At first I was a little bemused when I read Tuesday’s article by Simon Gilbert in the Coventry Telegraph entitled ‘Coventry City Butts Park Arena ground share ‘still on the table”.
The headline suggested that there was some up-to-date information concerning the possible Sky Blues move to Butts Park Arena, loosely implying that discussions between the two sides are currently on-going.
On closer reading though, this is not the case at all.
It was only when yesterday a second article relating to Cov appeared in the Telegraph, again by Simon Gilbert (hey, two in two days, we shouldn’t be complaining), this time under the legend ‘Why Coventry Rugby are city’s answer to Real Madrid’s Galácticos’, that the penny dropped.
This is pure speculation on my part, but I’m guessing this all stems from a recent Simon Gilbert interview with Jon Sharp, presumably on the back of plenty of local interest being directed Cov’s way following some high-profile signings and a more than encouraging start to the National One campaign, culminating in the game against Moseley.
During the course of said interview, and again I’m guessing here, mention was made by Jon S that nothing has changed regarding the Cov/City ground share.
I imagine the paper would feel there would be a lot more reader interest in the ground share side of the interview than in the rest of it, given the probable weighting of Cov City to Coventry Rugby supporters who follow the Telegraph. It made sense, therefore, to include that as a separate article and then pad it out with a rehash of the what is in effect old news, repeating many of the comments reported in the CT back in March.
It is, as they say, old news and a bit misleading at first. But old news is good news for Cov as it continues to keep the club’s profile in the public gaze.
No one from the football club is quoted in Tuesday’s article as having spoken to the paper recently, whereas we are told Jon Sharp spoke ‘exclusively to the Telegraph’. I don’t really have a problem with that, although by not involving anyone from the football club directly maybe it lacks a little balance. That said, the word ‘exclusive’ in the context of the article suggests far more than just saying, in effect, nothing’s changed.
The article does little more than confirm that Jon Sharp has merely repeated his previous stance, quoting along side what Tim Fisher, the Coventry City Football Club Chairman, said to a supporters’ meeting back in March, namely that:
The Butt’s Park Arena is on in terms of the football club.
That’s all a bit too dramatic to me, suggesting things have moved forward since March and that ground share between the two clubs is very much on the cards. However, as Jon Sharp points out, any ground share with Coventry City is just one of several possibilities that Cov Rugby Club are currently exploring. No more than that. Cov are continuing to look at all avenues open to them when developing the ground, of which a ground share with Coventry City is but one:
The doors are open, nothing has been ruled out. On the other hand, nothing has been decided either
As I said, very much old news.
So, to recap, the headline to the article ‘Coventry City Butts Park Arena ground share ‘still on the table’ is factually accurate but I would tentatively suggest that it ignores the fact that things don’t appear to have changed at all in the six months since the paper last highlighted the issue to this extent.
Putting it as diplomatically as I can, it’s just a reaffirming what we already know.
The real giveaway for me is that the second article, published just a day later, makes several references to the improvements to the ground, the building of a new stand and the likelihood of a 3G pitch, all areas covered in the ground share article, but makes no reference to any involvement with Coventry City whatsoever. It’s as if it’s the paper that has decided to make something of the story, not Jon, and that’s certainly their prerogative, but it’s not something that Jon seems to be focusing on greatly. I get the impression that as far as the Cov Board is concerned, the club will go ahead with the development of the ground irrespective of City’s involvement.
If, however, agreement can be reached with the football club, and provided SISU are totally out of the equation, then if it is in the best interests of Coventry Rugby, then maybe a deal could be struck, but it’s very much a case of Coventry driving it forward.
The ground share article merely repeats what we already know, that at the moment the English Football League hasn’t approved the type of 3G pitch Cov is currently looking at and that the ground’s maximum capacity would be 12000. If the Sky Blues are ambitious and wish to climb back up the leagues, then a stadium with a capacity as low as that of 12,000 might be a concern as I imagine that it wouldn’t take much more than one promotion to get crowds up around the upper end of that figure.
In which case it might mean City would have to make another move fairly swiftly.
Coventry’s most recent home game, against Carlisle United, attracted over 6000, and that’s when things are looking pretty grim…once they start to improve, hopefully sooner rather than later, gates will start to improve rapidly.
Of more interest to me is yesterday’s article (‘Why Coventry Rugby are city’s answer to Real Madrid’s Galácticos’). Simon Gilbert details some of the big name players to have made their way over to Butts Park Arena during the summer as well as some of the changes that have taken place around the club, or those that are in the pipeline. There’s plenty in what he writes to whet the appetite of supporters who might have attended games in the past but aren’t currently regulars down at Cov.
From what Jon S says, it’s clear that supporters are, quite literally, buying into the vision he and Rowland Winter have shared with them from day one of the DoRs tenure at the BPA. With season ticket sales up from 290 to 450, a 64% increase, that should result in an marked increase in the average attendance over the season – and that’s another guaranteed £25,000 plus in the coffers to boot.
That’s not even allowing for increased bar/refreshment takings, programmes sales, car parking monies or Cov’s takings from the sale of club merchandise.Some of those would have been regulars anyway, just not season ticket holders, but there will be plenty of new footfall down at the BPA to account for the loss of any money actually taken on the gate this season.
If we do beat OA on Saturday, the attendance against Blackheath the following week will be really significant as it’s more likely to be representative of what average attendances might be over the rest of the season.
The Coventry Chairman affirmed that a decision to go ahead with the 3G pitch in readiness for the start of the 2017/18 season will need to be made by the end of the year and, if that does go ahead, at the same time a stand opposite the current one would be erected with a probable capacity of 5000.
If the green light is given for a build next summer, then it won’t start until after another open air concert, similar to the one involving UB40 in May. I imagine the planning has already started for that. The fact that there is another one already being organised shows what a good venue Cov is and how efficiently the club organised the event. I can only imagine what a logistical nightmare that must have been.
Assuming that we can then get promoted in fairly short order to the Championship, and the gates justify it, and just on the basis we were working on it alone, then we could make it bigger. There is either end of the ground and we could erect stands.
This is a sizeable stadium we’re talking about now. But the Board are definitely right not to rush things – you only have to go and watch Darlington play in their 20,000 seater ground to see how empty it feels when around just a 1000 spectators take over one small area of the seating. Empty probably does it justice.
In addition, there would be space in the new plans for the BPA for a number of retail outlets, thus ensuring a steady source of income throughout the year and presumably 6 or 7 days a week.
JS also commented on the work that has already been undertaken around the ground to improve the overall match day experience for supporters, including the opening of new bar areas (which seemed to meet with everyone’s approval last Saturday).
It also appears the new medical and physiotherapy facilities have been improved to Championship standard, a sure sign that Cov is expecting at some stage in the next two or three seasons to get into the second tier of English rugby.
What the article didn’t make clear was the fact that promotion this year, good as it would be, isn’t necessary for the ground improvements to take place. As I understand it, the business plans allow for two or even three more years of improvements to the club’s infrastructure in preparation for Championship rugby – if it comes sooner so much the better, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
Of the two articles in the Telegraph, the second is a far better representation of what is currently happening around the rugby club. The first appears more of a regurgitation of what we already know about the club’s possible link up with Cov City, but probably would be of far greater interest to City supporters, although I imagine it’s old news to them, too.
A quick poll…but an important one nevertheless. This one is an attempt to gauge the current thoughts on how Cov supporters feel the season might pan out on the basis of the pre-season and the first couple of league games.
Coventry has started well, but have it done enough in your opinion to warrant being most people’s favourites for the National One title?
Are Cov’s performances good enough so far to make them champions elect as I’ve already read elsewhere on the Internet or are there other teams that over the course of a long 30 game season might well be more durable than Coventry?
Is there the strength in depth in the current squad needed over such a long season, or are injuries already starting to be a concern?
As with most blog polls, I’ll keep it open for two days and publish the results on Saturday. All you need to do is to click against the position you feel Cov will end up come April of next year and then click again on the yellow/gold ‘Vote’ button at the bottom of the poll.
Many thanks in advance for your participation.
Hopefully, I should be at the BPA tonight for the Supporters’ Club AGM.
I’m sure there will be something relating to the meeting in tomorrow’s post 🙂 .