Tell it to tomorrow, today will take it’s time
To tell you what tonight will bring
Presently we’ll have a pint or two together
Everybody do their thing
We can swing together, we can have a wee wee
We can have a wet on the wall
Lindisfarne – Fog On The Tyne
Amongst the rugby fraternity there are some subjects that just don’t lend themselves to public discussion.
Player wages or post-match team late night revelries might be two such areas that are somewhat taboo, but a third I am prepared to tackle – namely, toilet facilities at rugby grounds.
Anyone who watched Coventry play at Coundon Road will fondly recollect the latrine behind the Cowshed. It was little more than a wall with a gutter running along its base and covered by a roof of sorts. Primitive probably didn’t do it justice and in the couple of seasons before the move to the BPA, during the close season it wasn’t uncommon to see various weeds and other forms of flora taking root at the foot of the wall in the channel where the wee would run, although they seldom flourished despite the warm, damp conditions that they enjoyed!
I always felt it was a case of Cov taking the p!ss somewhat back then..
So credit to Ampthill, therefore, for recapturing a sense of that bygone age with toilets not unlike those found at Coventry back in the day, only a little more up market. Gone is the cracked gutter, to be replaced by a stone soak-away of sorts, and the brick wall favoured by Coventry has been superseded by a couple of boards made from some fairly durable, resilient material.
In essence though, it is one and the same. A wall to wee against and a trough to soak it up.
Whilst the internet allows for a mixing of the two senses of sound and vision, it doesn’t yet cater for smell. Were it able to do so I would have included two very different scents, the essences of ‘avant’ and ‘après’ match.
An hour and a half before kick off on Saturday and still pretty much unused since they were last sanitised, there was no lingering emanations from the loos.
Two hours on and in the heat of the warmest afternoon of the year thus far, well the stench was nauseous in its intensity.
It was redolent of bygone times and of Coventry Rugby Club in its pomp. Not the most fragrant of odours, but alongside the simplicity of the toilets it brought back some vivid memories.
With the next nearest toilets a good few minutes away from the pitch, I don’t think anyone was complaining about these most basic of facilities. It was a case of coarse rugby at its best.
Never mind that Ampthill are one of the top 30 clubs in the country, semi professional and presumably striving to join the elite of English rugby. What they have is functional and pragmatic – any improvements in regard to the toilets would be to take money away from funds allocated for the playing budgets.
Frivolous and unnecessary in the extreme. I can understand that.
I certainly have no problem with a lack of investment in any modern toilets close to the pitch. What is there is functional and I think everyone attending a game of rugby outside of perhaps the Premiership is prepared at some point in the season to have to slum it a little.
And Ampthill certainly aren’t the only side to have somewhat basic facilities, including an absence of any toilets within easy reach of the clubhouse.
Ok, all perhaps a little light-hearted so far, but it does lead me to make a rather more serious observation regarding Ampthill and some of the other clubs in National One.
Whilst toilets that require the user to a wee against a wall are perhaps a little archaic in design these days, it’s no big deal. It’s certainly a very different experience for supporters from clubs like Plymouth, Darlington and Coventry and one that causes the odd smile and witty comment every now and again.
However, Ampthill and one or two other clubs in our division fare less well when it comes to providing facilities for the old or infirm and whilst toilet humour is always inclined to get a laugh, failing to provide for those who aren’t always up to the simple challenge of getting to the pitch certainly isn’t.
It is something I’ve touched on before, but I really do feel that in today’s society where we have made great strides to involve those with special needs of any description in sport, we are failing that self-same group if we deny them a chance to watch it on a equal footing as everyone else. I know of one or two supporters who made the decision not to travel on Saturday because of issues relating to accessibility. Others did so but found getting close to the pitch physically far more difficult than it needed to be or, worse still, just not possible.
That simply shouldn’t be the case at this level and it is my view that there ought to be a minimum level of provision below which a club shouldn’t be allowed promotion into National One and at the top of that list should be all-weather access and a sheltered, seated area for spectators. The health and safety of players and spectators is paramount and I’m not sure all grounds meet what I would regard as the minimum acceptable requirements when conditions are poor.
Old legs that might normally enjoy the weight off them when seated, struggle to stand for the best part of a couple of hours – and at National One level where crowds of 1000 plus could be expected at any ground once or twice a season, there really should be better provision for those of advanced years or who just aren’t very steady on their pins.
And for most clubs, to say that there aren’t the funds to allow them to provide improved facilities just isn’t acceptable. Ampthill appear to have the financial resources if they were determined to make the necessary alterations.
And yet Ampthill aren’t the most canny of clubs at times.
We arrived at the main pitch some 90ish minutes before kick off and there were already a good dozen or so folk sitting at the tables or on the grass bank. By the time the officials arrived to collect payment where the path opened out onto the pitch, there must have been 50 or so supporters spread around the ground in total, none of whom had paid.
That’s potentially £500 in lost revenue – perhaps more than normal given the size of the travelling support, but enough if projected over the course of a season to make quite a difference in terms of the provision available to those who most need it.
Clubs shouldn’t be forced to spend money they haven’t got, but equally they should be directed to make simple, cost effective changes to enhance the spectator experience where necessary ,especially if allows supporters the chance to watch a game that otherwise they would miss.
I was sad to see one Coventry supporter, someone who had been to every away game this season, forced to watch the game from the top of the mound overlooking the ground at the far end, some 30 or so metres from the pitch, because there was no safe way of getting closer.
Ampthill is the most stunning of venues especially on a warm, sunny day, but it really doesn’t lend itself to comfortable viewing for anyone who has any sort of mobility issues.
The problem is not theirs alone but with an ageing population it is one that isn’t going to go away.
Maybe we just have to bite the bullet and say tough to those for whom such grounds are just too inaccessible.
Or maybe clubs should be required to address such issues if they are to remain in the national leagues.
A couple of things on the horizon of interest.
A week on Tuesday (24th April) the club hosts another Fans’ Forum. They are always extremely interesting and informative evenings and given the club is currently well down the road of planning for the Championship, this one is going to be particularly relevant .
It will focus on two main areas. The first concerns how the club is preparing for next season and the second develops the idea of the Coventry Rugby Pathway which will include an under 18 programme next season as well as the current Development team.
I chatted with Rowland Winter on Saturday.
Having commented on my lack of colour following my return from holiday (he did exactly the same thing last season – and oh, how I laughed then, too) and having dispelled the rumour that Stephen Myers was on his way to Cov this summer (whilst hinting at something even more exciting), he talked at some length about where the club was in terms of next season.
From what he said, it appears that recruitment is pretty much complete and that he is extremely happy with the way it has gone. There will be several more signings announced, probably as many as 7 or 8, a mixture of Championship and Premiership players and all still with a number of years left in the game. There will also be one or two players leaving and they will be announced in the near future.
I’m certainly hoping next week he’ll expand on what he said before Saturday’s game and whilst he didn’t mention it himself, the rumour on the coach was that RW has been given an increase in the player budget over and above what was originally set aside, presumably the result of additional anticipated revenues from advertising and so on. RW did confirm that there was still some money left should further players be needed or the right players become available (or for when Danny Cipriani hopefully sees the light and realises the BPA is the place to play out his last few seasons 🙂 ).
There has clearly already been a great deal of work done to ensure Cov are ready for the challenges that they’ll face next season and as you’d expect, he appeared cautiously optimistic. I got the impression that he believes the squad will be considerably stronger than it is this season and is relishing the prospect of the club proving its worth at the next level.
If the Forum runs to form, RW will be as open as he can be about next season and he never shirks from answering the most demanding of questions wherever possible. It’s an evening not to be missed if at all possible and with a 7.30 pm start, the Forums are usually over by 9.15 at the latest.
For those not able to make it, I’ll try and take some notes for a post to cover the most salient points, although given the amount of information that is usually covered, that’s not as easy as it sounds. Anyway, check the following day’s blog for details although I might have to post it slightly later in the day than usual…
The other notable event soon to be taking place is the voting for the Supporters’ Player of the Season.
The first thing to stress is that everyone is able to vote – it is NOT restricted to just Supporters’ Club members and the poll will open at midday on April 21st at the home game vs Darlington & will remain open until midnight on May 1st.
The player who receives the most votes will be presented with The Blenkinsopp Trophy at the Annual Awards’ Evening on 4th May in recognition of his achievement whichhe will be able to keep for the next 12 months.
The primary method of voting is through the CRSC website but I’ll also put a link on posts posted on this website by way of a reminder near the time.
For those supports with no internet access, ballot slips will be available from the CRSC stand in the main bar at the last two home games.
I’m forecasting it will be a closer vote than last season. so it’s worth giving it a bit of thought before Saturday.
Lindisfarne…I tended to steer well clear of rock bands for a long time, but folk rock was a different matter.
I always had a LP or two of Lindisfarne hidden in the back of that last record case as a student and hits like Lady Eleanor, Meet Me On the Corner and the much later Shine On often got an airing. Fog On The Tyne was obviously Lindisfarne’s anthem for all Geordies, but I never saw it as their best song…
…but if you need something that complements the act of micturating against walls, FotT has to be the one.
I went to a couple of Christmas concerts that included Lindisfarne – they were always good value and very student-friendly and they’re still going strong by all accounts, albeit without Ray Jackson.