If I had a hammer
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening
All over this land
I’d hammer out danger
I’d hammer out a warning
I’d hammer about the love between my brothers and my sisters
All, all over this land
Declan McManus – If I Had A Hammer
No, I’m not having another wobbler.
Today’s heading is actually a reference to some sad news, although not pertaining to Coventry at all.
More on that later.
Full marks again to the media team at Coventry Rugby Club last week.
Regular updates, reports and interviews on all things Cov continue to raise the club’s profile during what has historically always been something of a quiet few weeks in terms of information emanating from CV1.
Somehow that doesn’t have quiet the same ring to it as Wimbledon’s SW19.
Maybe if I use it enough, I’ll get used to it.
Anyway, Cov’s efforts on the media front seem to be paying off with season tickets up, and up a lot by all accounts, on this time last season.
And with plenty of chatter among supporters via social media as expectations continue to grow the closer we get to the start of the season, there’s definitely a real buzz about the place.
And it’s only going to increase from hereon in.
The decision to host both Moseley and Wasps in August in the run-up to the opening Championship game against Jersey in the first week of September should be roundly applauded.
Simply in terms of balancing the books alone, it’s a great call.
A visit from Moseley will always guarantee a big crowd even though there’s only honour at stake this time round. The fixture is no longer our biggest local derby of the season, having been superseded by the game against local rivals (perhaps that’s a step too far!) Wasps a couple of weeks later.
30 months ago the thought of Wasps and Moseley as pre-season fixtures would have been no more than a pipe-dream. Now it’s a reality.
The club has certainly come a long way in that time..
…and still has a fair distance to travel, too.
It matters not a jot that Wasps are also playing Ulster the evening before, or that the team we’re likely to face will be little more than a glorified Academy side. No, Coventry supporters will be praying their team can put one over the new kids on the block. Bragging rights for at least 12 months against a club many Cov supporters still refer to somewhat disparagingly as ‘the cuckoos in the nest’.
I’ve never really subscribed to that belief but I do understand the sentiment, even if it’s not one I share.
Both the Wasps and Mose games are assured big crowds, at least big by pre-season standards anyway.
All the hard work that Tom Branston and his team appear to have been putting in pre-season to ensure the level of excitement and euphoria felt by so many at the Hull game back in April isn’t dampened too much over the close season should hopefully reap its reward.
If the club does end up being successful in retaining most of the support witnessed by that record 3700 plus who came to celebrate Coventry’s National One success in the final game of last season, then we should expect some bumper crowds for both the Moseley and Wasps games.
Furthermore, decent performances in those games and Cov could, in every sense of the phrase, be ‘quids in’ on 1st September when they welcome Jersey Reds for the club’s first game back in the Championship since 2010. And for me, ‘decent’ performances would mean a win against Moseley and a strong showing, at the very least, against Wasps.
With Cov taking two sides to Bishops’ Stortford on 7th August, just 4 days before the Moseley game, the coaches should be able to pick a strong Coventry team to face Mose which will reassure the Cov faithful and probably add a couple of hundred onto the gate as well. Few things would start the season off better than a convincing win against the ‘old enemy’…
…other than perhaps a win against a new and rather more threatening one just 14 days later.
Against Wasps on the final Saturday before the Championship campaign starts you’d expect nothing other than a full strength Cov side, although as we’ve seen in previous seasons under RW, not necessarily the one that will start just 7 days later. He doesn’t like to lay all his cards on the table quite so soon before such a big game and whilst Wasps is also big game, the Jersey fixture is a massive one.
So, all being well, the Jersey game should attract a BIG crowd – 3000, 3500, maybe even 4,000? It’s anyone’s guess at the moment.
However, I’ll be especially interested to see what crowd the club predicts nearer the time as it was pretty much spot on when forecasting the attendance for the Hull game. If it can attract the same amount of corporate involvement as it did back in April, given the city-wide interest there’s bound to be early doors this season, then it might well be something very special.
Once again, marquees, outside eateries/refreshment areas.
The works, hopefully.
But of more interest really is whether the club can retain expected increased gates in the short-term over the remainder of the season. A few poor results perhaps early on and some less than clement weather and attendances are almost certain to fall.
That said, I’m sure Cov will be one of the best attended clubs in the Championship, possibly even the second best behind London Irish if Cov is able to win more than it loses, at home anyway.
And here’s why…
At 66% higher than the next best attended club in the league last season, Coventry’s average gates in National One were undoubtedly strong.
There was a period after Christmas when Cov was moving inexorably towards the league title yet attendances remained surprisingly static at around the 1700 mark. The final average was boosted somewhat by the Hull gate, but even so I think the club would probably have settled for a figure of 1,869 at the start of the season.
What is more interesting is that Coventry’s average attendance was only 47% of its total capacity of 4000, but still the best in the division.
And the closer you are to capacity, the more profitable you are.
Compare Cov’s 47% with Darlington’s meagre 4%. Whilst the Northern Echo Arena is used for other events as well, the costs of running it on a match day must surely be excessive, especially with the security they employ?
The above table throws up all sorts of interesting data, although perhaps most of it isn’t relevant for today. That said, I can’t not comment on Loughborough’s lowest attendance of the season, just 103, which really serves to highlight the funding issues that some clubs in National One face. The Students are fortunate to be able to rely on grants from elsewhere, as well as particularly close links with a local Premiership side, which gives it something of an advantage over a team like relegated Hull, for instance.
An unfair advantage…? I think so, but I accept not everyone feels the same way.
Other teams like Ampthill don’t appear to rely too heavily on gate receipts either, allegedly having one of the best paid squads in the division on the second lowest average attendance. I know other costs have to be factored in, but it does tell a story of sorts…
Anyway, moving on, how does this compare with the Championship, then?
Well, remove London Irish and Yorkshire Carnegie from the equation and most clubs’ ground capacity is around the 3000-5000 mark. Carnegie’s capacity is quoted as 21000 elsewhere, although that might just be for Leeds Rhino’s games, with the union side having restricted access to keep relatively smaller numbers of fans together?
In terms of last season, Coventry’s average gate of 1869 would have made them the third best attended club in the Championship and once again top of the ‘% ground capacity used’ table.
The worry for me is that should Cov be as successful as some supporters suggest in the latest blog poll (and I’ll keep it open until Wednesday given this post has taken a little longer to produce than expected), then 4000 could mean some games are sold out if that number can’t be increased through temporary stands etc.
Health and safety regulations will presumably (you’d hope) be very strict about numbers exceeding the official ground capacity and, at just 4000, a successful Cov side hosting the visits of Yorkshire Carnegie, London Irish and Bedford could expect to exceed that figure by a distance purely on the basis of the 3750 who rammed into the BPA against Hull.
It’s no wonder that there is a desire to improve facilities at the ground sooner rather than later, with Jon Sharp announcing that Stage 2 of the developments could possibly be completed as early as two years from now, increasing the capacity initially to 7,000-8,000 I think (I can’t remember the figure exactly).
No chairman wants to, or can afford to, turn away supporters so a successful Cov could give the Board one or two headaches over the next couple of seasons.
Ones I’m sure they’ll be only too willing to put up with, in fairness.
And then, of course, there’s the minimum criteria required of clubs in the Premiership, in particular:
any nominated ground must provide a minimum licensed capacity of 10,000, with at least 4,200 seats, although a temporary amnesty may be available where ground developments are needed in order to increase capacity.
I couldn’t find anything more recent than the above, although I believe this still stands – (Minimum ground capacity – Premiership).
Quite what would happen should Ealing Traifinders’s heavy pre-season investment in players pay-off and the club wins promotion into the Championship this season, is anyone’s guess. Seating/standing areas for an additional 7,000 supporters won’t come either quickly or cheaply and such ground alterations could be required at short notice should the title race go to the wire.
I rather imagine it’s something the club is already discussing with the Premiership’s decision makers.
Current ground capacities in the Premiership are as follows:
Now I struggled with this for a few minutes.
Take Bath who have a ground capacity of 14,500 but a highest attendance of 60,880…
It appears that several clubs showcase important games at larger stadia, ones they’ve targeted well in advance because they know they’re guaranteed crowds in excess of their capacity, as was the case when Bath played Leicester at Twickenham last season.
Hopefully, with Cov looking to gear itself for possible Premiership rugby in a few years’ time and planning well in advance for such an eventuality, a few games at the Ricoh won’t be required.
Anyway, some interesting comparisons to be be drawn over a coffee and a chocolate Hobnob for those so inclined – I’ve used Wikipedia for most of the info and amended tables to include relegation and promotion where appropriate, so apologies in advance if the information is incorrect, although for the most part it looked okay.
Elvis Costello has cancer.
Reports in the papers last week confirmed that Costello has already undergone surgery for a ‘small but aggressive’ tumour, although happily the long-term prognosis appears a favourable one.
Thank goodness for that.
Whilst not actually naming the type of cancer he is being treated for, it would appear from what Costello has said to reporters since the news broke that it is testicular.
So why choose ‘If I had a hammer’ to accompany the post?
Well those of a ‘goodly’ age will recall the name Ross McManus, a well-known musician of the day who was probably best known for his appearances with the Joe Loss Orchestra.
He also appeared in those classic R Whites Lemonade adverts in the early 70s.
And he was, of course, Elvis Costello’s dad.
And he also sang the not-so classic – If I Had A Hammer.
The song was something of a hit in 1963, although for Trini Lopez rather than McManus senior, reaching No 4 in the charts back then.
Rather prophetically the songs contains the lyrics:
If I had a hammer…
I’d hammer out danger
I’d hammer out a warning
And it appears the lyrics are ones which son Elvis is a firm believer in, hammering out as he does his own warning last week to readers who might be tempted to ignore possible symptoms of what is a leading killer amongst men of all ages:
Gentlemen, do talk to your friends – you’ll find you are not alone – seek your doctor’s advice if you are in doubt or when it is timely and act as swiftly as you may in these matters. It may save your life.
Believe me, it is better than playing roulette
The news of Costello’s cancer came the same week as Hartpury’s Rhys Oakley disclosed he is suffering from a similar illness.
Here’s hoping a speedy recovery for both Elvis and Rhys.
Take it away, Ross.
And what a mover he was, looking uncannily like the Costello of the late 70s/early 80s (Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down).
If the video doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what will…
…maybe wins against Moseley and Wasps in a few weeks’ time, of course.
Enjoy the video and, above all else, to any men out there, heed Costello’s warning.
It really is better than playing roulette.
And if you haven’t yet voted (and than you again to everyone who has):