows…maybe Sonny Bill, unlikely to play international rugby again following his rush of the blood last weekend, might spot it somewhere in Eden Park on Saturday and take note…although quite whether he’d get into the Cov team in preference to Sam Tuitupou, Alex Grove, Heath Stevens, Rob Knox or Tom Wheatcroft is open to debate?
I’m sure when Phil and Steve have been talking to the locals in the clubs and bars on both islands, many of the rugby loving locals will already have been familiar with the history of Coventry, or at the very least be aware of David Duckham who was part of the successful ’71 tour to New Zealand and was a key player in the Barbarians team that beat the All Blacks in 1973.
But I’m equally sure that they’ll be able to update them on the renaissance that is taking place here at the BPA at the moment as well as meet with other Lions supporters and spread the word that Coventry is rising, phoenix like, from the ashes of its more recent past and will be before too long be, once again, one of the top 20 clubs in the country.
Fair play to Phil and Steve, though.
Much as I love the club, I don’t think my passion for Cov would have extended to lugging the banner around with me wherever I go – a couple of posts on the blog perhaps, and a few photos as well, would have been the extent of my loyalty I’m afraid.
I’m sure they will be making friends out there who will develop an interest in Cov that wasn’t there before and who knows where that might lead.
Perhaps Cov could follow their example and take a more evangelical approach to its marketing…I’m happy to volunteer for annual all-expenses-paid trips to say Australia, South Africa, Argentina or, better still, the South Sea Islands, in return for which I’ll spread the Word…
…the Word, of course, being Cov.
I do think Phil and Steve deserve a pat on the back – these are guys who love the club and have gone out of their way to promote it even though they are thousands of miles from home.
Such loyalty is not unique to them of course, it’s something that supporters share across all clubs and across all sports. That said, Cov is lucky in that it has a large core of such dedicated fans and it is one of the reasons that sets us apart from many other clubs in National One- the core fans are no more passionate than, say Cambridge or Fylde…there are just rather more of them.
One thing that has particularly struck me since the arrival of Rowland Winter and the ensuing shake-up both on and off the pitch is just how much the changes have impacted on the supporters in a positive way.
I’ve supported Cov for almost all of my 57 years, first attending as a 2-year-old and then pretty much a regular ever since. Yet in all that time I rarely got to know anyone, except perhaps the small group of supporters who sat in close proximity to me, and then only for the duration of the game. I travelled with other supporters for a couple of seasons when the SC used to run coaches, but even then I often preferred to travel by other means.
In short, I kept myself pretty much to myself.
However, all that changed last season.
The DoR’s willingness to be open and upfront meant that everyone seemed more willing to enter into the spirit of the occasion and suddenly everyone was talking – the supporters, initially through Cliff and then aided by Quent, formed a Supporters’ Club that created a real buzz and helped create a sense of togetherness.
Transport to away games via coaches was offered and quickly became popular, almost as much for the social aspect as for the opportunity for cheap travel. Suddenly, faces of folk whom I’d seen regularly at games in previousR seasons became actual people with real names and friendships were created which were never there before…
I would never have chatted to Phil or Steve had things remained the same at the end of the 2015/16 season.
Indeed, I wouldn’t have met Cliff or become friends with Quent or Paul or Billy or Simon, nor would I have looked forward to my pre-match chats with Roger or Pauline as I now do.
And I certainly wouldn’t have had the opportunity to enjoy the company of Richard or Mark at training.
All these might seem like minor consequences of Jon Sharp’s decision to undertake a root and branch transformation of the club back at the end of 2015 and he’s probably not aware of the effects of his decision outside of the playing/business side of the club, but nevertheless they are important ones to me, ones that have in some small way improved the quality of my life…
…and I don’t say that lightly.
Irrespective of the progress Cov is making, or the success or otherwise that the club will enjoy this season, I’ll enjoy the next few months because I’ll be with people who share the same willingness to be part of something far bigger than just the rugby itself.
The community links the club is developing which are doing so much to provide opportunity for youngsters in Coventry schools actually extend much further than to just those under the age of 16 or so.
For many of the supporters, the club’s change in approach to its fan base is empowering…deliberate or otherwise…
…it’s something that isn’t often spoken about these days where success is judged by profit and loss accounts or league positions.
But it should be. It’s important and it’s motivating.
Again, maybe it’s just a me thing and for other supporters the club is as its always been and people have continued to mix as they did before the start of last season.
However, I’ve certainly enjoyed these last 12 months more than in previous seasons and for reasons other than just the rugby…
And long may that continue.
Phil/Steve – you are the Banner Men
Could really choose much else other than Blue Mink – the sad think was, at 11 years old I used to really love them and remember positioning my first cassette record with an external mike up close to the radio to tape the song in the chart run down on a Sunday! Loved Madeline Bell…remember the PG Tips adverts…?