Club talk

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…

…and again.

Is a lack of a visible scoreboard and no PA for a sizeable number of spectators going to ensure that happens.

Unlikely.

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!

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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…

Happy times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 replies »

  1. Tim, your posting is absolutely brilliant, and totally word perfect. You perfectly highlight certain flaws yet still remain positive about the club and the board. I totally concur with your comments regarding not being to hear any announcements via tannoy at the Railway End. I have left it a couple of days to reply, mainly because I wanted to ask you if you have received any comments from the club regarding your post. Have you received any reply at all please? On behalf of all supporters, and all who post on the message board, please keep up the good work sir

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    • Hi Tim…thank you for your very kind comments, I’m not sure they’re really deserved though.

      Your question isn’t as straightforward to answer as it might at first seem. :).
      In short, the club hasn’t responded – but in fairness I wouldn’t expect them to.
      I’m given to understand the blog wasn’t well received in its first year- I guess like most folk I was somewhat critical of what was happening. I think it’s probably tolerated in most quarters now, and Rowland Winter seems very supportive and Jon Sharp has mentioned it in passing to me on a couple of occasions this season which is pleasing.

      Other than RW and Lara, however, the club has never directly commented on it. I’m happy with that – it’s very much a personal thing that is out there for others to read should they wish to do so. To do so would be to publicly recognise it and I’m not sure that they’ll want to do that…it’s the same with the Messageboard. It’s probably absolutely the right thing to do.
      I’ve certainly have no wish to put the club in a difficult position as a result of what I write, it is after all just one person’s view and not representative anyone’s opinion but my own.
      Something from the Supporters’ Club would carry far more gravitas and have a greater impact and that would be the right path to take should it be felt appropriate to contact the Club.
      You are very kind in your comments and they are really appreciated…but, as I’ve said before, it just a hobby to keep me from vegetating in my dotage!

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  2. Having watched the three Development home games so far I offer the following, intended as constructive observations.
    When the Zoo League fixtures were first published before the start of the season the kick-off times for the fixtures against Bishop’s Stortford and Chinnor, (Oct 27th), were given as 5.00. All other home fixtures were shown as 12.30 but with TBC attached. I wondered if the later start times were due to difficulties with players arriving earlier, but this was only a presumption. Having now experienced both start times I agree that the earlier is better for all sorts of reasons.
    As someone who always buys a programme I really do want to know who is playing in the team. Having attended all games so far this season and several training sessions I am now able to recognise many of the players. However, there are several in the development squad who I don’t know and without any announcements of identification am not going to know. I jot down the side when it’s announced on the website before the game but have found that it’s generally been changed by kick-off time and even more problems arise when replacements are made.
    The scoreboard has shown scores for the previous Development games so why not the latest one? I can only presume that it was because of the 5.00 kick off. If I hadn’t kept a note of the scores I wouldn’t have had a clue. As it was I was able to inform several other supporters of the final result. Maybe the new scoreboard could have the facility of naming the two sides and any replacements as well as JW’s announcements. Time of play is also an important facility.
    Finally lighting. Apart from the safety aspects outlined by many, surely the players deserve full lighting of the pitch. Half floodlighting is not enough and during Saturdays game the corners were very dark indeed.
    Come on Cov…. in all aspects of the club.

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    • Great post, Peter. I’ve been to a couple of Cov United games at the BPA and they have managed to have the teams scrolling across the screen before the game, so there is clearly the option to use that – it would make things a little clearer on occasions. Hopefully, either the club will reconsider the starting time for the Chinnor game or will have addressed at least some of the concerns that folk have raised on the Messageboard and through the comments on here. The blog tends to be well-read these days (in terms of numbers) but few leave comments -the fact that so many have responded (I’ve probably had the same number via PMs) shows the degree of feeling regarding the issue of these late starts.

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  3. “Nail” and “Head” are the two words which spring to mind about your comments Tim.
    Frankly it was disgraceful that such an attitude of barely grudging tolerance should have been the order of the day. Where was the active and enthusiastic support of the principle and concept of the Development squad and of the Zoo Sports Shield?
    The many supporters of Bishop’s Stortford must have wondered what on earth they were witnessing.
    Please rest assured that subject will be high on the agenda when we have our next meeting at BPA.

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    • Thanks, Cliff…I know the SC is very proactive on this sort of thing and the sheer volume of responses I’ve received on here and in private show that it wasn’t just one or two supporters who felt somewhat aggrieved. It’s something which actually wouldn’t be too difficult to address provided that the club see it as a problem…maybe they do, maybe they don’t. Will be interested to see what responses you and Quent receive when you raise it!

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  4. I agree with what is being said here. I too stayed until the end and it was very dark, with the floodlights coming on late on and additionally, only half on at that. Personally wasn’t overly fussed about the announcer or lack of but the scoreboard would have been handy.

    Have all of the development matches changed to after the event now? What was the reason for changing? Like you Tim, I liked getting there early for the added build up. I feel there were significantly less there to watch the development match in comparison to previous- whether this is weather, timing or facilities who knows.

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    • Hi Paul, I don’t think we were told the reason for the late start, or if we were it passed me by (again!). 4 of the National One games on Saturday had attendances under 450, which is probably less than were watching the BS game at the start – that sort of number merits the use of the scoreboard and a PA, as well as adequate lighting. Hopefully, the SC will get involved and it will all be sorted for the next game.

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    • Thanks, Paul – no idea as to the reasons behind the later start, although I might well have missed something sent out by John. There’s only one other as far as I know, against Chinnor later this month – it will be interesting to see if there’s a different approach to that game in terms of the use of lights, scoreboard and so on.

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  5. Tim – as usual very well written and thank you. I was one of those ‘victims’ who stayed to watch the Development game, and indeed victim is the right analogy as we were not treated as supporters. It was disgraceful and demonstrated a clear disregard for those who remained. The Supporters’ Club will be having a meeting with Phil Crossman, the new CEO, in the next few weeks and we will be raising all the issues you and others have taken the time to comment on. Indeed, I will be in BPA on Tuesday / Wednesday this week and will make my views clearly known.

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    • Thanks Quent…it was disappointing and I do feel sorry for the youngsters playing out there as well. I didn’t mention it in the post but will do here – it’s not surprising that the likes of Cliffie H and Tom W have moved on and opted to drop a league or two to play first team rugby – given their backgrounds, they wouldn’t have wanted to play in those sorts of conditions week in, week out, Certainly seems to be the right decision for them, despite the loss to the club.

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  6. Tim I was going to contact the club today to highlight the very issues that you have raised. I did not want to knock or slur CRFC in anyway. But just hope for the next %.00pm kick off things are dealt with. One other thing is the amount of glasses that are apearing in the main stand. I thought only plastic was aloud outside. Is it possible to send your articule to the clu ? because you have put it much better than I could.

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    • Mick. I’m sure you’d make your concerns very clear…you always speak with passion and clarity. The post is in the public domain for anyone to use it as they will…it’s not something I would do because that’s not the reason I wrote it, it’s a reflection of what I felt at the time. More than happy for it to be quoted though…
      Hopefully, see you on Saturday…

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  7. Tim. Really interesting to read all of this and it is excellent feedback for the club. I have raised the issue of lack of handrails some time ago when my father struggled. He used the lift but that is not ideal for all. The response then was that the ground met sports stadium standards. Speak to you at Fylde. Enjoying the blog now you are back!

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    • I had the same conversation probably 10 years ago with the club…I guess they’ve been proved right because there haven’t been any accidents attributable to the steepness of the steps BUT it is always a worry and, as I mentioned in the post, I know a few folk who don’t go any more because of worries about accessing the stand.
      Yep, see you Saturday…

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  8. Totally agree with these reflections Tim. I’m sure the club will take on board all these suggestions. Maybe some are already being addressed. As you say, it would be great to have an update. I guess the context is that we have moved such a long way in a short space of time. It’s been a remarkable improvement as regards the rugby and the surrounding organisation. Jon Sharp often stops for a chat and I always make a point of thanking him!!! The atmosphere on Saturday was vibrant, if a little nerve wracking! Remember the Scott Morgan days? By his own admission he spent 15 hours a week in his car. The club culture has been changed radically.
    Your musical connection again strikes a chord! In the late sixties I used to go to a blues club in Stafford every Thursday. The Yeoman Public House (probably no longer there). The resident group were the Climax Chicago Blues Band. They were stunning. There was always a special guest who would end up jamming with the band. We all wanted hair like Colin! Now I just want hair!
    Thanks, Richard.

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    • Hi Richard…yes, the context is really important which is why I was reluctant to be critical given all the improvements that have been made – however, I’m relieved there are others who felt that the organisation of the Development game wasn’t as tight as perhaps it could/should have been. Saw The Climax Blues Band only the once, probably in ’81, still touring on the back of ‘Couldn’t get it Right’ and supporting a group that would have been a bit ‘new wave-ish’ (they would have had to have been for me to have gone at that time!). Wrong audience and I remember they didn’t get the best of receptions but they we great live even then. Was never into long hair…Cooper has sadly passed on now but he was greatly underrated.

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  9. Tim couldn’t agree with you more. I was one of the supporters who stayed to watch the majority of the Developement game and the first questions from myself and the supporters remaining concerned the score board and announcements. This compounded by what appeared to be penny pinching over the lighting caused a dilution of the support that the Developement side warranted.
    With regard to your point over the steep steps and lack of handrail, if you look closely at the steps it was I believe intended that a hand rail be installed. But I do believe that this was stopped by the safety officials at the council who deemed it as a hinder acne rather than a safety requirement.

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    • Hi Pete,
      Fair play about the handrail – I wasn’t aware of that, but when the steps get a bit wet underfoot you do have to take rather more care than you would normally. I’m reasonably mobile still but I certainly take them steps with more caution that I would do anywhere else.

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  10. Totally agree Tim. Floodlights not being on fully is inexcusable and surely leaves the club liable in the event of an incident. Surely we owe the players a proper environment to play the game. I think the crowd would have been larger if the weather had not deteriorated so badly. AND THEY CLOSED THE OUTSIDE BAR

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    • Seems the there was a general feeling of disappointment amongst those present and the experiment of playing the game later (if it was an experiment) certainly didn’t work from a supporter’s perspective but maybe it did result in increased bar takings in the clubhouse. I think there’s one more late kick off scheduled – hopefully the club will be better prepared for that one.

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