After the Lord Mayor’s show, the lights are out but there’s still definitely someone at home…
But I kept on looking for a sign
In the middle of the night
But I couldn’t see the light
No, I couldn’t see the light
I kept on looking for a way
To take me through the night
I couldn’t get it right
I couldn’t get it right
Climax Blues Band – Couldn’t Get It Right
So much is right about what is happening at the moment that it seems rather churlish and mean-spirited to focus on a few concerns following Saturday’s double-header, especially when the club is riding high at the top of National One.
Indeed, perhaps even somewhat disrespectful given the team is unbeaten in its opening six games this season, 14 in all if you include the 8 game run at the end of last season. Indeed, it’s now a full calendar year since Cov last lost at home, and even that that was against all conquering Hartpury.
But equally, if this blog is to truly reflect my own feelings about the club I love and have supported all my life, then it would be disingenuous not to.
Those who read this blog with any regularity will know that I am given to accentuating the positives rather than concentrating on the negatives. I regard myself as anything but a Moaning Minnie – and for me to use the blog as a means of criticising the club is not something I take lightly.
On reflection though, perhaps a Moaning Minnie is indeed what I am, given the term was first used to describe the noise certain types of bullets and mortar shells made as they flew through the air and later as a term for a particular type of WW2 air-raid siren used to warn civilians of an imminent attack.
Much of this post will be the raising of an alarm of sorts, as well as a request to the club to listen once again to its supporters as it has done so effectively these last few 18 months…I’ll raise little that hasn’t been mentioned elsewhere.
I know the blog is read intermittently by some at the club, as is the Messageboard, so it’s not as if the following will be anything new, but by bringing it altogether in one post and personalising it, maybe it changes the direction of discussions a little given the blog has a different audience in many ways to the supporters who contribute to the Forum.
Much of the following has more to do about the whole match day experience rather than anything appertaining to the quality of the rugby on display…
So, where to begin…?
Let’s start with the Coventry Development game that followed the league encounter on Saturday.
A change to a five o’clock kick off was an interesting call, and one I’m certainly not questioning per se.
However, one of the great things about the earlier 12.30 pm start is that it is very much a warm up to the main event, with the crowd building up and the excitement growing and, whilst not everyone gets there for the start, it’s a question of the crowd increasing as the game goes on. It’s played very much as a normal game would be and benefits greatly from the anticipation of the rest of the day’s rugby.
As far as Saturday’s experience at the later time was concerned, it appeared more of a warm down than a warm up.
As I understood it, one of the key objectives behind the Development Squad is to provide youngsters with a real match day experience wherever possible, to prepare them for the next level of rugby and to make them very much part of a whole club experience.
Whilst I didn’t stay for more than the opening few minutes of the game, the following observations are fuelled by my own observations as I hung around the fencing delaying my exit for as long as I could before I had to leave ( I missed my intended train – whoops), conversations with Sam who was there for the whole game, what was written on the Messageboard post-game and a number of comments sent to me from supporters disappointed by what they saw/experienced.
I should also add, some of the comments I’ve read are far more prosaic than those that you will read below…
Firstly, I do think that at all home Development games, whatever the starting time, there should be an announcer to read out the team names, name the scorers and so on and even more importantly, a working scoreboard. It’s not as if the games are watched by a handful of people – several hundred have attended each game so far, so given the numbers involved, I do think that is a fair expectation.
If we are expecting our players to come into a club that wants to be seen as forward thinking and professional in the way it treats its emerging players (and supporters), then that’s not too much to ask, is it?
It certainly doesn’t need to be a Graham Bayliss or a John Butler, but having a PA does give far more of a competitive feel to the game and for supporters, many of whom will not be able to place names to faces as far as the Development Squad is concerned, then it makes a significant difference to one’s enjoyment of the game. No one is expecting names in the programme or a separate flyer (which can be self-defeating if there are numerous changes as sometimes can be the case), but someone to read the names out, even if it is a non-playing member of the squad, would be really welcome.
And a nice touch for the players as well to hear their names read out loud as well.
More importantly, for supporters to be unsure of the score at any point in the game, or even worse the result of the game itself, is really poor…irrespective of whether it’s the Development Squad or the senior side. A good PA and a scoreboard greatly enhances ones enjoyment of the game.
I have to say, as a result of a lack of either, there were some very disgruntled supporters following the Development game from what I’ve seen and heard.
I might be wrong here, but I also got the impression that the floodlighting wasn’t as bright as it would normally be and certainly the lighting in the main stand was turned off…
…and that does send a clear message to supporters, one that says now the main event is over we’re off, just close the gate behind you when you’re done…
And far more seriously, the steps in between the blocks of seating are especially steep and potentially dangerous and whilst no one from the club has ever acknowledged that, ask anyone over the age of 60 plus with a bit of arthritis or who is just a bit unsteady on their feet. To remove some of the lighting is laying yourself open to criticism should there be an accident…whilst Saturday’s incident when the spectator fell had nothing whatsoever to do with a lack of lighting, it does show the potential dangers should anyone fall. I know we all get a bit too health and safety conscious at times, but there is a bare minimum that is required.
As a side note – if I had a decent sum of money at my disposal, if only to lengthen the time I’ll be able to attend games in my dotage, I’d give money to the club to section off an area of the stand, probably the top third of the centre block. I’d add handrails down the side of each set of stairs and include then along each row of seats so that the more the ageing supporters amongst us, and there’s a growing number, have a place of sanctuary. I know there is an area nearer the front and towards city end where there are some rails, but they need to go up towards the back of the stand so that those who have mobility issues can access the stand via the lifts from the front entrance. I know of a few spectators who no longer come to the ground because they don’t feel safe using the steps.
And from the little time I was there on Saturday, it looked as if some supporters who decided to go into the club house to get a drink prior to the game decided to stay there rather than return to the game. Now unintentionally this might well suit the club in terms of the increased takings at the bar, but it means the atmosphere outside is lessened as the game goes on. Certainly, when I left there were many, many supporters who were choosing to socialise in the bar than watch the game. Clearly, that is up to the individual supporter, but it might be that more would watch if there was more to offer supporters outside.
I very much appreciate that the club has made entry into these Zoo Sports Shield games free, but that doesn’t justify a lack of lighting or basic information about the game in the form of a working scoreboard or a PA. .
It might well be that all is in hand and the club are well aware of the concerns and are already in the process of addressing them, in which case it only needs a brief paragraph on the website in one of the club updates and it’s all sorted. Cov has been far more responsive of late to supporters’ comments and I believe it is working with the Supporters’ Club to continue to improve the match day experience. Maybe discussions could be widened somewhat to include Development games as and when appropriate.
I do think both players and supporters deserve a bit more in terms of the organisation of the day – it’s certainly not meant to be a criticism, overt or otherwise, of the management of the team.
For me and many others, the Zoo League fixture had an ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ feel to it, an event that lacked the excitement of the main event (inevitably, players had to warm up away from the pitch for much of the time leading up to kick off so there was no real build-up prior to the game) which was nothing to do with the quality of the rugby that was on show. Indeed, by all accounts Cov played well, especially in the second half.
It might be others will disagree, but the earlier kick off works rather better – but for any Zoo League fixture, whatever the time of day, there should at the every least be an announcer and a working scoreboard and if it is a later kick off, adequate lighting on and off the pitch is essential.
The comments about the PA and the lack of a scoreboard in part are also relevant to the earlier games as well. Supporters opposite the main stand currently have no access to a scoreboard, whilst those at the railway end aren’t able to hear the PA – the club will be aware of these concerns already, so they’ll be able to understand how that might infuriate anyone watching the Development Squad who, wherever they sit or stand, will have access to neither. I think the SC are working with the club over a new scoreboard somewhere around where the club shop currently is – again, a note on the website could address further moans.
It’s been an on-going gripe, and rightly so, on the Messageboard – but as yet there’s nothing come from the club which is a shame as all other aspects of communication between club and supporters have been a real strength over the last season or so and that continues to be the case, certainly on the playing front.
But here’s the thing…
By my reckoning, the first three home games have seen attendances in total of 5,400 , or an average of 1800.
The attendance of 1703 on Saturday was a particularly significant one for me – Blackheath and Moseley, the previous clubs to visit the BPA this season, were always going to attract bigger than normal gates, but Bishop’s Stortford was the first of teams less likely to pull in the larger crowds.
To get over 1700, therefore, suggests to me that we are definitely on an upward trend in terms of home attendance (some 550ish above last season’s average) and that’s hugely important to the long term prospects of the team, and indeed the club. So it’s vital that when we attract new or returning supporters into the ground, we provide the type of all-round match day experience that will ensure they’ll want to return again…
Is a lack of a visible scoreboard and no PA for a sizeable number of spectators going to ensure that happens.
And the bigger the crowd, the more spectators will frequent the areas presently not covered by one or the other.
I know there’s a limited budget available and you have to prioritise, but there are such things as false economies. The more the crowds grow, the louder and more varied the moans become and the more folk will be put off from coming over to the BPA. The players, the coaches and the backroom staff are working so hard to move the club forward, but there is always the danger of sometimes losing sight of the small things that actually make a big difference.
Rowland Winter has said that one of the crucial moments, rugby-wise, this season will be the response of his players and coaches to the that inevitable first loss of the season. He’ll expect a reaction, and a positive one at that, a determination to address the problems and as a result become even stronger from the experience.
Perhaps the same should be true here as far as the club is concerned. Supporters have seldom had any cause to complain in the last year and a half…
…now there are a few concerns being expressed on the Messageboard and elsewhere the test will be how the club responds.
In fairness, lessons were learned last season from the problems regarding the bar facilities following the December encounter with Moseley and things have improved in that area…lets hope this is the case with some or all of the moans currently being shared following Saturday.
They are small things, fairly easy to address, at least in terms of a statement of intent…
Let’s wait and see.
I’ve gone off on one a little, for which I apologise but sometimes if you care about something and feel passionately about it…well, you know what I mean.
It’s so late that I’ll leave the MoM results until tomorrow….apologies to those who waded through the above to find they aren’t included!
One of the greatest one-hit wonder of all time for me – ‘Couldn’t get It Right’ by the Climax Blues Band.
It typified the summer of ’76 – O Levels completed and doing little else but playing cricket over the extended summer holiday…