Fixtures not working in Cov’s favour this season?…Prediction Poll results

12Jul - by Tim - 6 - In Club talk

Money, get away.
Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay.
Money, its a gas.
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.
New car, caviar, four star daydream,
Think Ill buy me a football team.

Pink Floyd – Money

Jon Sharp has mentioned on a number of occasions just how big a business Coventry Rugby Club now is.

In recent months the Cov chairman has made reference to a £2,000,000 (thanks, Phil) plus turnover, one which is likely to increase still further should the club manage to consolidate its place in the Championship over the next 9 months or so. (I thought adding the noughts would make it seem an even greater amount – ‘old-school’ these days, but £2m seems rather less by comparison).

One of the biggest costs involved is likely to be the club’s wage bill which must have increased considerably over the last few weeks now we are in the Championship. What has been offered must have been attractive enough to both retain, and bring in, the quality of players/coaches required to ensure the club is competitive in what is perhaps the most unforgiving of leagues….as London Welsh found to its cost last season.

Reading between the lines, it would appear that Coventry Rugby Club had something of a cavalier approach to players’ wages pre-Winter, with several players on salaries well above anything RW was prepared to offer when contract renewals were up for grabs at the end of the 2015/16 season.

I still remember a story concerning a former Moseley prop, well-past his prime, who joined us under Phil Maynard’s tenure on a staggering £20,000 for a one year contract – yet he failed to make a single appearance.

Another, a back, was rumoured to be earning almost as much as the combined first choice three-quarters under Winter.

I stress these are just stories and somewhat apocryphal ones at that, but I’ve heard them from several people. True, some are more probably more reliable than others, but there’s enough in them to suggest that, these days, Coventry’s approach to players’ salaries is far more open and streamlined that it was a few years back.

But even so, salaries have to be paid on a monthly basis and, as a result, they demand a regular income flowing into the club.

Which is why I’m hazarding a guess that the recent publication of the fixture list for this next season might have caused a few concerns over the last few weeks amongst those involved in overseeing the club’s finances.

This is pure speculation on my part and I fully accept I have absolutely no background in business, but common sense suggests that the club must have hoped for a more even spread of home games over the 8 months the season lasts as this going to be one of the club’s biggest sources of revenue over the entirety of the season.

Season tickets, sponsors’ contributions, functions and use of facilities etc will all provide a revenue flow, but healthy crowds on a Saturday, drinking and eating unhealthy amounts of food and beverages, are inevitably going to make a massive difference to the clubs coffers…At least that’s how I would reason it.

Yet ‘an even spread’ is not a description that can be readily attributed to this season’s Championship fixtures, at least not as far as Cov is concerned anyway.

Coventry Rugby Club’s home games this season are as follows:

September: 3 (Jersey, Bedford and London Irish)

October:  2 (London Scottish and Yorkshire Carnegie)

November: 0

December: 0

January: 2 (Doncaster Knights and Cornish Pirates)

February: 1 (Hartpury)

March: 2 (Richmond and Ealing Trailfinders)

April: 1 (Nottingham)

Not ideal, then, by any means. November and December are particularly lean times as far as the Championship goes (something which obviously applies to all clubs in this league) and there is bound to be a considerable reduction in the monies coming into the club in that 7 or 8 week period when the bulk of the  Championship Cup games take place..

Those two months do see Cov host three Championship Cup games, 2 in November and 1 in December, but they are unlikely to attract attendances on a par with the league fixtures. Comments on the Messageboard would suggest that it’s a competition that has yet to capture the imagination of the Coventry faithful and it’s certainly not going to bring in a great deal of travelling support, given the luke-warm response from the clubs to previous cup competitions in this league.

And if the Cov faithful aren’t yet won over, then there’s every chance the rest are even less impressed.

It was always going to be something of a problem…11 home games in an eight month season means there’s bound to be months where there’s little if any rugby, but I imagine that given the option, a couple of games around Christmas and the New Year would have been greeted more favourably by Cov than having three home games in the first five weeks.

The pressure on the likes of Phil Crossman and Lara Hunter (and the soon to be/recently appointed Operations Manager) to attract additional revenue streams into the club will be even greater this season, especially in light of the current economic climate in which businesses are far less inclined to part with their hard-earned money.

There is an argument that says even though the Championship Cup is an ideal opportunity to blood some of the younger players, especially those who have impressed in the Development/A games, the club might be tempted to select full strength match day squads to attract bigger crowds given that there is no other rugby being played whilst the cup games take place.

A competitive Cov cup squad pitted against perhaps weakened opposition who have, by all accounts, tended to play lip-service to previous cup competitions in the Championship in years gone by, might see us on something of a minor cup run in the lead up to the Christmas period.

That could fire the imagination of Cov supporters enough to generate attendances well above the league average.

Which, in turn, could make it something of a consideration for the club during an otherwise financially lean time.

However, maybe that just wouldn’t happen.

Maybe Winter wouldn’t let the club dictate selection in that way, insisting that selection is a matter purely for the coaches and senior players only.

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Away from Cov for a moment, one can easily see how a Board, concerned about the lack of monies coming into the club over a sustained period, might have ‘discussions’ with a DoR as to the best way of  bringing in much-needed revenue.

It’s a fine line that some club’s tread and in such a situation I don’t know who would have the loudest voice – the chairman or the DoR? Clubs have to be financially viable first and foremost and if that dictates selection on occasions then perhaps, as far as a fairly low-key cup competition is concerned, it’s the chairman who has to have the last word?

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It might be that I’m being rather negative and that in reality Cov supporters will warm to the idea of a knockout competition given that it’s something that we haven’t seen at Cov for a long, long time.

How well the Championship Cup is received at the BPA depends partly, I guess, on the way it is promoted by the club – for instance, the games against Doncaster Knights and Yorkshire Carnegie involve one or two of the players brought in over the Summer facing their former clubs – which could be a good starting point.

Phil-Nilsen-e1504254154646[1]Nilsen/Beech v Yorkshire Carnegie is always going to attract a fair bit of interest from both sets of fans!

I can see it now:

‘ASBO’s no ‘Asbeen’ across the promo material for the home encounter.

Well, maybe not, but you get my drift.

Certainly the cup games will need to be treated slightly differently to the normal league fixtures and if Coventry stresses early on that it’s a competition it intends to take seriously (as it has already hinted), then maybe that will bring in supporters who might otherwise view it as no more than an appendage to the rest of the season.

Me, I’m certainly looking forward to the Championship Cup and fully intend to go to all the games, home and away.  However, it’s not me who needs convincing.

A good start to the season will also help, although should the reverse occur and we falter a little early on, then the cup games might become of even less interest to some than they currently are.

The Cup games are included in the price of a season ticket, so you’d expect most season ticket holders to attend the games which should make for a reasonable crowd.  It’s really dependent on how successful the club is in making the games more appealing to the punters who pay on the day.

It’s  going to be very interesting to see how the club goes about promoting  them – as a chairman that are the games you don’t want televised!

Hopefully, any ‘A’ games at the BPA should bring in a few hundred through the gate, enough to make a difference in those months where the first team is mostly on its travels.

However, as we saw last season, once the Winter weather kicks in, the pitch probably won’t stand up to too many additional games, especially if Coventry United continue to groundshare. If this is the case, ‘A’ games would have to be rescheduled to grounds in and around Cov which would be disappointing both for the club and for supporters, too.

giphy2Just four Championship home games after January isn’t a great prospect for supporters either, although it’s worth making a special note of 23rd February and 4th May when Cov will be involved in the semi-finals and final of the Championship Cup…

…probably a case of the triumph of hope over adversity, but why not believe..

April will be  particularly difficult month, with just the one home game, the season ending somewhat prematurely for those fans who only watch Cov at the BPA.

The last two games, away against Doncaster Knights and Jersey Reds, could be extremely  fraught for supporters, especially if, heaven forfend, we were to find ourselves in a relegation battle, games which undoubtedly would have attracted larger than normal attendances.

With the 2018/19 fixtures in mind, it’s even more obvious why Jon Sharp is so keen to start Phases 1 and 2 of the ground development, especially the move to a synthetic playing surface. Despite the huge costs involved, something around £1.6m (without all the zeros to make it appear slightly less than it actually is), a playing surface available 24/7 will provide much needed additional revenue streams.

And, if the club do prove successful at this level, then a 4,000 capacity stadium just won’t be big enough and one thing the club can’t afford is to have fans turned away as a result of a sell-out. Good as it sounds, that doesn’t make great sense financially. If 3700 will come to see us play Hull in National One, a successful Cov side against one of the league leaders would be likely to comfortably surpass that figure.

There will be plenty of alternative views regarding this season’s fixtures and really this post is no more than me just thinking out loud. The chairman and Board have worked wonders in making the club almost financially self-sustainable over the last couple of years and I’m sure they will continue to keep a very tight grip on the accounts.

However, I can’t see that they’ve been helped greatly by this season’s fixtures.

The decision to host both Moseley and Wasps as part of the club’s pre-season preparations looks an even better one in the light of the above, with guaranteed bumper crowds for both games that should help offset the more barren months that lie ahead.

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The results of last week’s poll which asked readers to predict where they felt Coventry might finish in the Championship this season make for some interesting reading.

As you might expect, no one really believes Cov will be in the top three come April 2019, but equally, no one feels that relegation is the most likely outcome, something of a surprise given voting is anonymous and there’s usually one or two who always fear the worse.

The results, then, are as follows:

Greene King Championship 2018/19 – A Pre-Preseason Coventry Prediction
Position % Vote
1st 0%
2nd 0%
3rd 0%
4th 16%
5th 10%
6th 26%
7th 13%
8th 11%
9th 9%
10th 10%
11th  5%
12th 0%

Were Rowland Winter to see this, I guess he’d be encouraged by the apparent optimism shown from those who voted, with over half those taking part suggesting Cov will finish in the top half of the table and just 15% believing the club will finish in the bottom three next April.

It’s also probably fair to infer from this that most supporters feel that the club has recruited well over the summer and that the current squad is going to be a competitive one. Early days and until we see how the squad stands up to those opening four or five games, it’s hard to really know what to expect.

That said, the results from the poll seem very encouraging indeed even at this early juncture and supporters are expecting the club to be pretty competitive even in their first season in the Championship.

A mid-table finish would certainly be a pleasing result as far as I’m concerned.

Not long to go now!.

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Pink Floyd’s Money.

Perhaps the definitive money-related song from one of the all-time super groups.

I’m not a great rock aficionado, especially anything involving long hair, head banging and drug-fuelled gratuitous guitar solos, but Pink Floyd were very much the acceptable side of progressive/psychedelic rock for me….

When Sue’s out on an evening and I’m on my own, there are occasions when I’ll turn the lights down low, put the headphones on and  play Dark Side of the Moon on as full a volume as is comfortable without perforating the eardrums.

Whilst it’s an album filled with sadness, reflecting as it does Syd Barrett’s own downwards spiral into insanity, it still mesmeric and probably the one I’ve played most over the years…

This version, 22 years on from the release of the album in 1973, saw:

Roger Waters rejoining David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. It was the quartet’s first performance together in over 24 years — the band’s last show with Waters was at Earls Court in London on 17 June 1981.

(YouTube)

6 thoughts on “Fixtures not working in Cov’s favour this season?…Prediction Poll results”

  1. It continues to worry me tim , the long term sustainability of rugby at a certain level within this division. Bringing extra revenue streams into the club has been a long term goal for many years, with even more businesses fighting for the same bit of the pie,innovation has been the name of the game recently. I would still like to see how much profit we made last year not just the turnover.

    1. Hi Mark, good to hear from you!
      I’m sure it will be a worry for some time to come I as well. Sharp said last year that he was still having to bankroll the club, although it had moved much nearer break even point. I guess that’s why the building needs to get under way sooner rather than later…

  2. Hi Tim – once again a thought provoking and well reasoned post, thanks. For my part, I imagine that it’s been to football and the rugby league games, on top of training on the pitch, which gave Eric major headaches last season, so if there are less RU matches on it, or perhaps that will allow the development side to play properly at home at the Butts. I think they’ll being quite a few to the games this year, especially if the games are at 3.00pm on a Saturday and at the Butts – people want their Saturday afternoon rugby fix.

    That said, the task of increasing and than maintaining revenue to the club for this and subsequent seasons is no mean feat until such time as the plastic pitch comes along (which IMHO opens a raft of revenue streams, all of which I’m sure Lara and Snr Crossman will be more than aware). I’ve probably only thought of the same things they have, but no doubt the new Business Manager will have all that in hand upon appointment.

    As we’ve said before, everyone loves a winning team that plays with humility, and I’ve almost been able to draw a parallel between Coventry under Winter and England under Southgate. with results comes support, and I hope we can maintain what was built last season and grow from there.

    I may have waistcoat made for Rowland, if it helps, or perhaps there’s a tailor’s sponsorship deal in the wings, ready and waiting…

    1. Hi Sam, many thanks for leaving a comment! I do hope we get to see a few more development games at the BPA this season – the standard won’t be much below that of National One I imagine and there would appear to be a number of very talented youngsters in the squad again this season.

      Love the idea of RW in a waistcoat, although without wishing to be at all personal, I don’t think he’d quite carry it off in the same way that Southgate does. He’s not quite as svelte if truth be told 🙂

  3. Hi Tim
    Either the club’s turnover has been vastly under estimated or one to many noughts?

    Good interesting blog.

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