Club talk

Even in the Championship, Cov would still stand out in the crowd (if size does matter, then Cov is certainly well-endowed).

By standing out in the crowd,
Where the spotlight finds you and singles you out.
What are they whisperin’ about?
You’re thinkin’ up ways to take up less space…
Instead of embracing it…
Standin’ out in a crowd. (Standing out.)

It’s funny how now,
It’s not such a bad place to be.
Standing out in a crowd. (Standing out in a crowd.)
Standing out in a crowd

Trisha Yearwood – Standing Out In The Crowd

Yesterday’s post briefly looked at Coventry’s attendances at the BPA since 2010, the year the club was relegated to National One.

Using the available information from Statbunker, it’s pretty clear that Coventry has enjoyed far better attendances than any other club during that period other than Jersey which, in the one season it was in National One, averaged a very impressive home gate of 2,206, twice that of Coventry’s, the second best attended club that season.

Jersey won 19 consecutive games and took 400 fans with them to the BPA., no mean achievement given they all had to be flown in. Jersey’s biggest home gate was 3,684, achieved in the game against Rosslyn Park which remains both a club and National One record.

A number of teams., including Cov, have been tagged ‘too big for the league’ over the years they’ve been in the third tier of national rugby. However, if attendance is a yardstick of the relative size of one team against another, then I think it’s fair to say that Cov is, indeed, the biggest team currently playing in National One in terms of support, and has been over a number of years.

Just to add a little more detail to the National One attendances over the years, I’ve included the League’s attendance records below:

  • Highest attendance (league game): 3,648 – Jersey at home to Rosslyn Park on 14 January 2012
  • Lowest attendance (league game): 50 – West Hartlepool at home to Camberley on 31 March 2001
  • Highest average attendance (club): 2,206 – Jersey 2011-12
  • Lowest average attendance (club): 180 – Barking 2011–12
  • Highest average League attendance (season): 599 (2013–14)
  • Lowest average League attendance (season): 463 (2004–05)

What these seem to show is that there is relatively little variation year on-year in the overall numbers attending National One games given the highest and lowest average League attendances, something borne out by Coventry’s own experiences.

In the last 4 completed seasons Coventry’s lowest average attendance was 1152 (2015/16) and it’s highest was 1506 (2014/15), a difference of 354. During that period we finished as high as 3rd and as low as 9th, so even in the more successful seasons we didn’t attract the kind of numbers that we might have expected, although in 2014/15 I’m pretty sure we had two or three games where the crowds were over 2000…had our form remained over the last 5 home games of that season though and we’d remained in contention for the one promotion spot, doubtless the average would have been considerably higher.

The other figure that stands out if the lowest average attendance for a season of just 180, ‘achieved’ by Barking in the year Jersey was breaking all league records.

How clubs manage on such low numbers is beyond me, and clearly in Barking’s case they didn’t, not in National One anyway. Indeed, Barking now find themselves playing in London 2 South East, having been relegated again at the end of last season.

It’s not difficult to see why a club like Coventry is seen by supporters elsewhere as having far more in the way of money and resources when clubs like Barking fare as they do.

I accept that’s a very simplistic statement and fails to take into account the considerable overheads involved in running a club the size of Cov, and I think most supports are aware that the club is not yet self-financing, remaining reliant still on the generous donations of a few benefactors and all-round good eggs.

But to the away supporter from, say, Hull Ionians, visiting the BPA for the first time, then the large crowds at the BPA  spending lots of cash in the bar before and after the game must seem from another world altogether.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Following yesterday’s post, I had a couple of people kindly contact me to ask how Coventry’s current average attendance compared to those of clubs in the Championship.

Well, let’s have a look.

First, I’ve used the data available from the 2017/18 Championship season (again from Statbunker) but it’s worth noting that most teams have only played either 6 or 7 games at best, which is probably one or two homes games short of their National One counterparts.

However, with the obvious exception of Bristol, which was in the Premiership last season and looks likely to be returning there come the end of April, most clubs are close to the sorts of gates they were enjoying (or not, as the case may be) last year.

So, the average home attendances this  season are as follows:

 

Championship 17/18 Home attendance

Club AVG Total HIG LOW
Bristol

Bristol

7,288 29,153 8,429 6,509
Bedford Blues

Bedford Blues

2,373 7,119 2,607 2,175
Jersey

Jersey

1,622 6,488 2,174 1,244
Cornish Pirates

Cornish Pirates

1,594 4,782 2,236 1,241
Yorkshire Carnegie

Yorkshire Carnegie

1,840 3,680 2,160 1,520
Nottingham

Nottingham

1,198 3,593 1,355 1,063
Rotherham Titans

Rotherham Titans

845 3,381 1,017 714
Richmond

Richmond

808 3,233 1,020 604
Ealing Trailfinders

Ealing Trailfinders

712 2,848 1,006 512
Hartpury College

Hartpury College

865 2,594 1,026 775
London Scottish

London Scottish

832 2,495 868 800
Doncaster Knights

Doncaster Knights

1,214 2,428 1,389 1,039

Just by way of a reminder, Coventry’s current average attendance this season is  a very healthy 1,736, a figure that would put us currently 4th out of the 12 teams in the Championship. That certainly surprised me somewhat when I looked over the figures, having expected the top four or five clubs to be much better attended than that.

I don’t think it would be too optimistic to hope that when we gain promotion  into the Championship, whether it be this season, next or even the season after (but gain it we will), then our attendances will initially increase by a considerable amount. There is, after all, some evidence for this – the home game against Moseley last season attracted, 2,==712 and this year 2,242. On that basis then, I do think we could achieve at least an average attendance over the course of the season of  somewhere in between the two, at perhaps 2,500ish.

Now that would put us second in terms of current average attendances in the Championship, and the 2,500 gate I suggested earlier is a fairly conservative guestimate on my part.

I presume that the club would have to put up a temporary stand at the BPA, as well as additional facilities such as toilets, as the official capacity is only 3,000 at the moment (reduced from 4,000 in 2004/5), as there would most likely one or two games in the course of the season where that maximum figure would be exceeded…local games against Bedford and Worcester (potentially) might certainly involve a lot of travelling support.

If the infrastructure is in place by then, including the laying of the synthetic pitch, then the additional funding streams available to the club, together with the £530, 000 (?) from the RFU would make a considerably war chest for Jon Sharp and Rowland Winter to equip a squad capable of initially just securing a long term place in the Championship. The Board have wisely ensured that when we do go up, we go up on a relatively sound financial footing and we certainly won’t have had to sell our soul to pay for promotion.

And if promotion were to come this season, then it would probably be a season earlier than was originally anticipated. Originally, publicly, it was expected the push for promotion would come in the third year of Rowland Winter’s tenure. Whilst I’m sure everyone connected with the club will take promotion whenever it comes, you’d be foolish to do otherwise, maybe the extra year to build up the business side of the club in order to provide those additional monies needed for Championship rugby might have come in useful.?

I guess with promotion a possibility now this year, you just have to try and speed up progress the club continues to make off the pitch to match the successes on it.

The club currently bottom in the Premiership, Worcester Warriors, have an average home attendance of 7,425 which would make it comfortably the best attended side in the Championship next season, should it be relegated. But its current average is already well down on that of last season (8,535) and you’d imagine a drop into the league below would only serve further to reduce the numbers watching the Warriors next season.

Worcester Warriors

Worcester Warriors

7,425 22,275 7,735 7,023
Newcastle Falcons

Newcastle Falcons

6,599 19,796 7,650 5,875
Sale Sharks

Sale Sharks

4,735 14,205 5,123 4,510

I know a number of Worcester and Moseley supporters who are a little disillusioned with their club at the moment and have already suggested it is unlikely they’ll renew their membership next season. I appreciate it still very much simple speculation, but should Cov be promoted and Worcester relegated, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility for us to pick up a fair few additional supporters, outside of those erstwhile Cov supporters who could be attracted back by the thought of watching Championship rugby.

Equally though, we’ve already seen in recent seasons how Coventry’s support ebbs and flows a little according to the club’s successes. Over the last 4 years attendances have very much stabilised, but there’s absolutely no guarantee that once in the Championship, attendances will improve. If Cov wins more matches than it loses, then I’d hope to see a significant increase in the average gate, but a season of losing more than we win and a potential dog-fight with a couple of other teams at the foot of the table might just see the reverse.

Take Jersey for example. When the Islanders were winning for fun in National One back in 2011/12, attendances were at records highs – 2,206 in fact for that year. Move forward another 6 seasons and the cash-strapped club could only pull in average gates of 1,662, almost 550 less and in a league higher.

And that’s the problem we’d have at Cov.

Would 2,500 turn up every week to see Cov lose potentially  far more more regularly than we are used to, even in the more depressing seasons in National One?

Probably not.

Which means that if the Boards wants to keep the crowds interested and give the club a fighting of surviving the all-important first season, then it’s going to have to continue to invest in the team.

And that will inevitably come at a cost.

My hope is that the higher than expected gates this season, and the additional revenue that comes with them, will provide Jon Sharp  with some much-needed additional funds to develop the squad further, either in readiness for another sustained attack on the National One title should we fall short this season or a decent shot at competing at least mid-table in the Championship.

Were Cov to be promoted into the Championship, I’d tentatively suggest that in terms of size and the capacity to grow, Cov would be at the top end of the clubs already there.

Whilst there’s nothing to say smaller, less well-attended clubs can’t make a success of the Championship, size in the end does matter.

And in that respect, Cov is particularly well-endowed…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I couldn’t find a live recording or video of Trisha Yearwood singing ‘Standing Out in the Crowd, so this one will have to do…great song and actually a great version by an artist I’d not heard of before…country and western, too, and a song-writer as well.

Well worth a listen.

8 replies »

  1. Hi Tim, do you know how many of the current squad of ( let’s say 20 ) have a 2 yr contract, if we do get promoted, who would definitely still be with us?

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  2. Is the capacity really only 3,000? I thought it was reduced from 5,000 to 4,000 when temporary stand was removed. The main stand has 3,000 seats and I suspect if people were standing 2 deep around the other three sides that would be another 1,000. A 3,000 capacity would mean that assuming a few hundred would be standing, people would have to be denied admittance even if the stand was only 3/4 full. (Sorry I have a rather anorak-ish fascination with ground capacities.) But you are probably in a better position to know than I am and there may be other safety reasons why only 3,000 can be allowed into the ground.

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    • Not really! I went on the Wikipedia which gave the capacity as 4000 down to 3000 but you might well be right. I’ll try and clarify that in the next couple of days…it’s an interesting point that could be of significance before too long (hopefully!)…it might be concerns over exits/lack of toilet facilities on the far side etc etc. Give me a few days!

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      • I went to a Cornish Pirates home game in Penzance and was astonished how poor the facilities were compared with Coventry. A real eye opener. It seems a tiny little ground by comparison, with small seated stands around the pitch as well as their main stand.

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      • Off out for a meal with family and friends. If I haven’t had too much to drink, hopefully there will be a blog in the morning!!!

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  3. If we look to what Wasps have achieved over at the Ricoh, I know plenty of ‘Cov’ folk who would prefer to go there than Cov (the glamour and success?!) and also a number who wouldn’t have thought of even going to a rugby match.
    Wasps have been quick to seize upon opportunities with local clubs and I know of at least one which actively supports its members to go for a day out with their families to watch the London club in action.
    In the good old days of Coventry success, there was a certain arrogance and a belief Coundon Road could call on local players and it was up to people to go there, not Cov to attract them with anything other than a good performance and reputation.
    That has changed and a lot is being done. Even having a club mascot is a big step in the right direction, but the work being done in the community should provide a reward.
    The next big question will be – can more be done?
    Surely England Rugby and the Sports Council should shovel out some extra money for community partnerships.
    Get the kids involved and they will inevitably not only ‘bring’ their parents and wider family, too, but will be endowed with a lifelong love of rugby.
    I’ve seen schools applauded on the BPA pitch for their work, I’ve seen tag rugby before a game and at half time.
    More of that, please, Messrs Sharp and Winter. Unearth the next Neil Back and ensure he plays for his hometown club, but in the short term, grow those attendances irrespective of performance on the pitch.

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