Club talk

Rosslyn Park’s 4G pitch….away day support

A crowd of 840 were at the Rock to witness Cov’s eventual 7 try demolition of a Park side that put up some sterling resistance in the first half, only to fall apart in the second.

Though things might not have gone quite to plan for the home side on the pitch, off it they must surely have been winners, too. The gate was over 200 more than the season’s average before the visit of the league leaders and around 160 more than their previous highest of the season.

The bar was busy and the queue for the outside food long, so hopefully a decent day’s takings for the Roehampton-based side, especially as I’m reliably informed that the burgers were selling at £7.00 a pop.

At that price, maybe the RFU should be offering clubs outside of London some sort of inner-London allowance to subsidise the away trip necessities such as beer and burgers. I’m told they weren’t even that good, which is disappointing as last year I did partake in one and jolly good it was, too.

I stopped the ‘Burger Watch’ feature last season, not out of some fear for my raised cholesterol or my ever expanding waistline, but simply because I was often too hungry to stop and take photos and notes prior to the eating.

Glutton…?

Me?

Burger Watch may make a dramatic mid-season return – it is still fondly remembered by some.

But then again…

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On a rather more serious matter, whilst the pitch itself looked stunning, hardly surprising given it is synthetic, I was somewhat taken aback by just how tired and run down the rest of the facilities at the Rock looked. That’s in no way meant as a criticism, only as an observation and a concern that such is the cost of putting down a synthetic surface and maintaining it, perhaps other important projects have to be put on hold.

By all accounts the pitch plays really well, although some of the players certainly were aware post-match of the different stresses and strains on the body as a result of competing on a synthetic surface and not on grass, something that doubtless Max and Hannah will have too be addressing should we opt to go down this path in the next season or two.

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Seasonal decorations up early at the Rock

However, the viewing areas around the ground certainly need a bit of work on them, with the stand that runs the length of the pitch opposite the main stand being very run down and fast being overgrown by a variety of local flora.

The main stand, whilst functional, had a small area sectioned off and for those sitting anywhere near central, there were blind spots at both ends covering probably a quarter of each of the 22s, which was particularly disappointing as three of the Coventry tries weren’t scored in the areas affected.

I have to say, the folk down there were lovely and very amenable, and for only £10 to watch the game, with no additional cost for the main stand, it was still good value for money.

It saddened me a little, though, as it reminded me of the last two or three seasons at Coundon Road during which time very little work was done to the ground – the roof got rustier and the ‘toilet’ behind the cowshed more  and more challenging with each passing game.

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The main stand at the Rock

Rosslyn Park is a club I’ve always liked, ever since the days of watching the late, great Andy Ripley all those years ago. It doesn’t seem to attract the blazer brigade that Blackheath does, not does it refer to itself as ‘Club’, both of which endear me to Rosslyn Park immediately.

Hopefully, the current facilities are being ear-marked for development as the 4G pitch brings in the revenue, but I certainly wouldn’t be overly chuffed watching my rugby on a weekly basis in those sorts of conditions. My fear is that nothing seems to have changed for a few season now.

I guess I’m really looking at it from the angle of Coventry’s intention to opt for a synthetic pitch as well. Jon Sharp has already spoken of the potential cost, something in the region of £1.5-1.7m, but with that will come all sorts of extras. Championship rugby would presumably required an additional stand on the far side, together with more toilets (provision at Rosslyn Park was poor in that area, too)…

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One of the huge digital screens overlooking Priory Lane

I can’t fault what Park are trying to do, though.

The club has a thriving Community Department and the transition to an artificial surface has enabled far greater access to local school and sports’ clubs, as well as local residents.

Interestingly, the club was able to finance the pitch through the installation of two giant digital advertising screens that sit in opposite corners of the ground overlooking a very busy main road, just off the South Circular.

The money generated from the digital screens has allowed the club to take on debt to immediately install a fantastic new artificial pitch and road netting system. The artificial pitch means that our hours of usage on the site has gone through the roof, allowing us to get more children and adults active and playing sport (grass pitches cannot cope with this level of usage). Externally we are renting the facilities to Universities, Schools, Clubs and Charities in a variety of sports/activities who are all enjoying playing on such a superb facility in an area deprived of fit for use outdoor pitches especially in the winter months.

Rosslyn Park Development Plan

The advertising allowed them to take on the debt necessary to fund the installation of the surface and presumably helps pay for the upkeep as well.

They are really large and although you might expect them to be unsightly, once you’re watching the game, you’re not aware of them at all. It’s one of those things where the thought of them is far worse than the reality and if it brings in the kind of revenue that Rosslyn Park have hinted at, then I for one would be happy to have them at Cov. I guess you’d need to be careful about what it is that is being advertised on them, however.

For instance, ‘Wasps v Leicester at the Ricoh’ might not go down to well with some…

Cov is in the fortunate position of having a modern 3000ish seater stand already in place and whilst there is a cost involved in its upkeep, the problems involved are nothing like those at Rosslyn Park.

We know there are also plans afoot at the BPA to develop the area behind the small stand opposite, which is currently a carpark, and that should provide further revenues as well, in addition to which are the ever-increasing monies  coming into the club via the  various sponsorship and corporate deals being set up behind the scenes by Lara and her team.

Altogether a healthier picture I would imagine than that currently at Rosslyn Park.

Listening to Phil Crossman last week, it appears that the club has learned from the lessons of the past and is now happy to invest in the players, the facilities and in the supporters as well. Take one out of the equation and it will impact on the others.

Yes, results have improved and gate have increased, but alongside both the club has worked hard to first listen, and then respond, to the concerns of its supporters with the result that the Board has managed to pull the proverbial bunny from the hat and keep everyone happy.

Rosslyn Park has done an excellent job in managing its assets and in so doing, it’s beginning to turn the club around, but if it is to attract larger crowds it is going to have to spend money on the grounds as well as the playing surface.

I’m not even sure the ground would be suitable for Championship rugby were they to go up in the next season or so. The last thing you want to do is to lose the sense of history the club offers, but equally, the ground has to be suitable for another 1000 plus supporters at least and I’m not altogether sure that would be the case just now.

I’ve mentioned on a couple of occasions how good Rosslyn Park’s weekly e-magazine, Park New, is together with their website generally. On it there is a fascinating time-lapse video of the installation of the 4G surface which shows just what a complicated process it is.

For those interested, I’ve included it below. I still can’t believe how many different layers have to go down before the synthetic surface is put in place:

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I thought Cov’s travelling support was exceptional again on Saturday.

Although somewhat fewer in number than at Cambridge, those who made the journey were in good voice. Mark Harrison lead the contingent on the side opposite the main stand and whilst we lacked Mark’s leadership across the way, the support was still very vocal. Indeed, I would guestimate of those sitting in the main stand, half were Cov supporters and we certainly drowned out the RP support, although after the first 40 minutes they had very little to shout about, to be fair.

There does seem to be an acceptance at the last couple of away games amongst the home fans that it’s more a question of damage limitation against Cov, rather than a genuine belief that they can beat us. Even at Old Elthamians it was Cov who were making the real noise in the final minutes, despite OE just a score away from the win.

I do wonder if a lack of belief amongst a crowd can permeate into the team itself…we’ve heard it said on numerous occasions what a lift the Cov roar gives to the players – presumably, though, they are equally susceptible to the moans and groans of a crowd that sees defeat as a likelihood if not a probability.

We do have an advantage away from home in that in many of the away games over the last 12 months, Cov supporters have made up at least a good third of the attendance. Obviously, there are the exceptions such as Darlington and Plymouth, but with those clubs whose average gate is less than 600 that is often the case. And, as Rosslyn Park so kindly put it, we are ‘noisy’ – although passionate might be a better word to use.

The Supporters’ Club has got us a great deal for the trip to Darlington…

And talking of away games, there are now only 16 seats left on Coach No 3 for the visit to Moseley.

Just 16.

That might seem a fair few still, but with nearly 3 weeks to go and Cov potentially still topping the table going into the game, there’ll be more interest yet. Once those 16 have gone, then that’s very much it as far as transportation via the Supporters’ Club is concerned – there won’t be a Coach No 4.

Perhaps as the numbers of coaches making the trips increases, they could be given specific tags – Coach No 1 could be Nick, Coach No 2 could be Louis and Coach No 3 Brendan.

Perfect.

So, as always, the email address to book your seats is crsc1874@gmail.com. Whatever happens in terms of the game itself, a Coventry takeover of the Moseley ground, albeit for 5 glorious hours, will be something special.

There will definitely be a coach to Darlington as well. It’s an early start (it’s a 2.oo pm kick off), but we should be back by 8.45 pm which isn’t too bad by any stretch of the imagination. There won’t be too many making the journey so it’s a chance to get to meet a few of the regulars and hopefully witness what could  possibly be a season-defining win.

Go on.

Give it a go…

…you know you want to.

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And here’s a thought – the last away game, game 28 of the season, is against Ampthill.

Not a great distance in terms of away day travel.

If Cov needed to win the game to win the league we might need a Nick, a Louis, and another Brendan…

and maybe, just maybe…

…even a Luke as well.

Up the Cov…

 

 

 

 

8 replies »

  1. Very interesting time lapse video, Tim. Like you, I hadn’t grasped just how much work is involved. I’d be interested to know how much time it all took. And presumably a sprinkler system too. No wonder it cost about £1.5M!

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    • Maidenhead RFC had one of the first of these put down in the summer of 2013. It has proven to be the best decision they took and transformed the clubs finances. Their accounts are publicly available if someone at Cov wants to check them out. Their pitch cost £575,000 back then. I know they had new floodlights and fencing all around but I’m not sure if these were included in this sum. Having read Tim’s report of the recent supporters forum the sum of £1.5-1.7m also included quite a lot of other things including new changing rooms etc. The pitch itself does need to be watered when it gets dry but apart from that it just needs a weekly run over with a mini tractor to respread the crumb. The initial guesstimate was that the pitch would last 10 years when the top few levels would need to be replaced. Saracens had to do this after 3.5 years due to the level of wear the pitch got. I have an idea that work cost something like £150-200k so a sinking fund has to be put aside to pay for that. Either way It’s a great community pitch and good for club finances. Maidenhead started the work in the June and it was ready by September. I hope that helps.

      I didn’t see Cov play at the w/e but instead went to Chinnor v Taunton in N2S (ex Cov Harry Morley starting) . Good close game but Chinnor remain unbeaten this season and are looking good for N1. Good defence like Cov but I’m hoping the Cov squad continue their positive push for Championship rugby next season. One game at a time!

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      • Thanks Ed, a useful insight into the longer term implications of having a synthetic surface. We had an artificial surface put down at the school where I worked in (funded in the main by the national lottery) – we set aside £60000 every year both to maintain it and save for an eventual replacement, which was expect to be required after 10 years or so.

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    • Yep, hopefully Cov will put up a live camera when its pitch is being put down…would be good to drop in and see how things going every now and again.

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  2. Shocked by the price of a burger! However, also shocked by the flora in evidence in the pic. Surely, supporters, club members could get handy with the weed-killer? I don’t know whether there’s a need for a groundsman with a 4G pitch.
    I have tremendous respect for the ‘old’ clubs and it is sad to see how some are faring these days.
    We should be appreciative that Coventry appears to have its house in order after years of dodgy dealings and promise, rather than substance.
    And onto the Cov roar. It’s not what it used to be in the days of the Coundon Road Cowshed. My son chastised me for being so vocal at the Plymouth match!
    But good rugby, even if the final pass is amiss or the ball is dropped, deserves positive encouragement.
    And Cov, when they are struggling, deserve positive encouragement to help pick themselves up.
    So, Cov fans, lucky enough to support the team at home and away, give a touch more encouragement – no matter what – this weekend against Ampthill. Please.
    I will be supporting from Carbis Bay in Cornwall, via the delights of Twitter. In my Cov kit. But even my loud shouts won’t be heard where it counts.

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    • I can’t see Eric ever allowing that to happen at the BPA and there are always a handful of loyal volunteers on hand to help. It should another big crowd on Saturday, far bigger than those Ampthill are used to at home – the crowd I’m sure will play its part…

      Every game now seems to become bigger and more important than the last but fortunately so far the players don’t appear unnerved, the result of growing confidence, good preparation and a team better than the oposition.

      Hoping for another good result on Saturday.

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  3. Medical Alert: All recent studies have proven there is zero correlation between dietary cholesterol and heart disease, so carry on eating and reviewing burgers to your hearts content !! (Just possibly leave out the bun, and ketchup, and chips)

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    • Phew – happy days, although the bun might be a problem…never been a great ketchup fan and most grounds don’t offer chips so it’s the green light for me!

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