The great BPA pitch mystery…a question of finding the right audience for Cov?

23Jul - by Tim - 21 - In Club talk

So take a good look at my face
You’ll see my smile looks out of place
Yeah, look a little bit closer and it’s easy to trace
The tracks of my tears

I need you, need you

Smokey Robinson – The Tracks of My Tears

It’s no good, I need to share this with those who read the blog in the hope that someone might shed some light on something that has been bugging me for some weeks now…

In fairness, I blame Craig Cathcart at least in part for this post…

…Craig, along with his brother James, played for Coventry Bears a good few years ago now and Craig retains more than a passing interest in the club, helping amongst other things to produce the club’s excellent podcast, Bear Necessities (Twitter: @covbearspodcast).

Great title, too

giphy8Now I’ve never met Craig, although I’ve ‘chatted’ to him across the ether a number of times in recent weeks following a more than passing interest in the Bears on my part this season  (next game on Wednesday v West Wales Raiders, entry just £12 and you’ll not find better value anywhere else that evening in the Coventry area, that’s for sure. Plug over. I’ll pick up my complementary ticket at the turnstile).

Anyway, in recent weeks strange things have been happening pitch-side, notably in the in-goal area at the city end.

And it’s starting to bug me.

At first sight, the grass there looks like it’s been mown shorter than the rest of the pitch and by what I think is referred to in the trade as a gang mower; one pulled by a tractor.

It’s in the shape of an arc, covering the whole width of the pitch and looks, quite frankly, a little odd.

DSCN4149

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It all rather strange as there doesn’t appear to be a particularly obvious reason as to why it would have been cut that way, especially as it doesn’t seem to have a natural beginning or end.

And here’s where I blame Craig… 🙂

He sent me the following message after the Hemel game last week (the second in a run of three consecutive Victories for the Bears – remember, this Wednesday vs West Wales, kick off 7.45 pm :)):

In terms of the pitch at the turnstile end there is an arc scorched into the pitch. I’ve been trying to work out what has caused it (maybe a concert?) but it occurred to me that there used to be a running track at the stadium. Think the remains of that are causing it.

It might well be that the marks are indeed a consequence of the concert earlier in the Summer, left perhaps by a walkway or something similar and, because there’s been little rainfall, it’s not had the chance to grow out.

Makes sense.

But so, unbelievably, does the track theory (was it a running track or speedway…I’m not a Coventrian so apologies if I’ve got that wrong?).

It’s the additional marks at the railway end of the ground that have thrown a spanner in the works for me…the corners of the pitch there are similar in appearance to the arc at the city end and look as if they have symmetry (I’m not sure if that’s the correct term) with it. If joined up, I’m sure they would form the shape of a track of sorts.

A panoramic shot taken from the stand just about shows how the curve of pale grass at the city end could follow round to join up with the marks that have appeared at the railway end, and in so doing form the shape of a once present race-track of sorts.

16 stats 1

As conspiracy theories go, it’s quite a good one and having been happy to assume that it was no more than an aberration on the part of the person mowing the pitch, maybe the unusually dry summer has caused an anomaly that we haven’t seen in the previous 14 years?

Or perhaps it’s been left by rugby playing aliens – corn circles with a twist perhaps?!

It sounds crazy and the more I write about it, the less likely it seems. However, I thought I’d just throw it out there as it’s something a number of supporters watching the Bears over the last few weeks have chatted about in the pre-match build up and it would be good to have a definitive answer.

I’d love Craig’s theory to be correct but maybe there’s a simpler answer.

giphy9I expect I’m going to regret even mentioning it and I’ll end up looking pretty stupid, again.

But in for a penny…

And if, indeed, there is an obvious answer and those marks aren’t from an old running track, then perhaps they’ll end up instead being:

The tracks of my tears

Help me out on this one, please…

Addendum

16 stats 1Several people have been kind enough to send me photos of the Butts before it became a rugby stadium. This one, (and thanks to Warwick D for forwarding it), shows an aerial view of the ground with the track skirting its perimeter clearly visible.

The current markings that have appeared in recent weeks are similarly situated.

The second comes from Sam who kindly Google Earth-ed (!) the ground and came up with the following photo, interesting because it was obviously taken before any work on the new gym had started  – yet the marks are already there to see.

I’d certainly not clocked them before this summer, although I’m sure others will have been somewhat more observant than me….

IMG_20180724_121335.jpg

 

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I think everyone’s pretty much agreed that since Tom Branston’s appointment,  the level of communication between Coventry Rugby Club and its supporters has improved by leaps and bounds.

It’s something that’s been long overdue and it’s clear that Tom has the drive and commitment to move things forward still further, particularly in terms of the use of a range of media outlets, including the potentially exciting addition of CRTV.

But…

…and for me there is a but. However, I need to tread really carefully here because I certainly don’t want the following to come across as a criticism of Tom who, as I indicated earlier (and in previous posts) has already made a significant difference.

I just think that at the moment, Cov hasn’t quite worked out its intended audience – yet.

For instance, take ‘The 15 questions with…’ interviews…

A great way to introduce the new players and to learn a little bit about their background and their reasons for coming to Cov, especially as many of them are moving from clubs already established in the Championship/Premiership.

Just what makes Coventry such an attractive club to play for…?

Maybe I’m on my own here and I totally accept that I might well be a lone voice, but I would have really liked to hear from, say, Charlie Beech about the differences in pre-season at Cov and, in his case, Yorkshire Carnegie.

For instance:

  • how has the training been different to that at Leeds?
  • are players training more or less at Cov?
  • are the facilities available comparable – pluses/minuses etc?
  •  is the coaching focus here any different – how’s he found Boris?
  • is the move to Coventry taking some getting used to?
  • what are his expectations this season?
  •  how has he fitted in, does he feel the scrum will be a strength this season having played in the Championship before?
  • what’s he made of the ground and of the proposed ground alterations? Was that a factor in his move to Cov>
  • which teams are likely to be at the top/bottom ends of the Champ next season and why?

and so on.

And that’s what I mean when I say I’m not altogether sure Cov has worked out the right audience to aim for.

Instead, the ’15 questions with…’ interview with Charlie actually read like something you might find in, say, a Junior section of the club’s website.

If we had one.

Charlie’s answers formed less than 50 words in total.

It was interesting up to a point and I’m far happier now in the knowledge that Charlie’s favourite film is Anchorman and his favourite artist is Stevie Wonder, but as insights go, well maybe it’s not quite as probing as I’d hoped for.

15 Questions with Charlie Beech

Age: 30

Place of birth:Stevenage

Height: 187cm

Weight:135kg

Where did You start play rugby: Biggleswade

Career highlight to date: Scoring a try in a playoff semi-final

Why did you join Coventry: It’s a very exciting club to be a part of

What are you most looking forward to at Coventry: Being with Phil Nilsen again…

Tell me something interesting about yourself the fans would like: Just starting up a women’s team in Wetherby

 If you weren’t playing rugby, what would you be doing: Cooking

Do you follow any other sports: No

Favourite music artist/band: Stevie Wonder

Favourite all time player: Jonah Lomu

Favourite movie: Anchorman

Jonny Wilkinson or Dan Carter and why: Wilkinson because he kicked THAT drop goal

I guess it all depends on what Tom’s remit is, but I do think the club has missed a trick over pre-season.

We’re in the Championship now, by all accounts pretty much  a fully professional squad of players and looking to build towards a top 4 finish in the next couple of seasons…

I just would have liked to have seen a little more to reflect that focus…

In fairness, I thought the interview with Nick Walshe was excellent and showed exactly what the management is expecting this season… a no nonsense, direct approach.  ‘We’re not here to make up the numbers…’ is very much what I wanted to hear from the Head Coach, but I’d also quite like to hear that from the players, too, even if it is alongside questions about what they would be doing if they weren’t playing rugby.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth a look…

Which makes the first CRTV post, the chat between Max Trimble and Nile Dacres, all the more disappointing.

The title is promising enough – Series One of Team Talk.

Some decent discussion about all things rugby then, eh boys?

Opening question?

Max: If you were to buy a present for me, what would it be…

Niles: Hair dye

And it didn’t get much better 🙂

Two players still relatively young and with the chance to test themselves in the second tier of national rugby. Dacres has already sampled it with Rotherham and Worcester, for Trimble it’s his first run out…

…so plenty of opportunity for some really interesting discussions about their hopes and aspirations for the coming season. Instead, we get Cov’s very own version of the Chuckle Brothers (To me, To you…). Not their fault- they’d been given a series of questions to ask/answer.

Yes, you could argue that we get to see them very much in a relaxed mood, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of anything rugby-wise.

I’m just not sure who it’s aimed at. There’s absolutely no comparison between that and Nick Walshe’s interview with, I imagine, Tom B.

In the main, they’ll appeal to two very different audiences, yet they appear to be aimed very much at the same one.

Again, maybe I’m getting more mardy and cantankerous in my old age, but I can’t help but feel that the Trimble/Dacres double act is something that a younger audience might appreciate rather more than, say, that of the Unofficial Messageboard where it was promoted. It’s good to see the players winding down and enjoying themselves, of course it is, but equally for many supporters, listening to the players talk rugby would have been rather more edifying.

It’s the start of a new season, expectations are high despite the Championship offering such difficult challenges. Lets have a look at Series One of team talk and see what the players think about the challenges that lie ahead….

Where they would go for a meal together doesn’t capture the mood really. Or at least I hope it doesn’t. That, together with the 15 questions with…, well it’s all a bit too frivolous really.

It would be good to have a serious discussion with a couple of players, too.

Much better to include it  all in a junior section of the website and invite questions from younger members, a chance to actively involve them in the process as well – maybe invite one of the contributors to actually ask the questions? It’s fun, interactive and is exactly what the club should be doing to attract a younger audience.

However, using a ‘one size fits all approach’ probably isn’t the best way of going about it.

With everyone else so positive about the direction things are moving as far as the club’s relationship with its supporters is concerned, and rightly so, I guess I’m opening myself up for all sorts of criticism and I’m happy with that.

I hope, though, that this post isn’t seen as a gripe or moan, but rather as a suggestion as to how things could be done a different way. It might be better, it might not be. However, I’d much rather be positively critical than sycophantic which, in truth, is exactly what I have been over the last couple of years.

If all everyone does is say how good things are in comparison to how things were, well things might not necessarily improve still further.

I learned a lot last season and won’t make the same mistakes again.

Once bitten…

The Reverend is back…

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Actually no one has ever said I’m the life of the party and if I do tell a joke or two I always manage to get the punchline wrong.

Outside I’ve been masquerading, but in reality my hope really is fading..

But Miracles really do happen.

Over to you, Smokey

 

 

21 thoughts on “The great BPA pitch mystery…a question of finding the right audience for Cov?”

  1. From Cliff B via email:

    With reference to your comments on the blog last week about
    the corners of the pitch at BOA.

    I was in the Coventry Motor Transport Museum yesterday and I
    noticed a photograph of a bike race at The Butts which taken
    in 1937. It reminded me that my son was a member of the
    Godiva Harriers who were based there in about the late
    ‘70’s/early 80’s and it was laid out as an oval. Hence
    the layout which has been exposed by the recent hot
    spell.

    As a matter of interest, the photo was fascinating because
    it showed the finish of the race in front of the mail
    grandstand which, at first glance, appeared to be very
    similar to the current stand. The cyclists were coming onto
    main straight from the railway end and were heading towards
    the turnstiles. I had to examine the photo quite closely to
    spot the differences in the building elements, but not in
    the style of the clothing and the bikes!

  2. The ‘stadium’ in the forties/ fifties hosted school football and gymnastic displays in which I took part whilst at primary school and then was our sports ground of the Technical Secondary School next door. We used both the athletics track and the banked cycle track. I ran my first mile race there and later it was the training facility and club meeting place for Coventry Godiva Harriers of which I was briefly a member in the heady days of the Heatley, Adcocks and Kilby marathon trio who won very many international honours.
    Very nostalgic and poignant to think that the dry weather has so visibly revealed that part of the site’s history that meant so much to me personally and is something I’m always aware of each time I visit BPA.
    Bill Rumball

    1. Hi Will – sorry for not replying earlier; it’s really good to hear from you again. I hope all is well! I still can’t quite comprehend how a simple act of nature, a spell of long hot weather, can unearth so many fond memories for so many people.

      I guess the synthetic surface will put an end to them, or at least stop providing a visual reminder anyway.

      Glad it evoked some happy thoughts in so many.

  3. Those drone pictures of past treasures and structures are really interesting – I wondered how many more of those sorts of discoveries there could or would be, and then you’ve highlighted one on our doorstep.

    I have to agree over the 15 Q’s and the team talk – both disappointing for me and a complete contrast to the Nick Q interview which was insightful and informative with the right level of gravitas.

    For me, anyway.

    Sorry (if apologies are appropriate), but I found the Trimble / Dacre thing a bit crap and a big disappointment. Sort of detracted from the whole professional model that the club have been keen to promote, but then I appreciate I’m a bit of a grumpy old fart.

    Still, I don;’t suppose it would do for us all to be the same…

    1. Whilst I’m always really chuffed when anyone takes the time to leave a comment, I was particularly pleased to read yours, Sam. I thought I might be very much on my own as far as comments regarding the 15 Questions and CRTV interview with Trimble and Dacres and even toned down what I originally wrote for fear of the response, so too find someone else is agreement is a relief, and a big one at that! Totally agree with what you said and thought it did neither any great favours really. Hopefully, the next will be more focused on the upcoming games and the preparations for the Championship.

  4. Hi Tim,
    Every Easter Monday there was an international Cycle Races held at the Butts Stadium as it was then. It was run by the Coventry Cycling Club. Reg Harris, Arie Van Vliet and Sid Paterson were regular riders- stars of their day. I have two programmes of the meetings of 1950 and 1951. At Club level my wife raced there with the Demon Cycling Club Ladies.

    1. I love the fact that a few comments relating to the current state of the pitch can generate such vivid memories for so many. I mentioned it before, I know, but were the club to have a museum/exhibition area these sorts of images/memories could all be displayed – they are important aspects of social history which might not be directly relevant to the club itself, but are to the ground and its own history. Great post, Ronald, thank you!

      1. Digressing slightly Tim on the Butts Stadium, as it was known as in the 1950’s and 1960’s it was probably the best playing surface in the city. Local football league representative sides used to play for the Johnny I. Round Memorial Cup. Johnny Round was a well known local football official. The Coventry Amateurs Football Team also played there and I recall watching their games..The whole Butts area behind the Coventry Technical College was a haven for local sports with excellent bowling greens and tennis courts. Going back a little further, there was a Civic Restaurant, where one could buy an excellent meal ( at the time!) I remember the burnt rice pudding=lovely!

      2. As I’ve said before, I’m not from Coventry, although my mum was born in Armorial Road by the park.

        However, I do think there’s plenty of local material surrounding the BPA and it’s history for a social historian to really get his teeth into. Great memories and probably as enjoyable a response from a post as I’ve had for a long, long time.

        And nothing to do with Cov particularly, either.

  5. Tim, I believe it was the home of Godiva Harriers athletic club, before they moved to Kirby Corner Road

    1. Hi Roger…thanks for clarifying this – it’s clearly the track that’s causing the markings. My lack of local knowledge shows here. Certainly an interesting development regarding the pitch and perhaps one that will only be resolved after a couple of good deluges!

    1. Hi Rob, hope all is well…that’s really interesting. Presumed it was just a local phenomenon, but it’s clearly more widespread. I imagine they’ll be something from the club in the lead up to the Family Day on Saturday as there’ll be a few tòo many questions on the day otherwise!

  6. Tim,

    many years ago the ground used to be a concrete velodrome for fixies. With this exceptional summer the ground is drier; I would guess there is less earth over the foundations of the old ring, so that is relatively drier than what used to be the grass infield. Solved!

    Great post as always, with fine suggestions for content from the club’s media channels.

    1. Hi David – many thanks for leaving a message! You make it sound so obvious. Me, I’d been scratching my head for days wondering whether I should post on it! Helps knowing the background though! Guess the soil must shrink as it dries out leaving less distance between the concrete and the surface Really interesting and shows hot dry this summer really has been.

  7. Tim, the marks you see around the outside of the pitch are the old running track and possibly part of the banked track used for cycling. If you look at other parts of the pitch you will also see the markings of the long jump pit, hammer throwing circle, long jump run up and pit area, plus other strange markings for athletics. The centre area was also one of the best football pitches in Coventry used for all the local club and school football finals.

    1. Lol…the Internet is such a wonderful thing! The ground is clearly still fondly remembered by many – although I never knew of its existence pre-2004 which is a little embarrassing! Thanks for posting, it’s helped put my mind at rest!

  8. There was a cycle track complete with banking there previously that was never taken up when the pitch was laid so more evident at the high points of the track. There were also some jumping pits too so think that could be the other markings

    1. Hi Keys…perhaps that is the reason then. Maybe the relative drought has somehow caused them to appear. As you rightly mention, there are other areas that have appeared too. Makes sense. Thanks for helping me out 🤣🤣🤣

      1. Tim if you ever get a chance to speak to Eric he would be able to talk you though exactly what is where underneath the pitch.

      2. Thanks, Krys, I’ll see if I can find him on Saturday. It’s obviously something that many remember.

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