Empty seats…Shades of blue…Quids in!

17Sep - by Tim - 8 - In Club talk

What shall we use
To fill the empty spaces
Where we used to talk?
How shall I fill
The final places?
How should I complete the wall

Pink Floyd – Empty Spaces

I’m struggling to find a reason as to why Coventry’s attendances this season haven’t as yet reflected the general levels of excitement and expectation resulting from the club’s promotion into the Championship at the end of last season.

Saturday’s gate was disappointing to say the least, even at 2058. Yes, it was up on last season’s average of 1868, but only by 190 and  Saturday’s total includes well in excess of 200 travelling Bedford fans. And I reckon that’s a pretty conservative estimate on my part.

So hardly encouraging.

 

I think most people connected with the club envisaged significantly bigger gates for the opening games of the season at least, yet here we are only hovering around the 2000 figure and that despite having won at home in the opening game of the season against highly-rated Jersey.

London Irish and Bedford have already both enjoyed attendances at their opening games well in excess of Coventry’s average and whilst there is a significant  gap between ourselves and Pirates in 4th place as far as attendances are concerned, it is unlikely we will overtake the teams above unless something pretty spectacular happens between now and the end of the season.

Coventry’s inability to pull in the crowds is probably down to a number of factors and as such is going to be all the more difficult to address, if indeed the club are that concerned in the first place.

There certainly wasn’t a great deal of pre-match hype for the Bedford game, or at least there  didn’t appear to be from where I was, some 4500 miles away…and before any one offers Tom Branston’s sudden departure as a reason, that in itself shouldn’t have prevented a more concerted effort to promote the game from within.

And as for the Hartpury game, well were it not for the Supporters’ Club advertising of the SC coach, then you’d struggle to find anything at all. The fact that its an away game doesn’t make it any less important for the players, coaches or supporters, surely?

And I always understood the players perform better with good away support…

We’ve no idea just what the club’s own expectations are with regard to this season’s average attendance, but it is clear that what we are currently experiencing is well below those of the majority of regular Coventry supporters, with many suggesting that perhaps between 2300 and 2500 would be where the season’s average would level out.

Under current projections that would seem to be some way off.

The visit of London Irish in two weeks is likely to attract the biggest gate of the season and I suppose another good performance then might impact positively on the following few home games. But I thought that after Cov’s excellent win against Jersey but that didn’t materialise so there’s nothing to indicate that will be the case post-Irish.

And Mark H’s comments on the Messageboard suggesting that developing the ground further is a non-starter if at the moment we can’t get even close to matching the current ground capacity seem very valid.

The counter argument though is that success does breed success and once supporters see that Cov are in the Championship for the long haul, perhaps supporters will begin to return in numbers sufficient to make such developments cost-effective.

In fairness, what Cov have been very successful in doing, by all accounts, is increasing the number of supporters opting to buy a season ticket this season, with something like a 50% increase in pre-season purchases being the figure I was quoted.

That’s clearly encouraging news, suggesting as it does that many supporters who paid on the gate last season were impressed enough by what they saw to pay up front this time round.

But the problem there, as I see it anyway, is that it hasn’t actually brought in many new supporters. And for Coventry to increase the gates to a level around the 2500 mark, that just has to happen.

I’d not-so-secretly hoped that the pre-season game against Wasps might convince many of the ‘floating’ supporters to come down to the BPA in droves once the season started in earnest. A gate of 2700 suggested there was plenty of interest, but with just over 2000 for that first game against Jersey, that doesn’t appear to be the case at all.

Maybe the figures for last season were somewhat inflated to the extent that actually they are now skewing what we are currently seeing this season. For instance, as I understand it, there were a lot of complimentary tickets given out to local schools and colleges last season which might not be the case in the opening two games of this campaign. There certainly didn’t seem to be many youngsters there yesterday other than those involved in the Didi Rugby (and what a great initiative that is btw), not around where we were seated anyway.

I rather imagine Cov’s management would want a while longer to judge the ‘real’ demand for tickets before deciding on whether to hand out freebies to boost gates. That said, a couple of hundred complimentaries might increase attendances and gate receipts still further if some of those in receipt of them bring in a paying guest as well.

It might well be that at £20, plus £4 for a programme and a further £5 for parking, Cov have priced themselves out of the market for those supporters who come to games infrequently. Personally, I think £20 is about right (and I think it is even cheaper bought in advance), but the add-ons do increase the cost by almost 50% and take away some of the value offered by a reasonably priced ground entry.

I guess the club did its market research before deciding on the final pricing but it was noticeable that Bedford fans were all commenting on the cost of the programme as they came through the main turnstile at the city end of the ground.

Certainly, I don’t think anyone present yesterday, at least not those supporting Cov, would have baulked at a charge of £20 had they known just how entertained they would be during the course of the game.

I have to hold my hand up here and admit that from the club’s point of view, I’m not the ideal Saturday afternoon supporter.

Probably even less so after this post…

Although I get to the ground early, I don’t enter into the clubhouse at all and don’t frequent the outside hostelries either – for me, the enjoyment is my weekly catch-up with Sam whilst watching the crowd build and the players warm-up. Whilst it lovely to chat with friends I’ve made whilst watching the rugby, sitting inside is far less appealing than getting in a few circuits of the pitch before a game.

It’s all quite calming.

I’ll have a can or a coffee and a sandwich, but they are bought from the petrol station opposite the ground and at just under £4.00 for the meal deal, what’s not to like. In previous season’s the food on offer inside the ground hasn’t been great and we’re now in a routine – break that habit and it could prove calamitous.

I’m not exactly superstitious…

…just a bitstitious.

What shall we use
To fill the empty spaces…
…How shall I fill
The final places?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Further, it appears that despite all the club’s good intentions, it hasn’t yet managed to address some of the issues that seem to be frustrating so many of the supporters on the Messageboard.

And that has to be a worry…

Whether the comments about the cost of a pint, the system of delivery and the impact of the band post match are correct or otherwise is immaterial.

Such frustrations voiced so publicly don’t hold the club in the greatest of lights and even though the numbers actually commenting on the ‘board are probably less than they once were, it is still widely read and, like it or not, what is read will impact on supporters’ decisions to use the clubhouse before and after a game, or even indeed attend the game in the first place.

And it’s also frequently accessed by away supporters…

Cov have made real efforts to respond to the criticisms regarding the bar/clubhouse in recent seasons but it still seems to be a concern for many people and whilst you’d hope that post-match conversations would be centred on the predominantly on the game itself, that’s still not always the case.

Whilst I’d love to be able to offer a simple answer to the problem, I’m not entirely sure what the solution is. I imagine the Supporters’ Club are in discussions with the Club to try and work through some of the frustrations currently being expressed and, after just two games, it is still very much a work in progress.

And in fairness, the gripes are very similar in nature to those being made 18-24 months ago.

However, the club won’t enjoy reading some of the comments following this weekend’s game and if there is to be a bumper crowd for the visit of London Irish in two weeks’ time, well needless to say things will have to improve.

And whilst I’m on something of a roll here, there seemed to be no checking of tickets before the game to ensure only those with the correct cards were seated in the main stand. It was in place for the Wasps game (although it wasn’t conducted very effectively) and again apparently for the visit of Jersey, but there was no supervision at all on Saturday and had we had standing tickets we could have easily sat in the main stand without being challenged at all.

With a two-tiered payment structure, the system can’t have been abandoned as that would incur the wrath of the majority of supporters who have opted for the more costly main stand season tickets, so I can only surmise that staffing it on Saturday was a problem.

Whatever the reason, though, it doesn’t look great, especially when supporters quite rightly are suggesting it’s not worth buying a ‘stand’ ticket when you can go for the cheaper option and still sit. It definitely needs a rethink – before too long someone will end up sitting in someone’s prepaid seat and that could potentially lead to some unpleasantness.

This has all been a bit negative so far, so to redress the balance a little I just wanted to give a big thumbs up to whoever worked with Elonex to provide a clock on the scoreboard on the main stand. Once again, the club has listened and responded and I, for one, am really grateful. I appreciate some supporters have been disappointed that it’s not linked to the referee’s watch, although I do think that’s a tad harsh. I happen to believe the current countdown works really well as not knowing the amount of injury time leaves just that little bit of uncertainty in the last few minutes of the game.

It certainly added to the tension on Saturday.

Well done Cov on that front, at least.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And here’s something that perplexed Sam and I on Saturday…

I remember at one of the pre-season talks to supporters, I think it was at the Family Fun Day thingy in July when the new kit was exhibited for the first time, Rowland Winter explained that no away kit could include the same colours, or shades of colours, as the home kit.

This was one of the main reasons why Cov had apparently opted for the red and gold of this season’s away strip.

Yet Bedford appear to use two fairly close shades of blue in both their home and away kits. Maybe I misheard what RW said and this isn’t actually the case, but had Cov lost the game I was all for ringing up the RFU to insist Bedford had the points docked, the outcome of the game was reversed and Coventry awarded a 30 point start when we meet Bedford in the second half of the season over at Goldington Road…

The two strips looks to have a very, very similar shade of blue to me…?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And finally…

After three games my decision to invest in Coventry’s exploits on the pitch this season seem to be paying off.

It was my original intention to stake £5 on each of Coventry’s 22 leagues games in the hope that, come April, I would at the very least break even.

Two wins in the opening three games have meant that I’m in a fairly healthy position as of now, with a net profit of £24, although it should be noted that I went mad last weekend and placed a £10 bet on Cov to win outright at 7/5 –  I felt I had to be in with a good chance given Coventry’s propensity to play so well in front of their home crowd.

However, the more Cov win, the tighter the odds so even though things look ok for now, it might all quickly go pair-shaped if we hit a poor run of form. London Irish at home will give a decent return, but other than that the odds are going to shorten considerably which definitely isn’t going to work in my favour.

Still, at least I’m in credit for now and will be for the next 6 games (almost), even supposing Cov don’t win again in that time. I’m never going to get rich this way, but there might be a double cheese burger and chips at Istanbul’s in it for me and Sam in eight months time.

Quids in…

…stomach out.

vs Stake (£) Odds Win/Lose (£) Amount (£) Running Total (£)
01-Sep Jersey Reds 5 3/1 W 20 20
09-Sep Cornish Pirates 5 3/1 L 0 15
15-Sep Bedford Blues 10 7/5 W 24 24

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

I’ve still go my copy of ‘The Wall‘ somewhere in the attic…probably horribly warped and unplayable after all these years but it had a lot of airtime when I was at university, even though I was very much a new wave/post punk kind of kid back then.

Dark Side of the Moon‘ is the definitive Floyd album for me, but the film ‘The Wall‘ meant the album was a massive talking point at the time…

…and it included ‘Empty Spaces‘, the song that first came to mind when writing this post.

I’d forgotten the video animation – apologies if it offends 🙂

 

 

8 thoughts on “Empty seats…Shades of blue…Quids in!”

  1. Hi Tim, great to have you back on the blog, and get my weekly read in! I think the core issue in terms of attendance is how the club markets itself. The club is trying to attract families and young people, yet if I walk around school or Sixth Form the vast, vast majority simply have no clue Coventry Rugby exists (sadly has been the same case for years). I appreciate the work being done by Ben Gulliver should hopefully change some of this and I’d have to agree that the use of social media in the run up to this game particularity was lacking (I’d say pretty terrible – virtually non existent). I think people can stomach the ticket prices, though I do find the program is too expensive for what it is. A more proactive approach to selling food & drink outside is surely possible, but I note this has been tried before. Someone does need to sort the standing/seating out, though, it doesn’t bother me overly with my season ticket seat, but a first time visitor could be left with a sour taste seeing little value to the 4(?) quid extra they’ve just paid.

    1. Hi James! There’s definitely a gap below the DS squad and theceork being done by the Didis. I think Phil Boulton is running an U18s side which should address that a little…maybe he should be invited in to your 6th Form? The seating seems to be confused to put it mildly and that’s going to really grate with fans after a while…hope all is well! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, agree totally.

    1. Hi again! Lol…Good to be back, too. Should be an interesting season. Really appreciate your support!

  2. Tim, the main reason I rarely go into the clubhouse after the game is because it’s nigh on impossible to have a “post match conversation centred predominantly on the game”. I’m not good at the art of lip reading which is necessary owing to the very high volume at which the band always seems to find it necessary to play. So I go home as Billy No Mates with my thoughts to myself.
    It’s good to have you and your blog back again.

    1. Hi Cliff, thank you for your kind words…you’re clearly not alone given the comments on the Messageboard….a delayed start would make sense but might mean that bands are playing to an empty(ish) clubhouse… perhaps the demand for a band just isn’t there anymore?

  3. Tim, I agree with you that it is disappointing that gates are not significantly above last season. I think the reasons are complex and are due to a number of points. Firstly COV have languished in Div 3 for a long time and support has drifted away apart from the hard core regulars. So much of what people do is conditioned by media these days and it was interesting to see a good crowd at the WASPS match. There were quite a few WASPS supporters and I think a number of local people were attracted by the publicity the Premiership attracts. I think publicity is the key and is a longer term issue that the club, supporters club, and everyone has to work on. Also working at attracting youngsters will surely help to attract them and their families over time. Then gates might slowly build up. Having said that pre match hospitality is over subscribed, I believe, so there is an area where the club could look at if it is a big revenue earner. Luckily PURITY is still available on the ground at a reasonable price, I think, ok more than last year, but it is a lovely pint. Finally, I couldn’t make the Bedford match so having a season ticket means the club get my money without me showing up on the attendance figures. Keep up the good work……

    1. Yes, publicity is key here and whilst Tom, it still wasn’t hitting the target audience – although I’m not even sure I know what the target audience is these days. A successful side is ultimately going to be decisive – should results start to drop off, with such a relatively low starting point we could well be struggling around the 1500 mark after Xmas and that would be a concern.

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