Chairman’s Statement – we all must take some responsibility, supporters and Club alike…

19Sep - by Tim - 15 - In Club talk

Now I can’t let it slip away
So if the man with the ticker tape
He tries to take it
Well, this is what I’m going to say…

[Chorus]
Blame it on Cain
Don’t blame it on me
Oh, oh, oh, it’s nobody’s fault
But we need somebody to burn

Elvis Costello – Blame It On Cain

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Jon Sharp’s statement swift response to recent incidents is sure to be welcomed by all Cov supporters

The two incidents mentioned in Jon Sharp’s statement above, published on the Coventry website earlier this weekend, are deeply disturbing.

Any abuse at a game of rugby, whether of the match day officials, players, coaches or supporters, is totally unacceptable and the Chairman appears to have acted swiftly in an attempt to stamp out such behaviour in the future, ensuring it remains very much the exception rather than the rule.

Such action is to be applauded and should it occur again, those ‘supporters’ involved must  indeed be banned from the Butts Park Arena with immediate effect.

And preferably for many seasons.

Had the club been able to identify those involved in hurling abuse at the referee on Saturday, one would hope that they would have already been barred, even before the Chairman’s statement. Alcohol fuelled or otherwise, there is no place for that at Coventry, or any rugby club for that matter. Comparisons with football here are specious; this is rugby and what happens elsewhere is a total non-sequitur.

Respect for players, officials and opposition supporters must be sacrosanct if the game is to continue to uphold the core values that sets rugby apart from so many other sports. I’ve always felt safe watching Coventry home or away and to think that there are those who purport to be Coventry supporters who have threatened and abused match day officials and traveling supporters in this way should be an anathema to any genuine follower of Coventry.

Fortunately such incidents are extremely rare, but that is no reason to dismiss them as isolated and fail to respond. The club should be commended for stressing the ambassadorial role we all have to play as supporters of Coventry Rugby Club.

That said, I’m not surprised that there were problems at the Wasps game, though. Disappointed, but not necessarily surprised…even if that does sound as if I’m being smug after the event.

Coventry supporters do perhaps need to reflect on just how much we have all contributed to the divide that clearly exists between the two clubs and whether actually the years of tension between ourselves and Wasps certainly ensured that there was always the potential for some rivalry between the two sets of supporters which might well cross the line referred to in Jon Sharp’s statement.

On almost every occasion Coventry supporters refer to  Wasps either on the Messageboard , on Rolling Maul or elsewhere on the Internet somewhere there will be a reference to the ‘cuckoos in the nest’ or, worse still, W!sps – as if by removing a letter and replacing it with a punctuation mark, the word becomes an expletive with all the vehemence and aggression that goes with it.

The same is often the case when referring to Leicester.

I guess it’s meant to be seen as witty or clever (although it’s neither really, especially in the light of what happened at the pre-season ‘friendly’), but these are public forums, accessed by supporters from clubs other than Cov.

It’s hardly courteous or welcoming and Wasps supporters, aware of such feelings being expressed towards their club over a period of months and years, would be justified in  themselves feeling uncomfortable in that sort of atmosphere. And it is for the most part one-sided; as of now Wasps have little to fear from Cov.

In itself, it’s a minor thing, but over time such comments can build up frustrations, even resentment, among those outside of the club who are loyal supporters of, in this case, Wasps. I’d certainly be somewhat miffed if supporters from clubs elsewhere in the Championship couldn’t bring themselves to address Cov in anything approaching a respectful way.

I’m not for a minute saying that this is the cause of the incident in August, but I am suggesting that if we truly value the notion of respect that is so implicit in the game we love, then we shouldn’t at times be showing such a lack of it ourselves, however, strongly we might feel about Wasps’ arrival in Cov in 2014.

If we expect supporters to come to Cov and show the levels of courtesy and respect we have come to expect and demand at the BPA, then we must extend to them those self-same values at all times. Anything else smacks to me a little of double standards…

You reap what you sow and to be honest at times I’ve felt as supporters we’ve struggled to nurture a sense of mutuality and reciprocity when it comes to Wasps’ residence in Coventry, or even to each other at times, which is the reason I’ve stopped posting on the Messageboard. I found myself  choosing to respond both publicly and privately to threads in ways which, in retrospect, I’m not particularly proud of…

Given recent events and Jon Sharp’s recent message to supporters, now is perhaps the time to put aside any petty misgivings and work with Wasps and not against them…

And if supporters really are still opposed to Wasps’ presence, then why not articulate it in a way that could be seen as offensive by some? Why do that, when you know it causes upset?

And actually, verbally abusing someone for wearing their club’s colours isn’t a great deal removed from writing the name of the opposition as if it were a swear word…

Is it a tenuous link?

Not to me it isn’t.

As a ex-teacher, when the ubiquitous playground fights ended and the miscreants involved had been duly punished, my after-school assembly would always include some well-aimed comments at those who stood around in a circle to watch the incident – they were in part to blame, cajoling and encouraging as they were. As were the pupils who stirred it up beforehand with the unnecessary comments that they knew would get back to the antagonists…they all had a part to play.

Yes, the supporters at the ground making  comments directly to the Wasps supporters in that situation are the ones clearly at fault, but maybe there are other reasons that need to be addressed, too.

Or maybe not.

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However, whilst as supporters many of us perhaps ought to be holding our hands up to acknowledge that maybe we’ve had a part to play in fuelling some of the obvious ill-feeling that still  exist towards Wasps, the club might also need to share some of the responsibility, too, for what happened on the day.

I said at the start of the season that as far as the blog is concerned, I was going to say it as I see it and this is another of those posts that I appreciate isn’t going to go down well in some quarters. But that shouldn’t stop me from saying it, as long as I am honest and respectful in what I am saying…

…I hope it comes across as such.

So, on that disclaimer, I do believe that whilst the match day organisation/experience remains inconsistent, frustrations among supporters are going to increase, and fuelled by alcohol and local rivalry, well it’s a recipe for the occasional incident of kinds mentioned in Jon Sharp’s statement.

Yes, it’s the behaviour of a small group of supporters who have brought the good name of the club into disrepute BUT the roots of the problem might well lie elsewhere.

I always get to Cov early on a match day and tend to get a few laps of the pitch in with Sam prior to the players coming out for the warm up.

On the day of the Wasps game, the decision had been made to block off the walkway in front of the main stand (to prevent those with standing only tickets from accessing the seats). This necessitated anyone coming in at the main entrance to the ground walking three sides of the pitch to get to the clubhouse to reach the bar. It was a decision that bemused one or two Cov supporters…

…and it definitely wasn’t one that went down well with a number of Wasps fans. There was a barrage of effing and jeffing from one group in particular when they were politely asked to go the long way round.

A few drinks before arriving at the ground, a seemingly unnecessary detour (from their point of view) to get to the bar and then probably another wait to get a drink in the clubhouse…not an ideal introduction for opposition supporters who might well be aware of their lack of popularity among regulars at the BPA  (see above).

I know supporters like me will have a moan every now and again about aspects of the match day experience and that can get a little repetitive at times, but in big games where there are going to be supporters who aren’t always as tolerant as most Cov fans, and certainly not as understanding, issues like those above can also fuel frustrations.

It only then needs a couple of idiots in the crowd to wind them up and there’s a potential incident in the making. So there is a bigger picture to consider here.

Abuse of the referee or the match day officials is something for which there is simply no excuse and no mitigating circumstances and were there a scale of rugby related offences committed by supporters, that would surely be regarded as a capital one. Boo-ing is one thing, but foul language or threatening behaviour mustn’t be allowed under any circumstances – you’d hope that those around the supporters responsible would be able to identify them to stewards.

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We are our own worst enemies at times and we definitely weren’t seen as one of the friendliest clubs in National One over the 8 years we were there.

And now we are at last back in the Championship.

In his statement, Jon Sharp makes the point that:

After a nine year absence we wish to make the strong impression in the Championship that Coventry is a great and welcoming club with a big heart. That is a key message in attracting new sponsors and spectators. We cannot afford to alienate anybody, certainly not RFU officials

Well, it appears we have certainly made a strong impression, but not the one we wanted.

It’s incumbent on everyone involved with the Club, from the bottom up, to address the concerns that the Chairman has expressed. We all have a part to play, big or small. We have prided ourselves in recent years on being a ‘family’-orientated club in the sense that we all belong to the one family that is Coventry Rugby Club. Reputations have recently been tarnished and there’s a bit more bridge-building now needed.

Fortunately, the majority of Cov supporters are very warm and decent people and those on the receiving end of any abuse will see past the very few idiots and recognise the club for what it really is.

Once again, we find ourselves again discussing issues other than the rugby. Two wins out of three and a start than is far better than most of us were expecting and the club is having to deal with trying to mitigate the negatives rather than accentuate the positives.  Goodness knows what someone contemplating a visit to Coventry in the coming weeks would make of the Messageboard and club website at the moment, what with this and the sudden departure of Tom Branston…

Nick Walshe and his coaches and the whole squad must be so frustrated this week – the quality of the rugby we watched against Bedford, particularly in that first half, was exceptional – and yet there are no highlights, no video clips and just a brief post-match statement from Rowland Winter; but an awful lot on the unacceptable behaviour of some of Cov’s following.

They certainly deserve better than this…

This, together with Phil Boulton’s citing which seems particularly strange given no-one seemed to notice anything untoward during the game and is something very out of character if true, has made for a very depressing start to the week.

16_17Good. though, to see Darrel Dyer back at Cov again on Saturday…hopefully he stayed behind after the game and gave RW and the coaches the lowdown on his former club, Hartpury.

A little insider trading wouldn’t go amiss – Darrel’s another player who clearly enjoyed his time at Cov; he’s been back on several occasions when he’s not been involved on a match day.

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Time for some inspiration…from Elvis Costello.

This is a great song and a fantastic live recording.

Blame It On Cain.

Opted for a version with Larkin Poe – apologies to the Attractions but the Lovell sisters offer a different sort of attraction of their own.

And, besides, this is probably better than the original…Megan on the slide guitar is something else.

Please don’t blame it on me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “Chairman’s Statement – we all must take some responsibility, supporters and Club alike…”

  1. Tim, good to see you back and in full flow again. If I can add my two penneth to the discussion. I also find it sad that some Coventry supporders are so antagonistic against the Wasps. In my opinion they have been ambassadors of the sport since their arrival, it’s a different style of presentation, more razzmatazz etc but when I watched their game against Leicester on the TV the respect for the kicker with 18000 gate was noticeable, unfortunately better than some in the Main stand on Saturday. Also the term “banter” is often used by some on the threads I have read, sorry but in a lot of cases I feel it covers “abuse” which is not on. Finally re hospitality whilst it brings money into the club
    Have a look in the rooms whilst the game is on and see how many are still talking and drinking with no interest in the game, but that is the nature of the beast I suppose and not just at Coventry.
    Finally, what a game, I was not sure what to expect, the standard in the division is certainly a lot higher and we have performed amazingly. So glad I bought the season ticket.

    1. Hi Pils…couldn’t agree more about the banter – some of it is quite witty but there are occasions when it probably goes a bit too far and and totally agree with remarks that I’ve seen elsewhere about a reminder on the PA as to what is expected before the teams are read out and at half time – I can’t see that doing any harm whatsoever.

      I sit near the back of the main stand and I’m always amazed at how few of those in the hospitality suites seem to show any real interest in the game; however, they generate a lot of much needed revenue and provided they don’t impact negatively on the match-day experience of everyone else, how they spend their time there is up to them really, as you imply.

  2. Having just gone through my post again can I add new customers shouldn’t be passed all the blame. They are a potential problem. But in recent games seasoned rugby fans are guilty of chatter and noise when kickers are kicking where I sit. Also my information suggests it was long standing rugby fans who were responsible for confronting and abusing the ref on Saturday.

    1. Yes, there seems to be a growing amount of evidence to actually identify the culprits…here’s hoping that is the case!

  3. Another good article Tim with well thought out insights and view points. I love Coventry Rugby, they are my team and represent me. I have no interest in Wasps but respect them like I do any club; we all choose our club for various reasons. I think Coventry is a welcoming club and many Moseley fans love coming to the Butts and you can’t have a bigger rivalry than that.

    Great sport is emotional and it provides drama and theatre, especially in physical contact sports. There is for me, a difference between groaning, booing, applauding, cheering and shouting out abusive swearing. Or indeed deliberate face to face confrontational abuse.

    I don’t think Coventry has a massive problem, but John Sharp is right to point out what is not acceptable at the club.

    Traditions, like respecting the kicker I think is important. But I think there is an arrogance in rugby about being better than football. Which prevents rugby folk recognising problems creeping into the game. We all want to see more people at rugby but often at International level and Club level, problems seem to often stem from corporate guests. Also add to this the need for bar revenue and promoting a drinking culture. It can be seen from the biggest gripe for fans is often poor bar service no matter how good the team has been.

    Also new customers will always be guided by the behaviour they are met with. It is up to the traditional rugby fan to uphold the standards and lead by example. I would add be brave enough to vocalist those standards if necessary, as John Sharp has done.

    1. Great post, Alan…

      The Moseley comparison one is an excellent and the rivalry goes back just a bit longer than it does with Wasps. I guess we are all a little insecure when someone new appears on the seen and tend to be on the defensive. Wasps don’t appear to have done anything to cause such ‘clubist’ comments, other than being what we are striving for here – one of the best sides in the country. Corporate guests, not great rugby enthusiasts sometimes and present for the craic as much as the game itself, are a concern and some of the problems cited on the MB seem to have come from this quarter.

      JS has alerted everyone to the problem, let’s hope we all respond ccordingly.

  4. How to police the issue addressed by Jon Sharp.

    Everyone who is at the venue could/should ? point out the offenders. With the club trying to attract families to the ground everyone needs to be well behaved. Would you condon this bahaviour in your own home ? Let us use this hopfully isolated incident is the fore runner of better things.to come.

    1. Totally agree, Mick – part of the responsibility to maintain the core values of the game must lie with the spectators as well – these incidents are isolated but even so they must not be allowed to permeate our game. JS’ statement has raised the profile regarding such behaviour, we must now do our bit.

  5. Well said indeed Tim. It’s so disappointing to have a situation in which the Chairman has to make a public statement as a means of addressing an unnecessary and welcome issue.
    With reference to your comment about Darrell Dyer…….. I saw him too and wondered why he was at BPA. Is he no longer with Hartpury?

    1. Hi Cliff -thank you! I think someone has already responded to your question about Darrel elsewhere in the comments on this post…good player but even he might have struggled to get a starting place in our back row and he probably isn’t big enough to be even a makeshift 4/5. Good to see him at the BPA though.

  6. Another good article, Tim.
    I have no problem with Wasps at all. In fact they were kind enough to lend us a few very good players a couple of seasons ago. I have been to a few games at Ricoh as a neutral, enjoyed the match day experience, but always find it a bit soulless somehow, even though the standard of rugby is high. So, I bleed blue and white, and just hope we can eventually play Wasps in a competitive game. Like you, I like to take my seat early and soak up the atmosphere, but think looking at some of the posts, we have a few maybe who are just there for the hospitality, and probably not a great interest in the game.
    As regards officials, I love the banter and the booing from the stands, it’s always been there, is there at every ground and long may it continue, I love some of the comments and it’s usually in light hearted spirit. As regards actually facing up and abusing them to their face, players are not allowed, and neither should spectators. Yes, refs do get it wrong, but not deliberately, and how many of us can say we don’t make mistakes in our jobs?
    Bit long winded, sorry, but Jon’s message has upset me. I love this club, and this game, and what we have is special. I am so proud to be a Cov fan, and hope opposing clubs and fans would love coming here for the great atmosphere. Get these idiots out and let’s get back to talking about all the good that is happening on the pitch.

    1. Hi Roger, I’ve been to a couple of Wasps games now and whilst I enjoyed them, they didn’t, indeed couldn’t, get close to the feeling for me that watching Cov generates – but there’s a good atmosphere and the club puts on an excellent show. Yes, it might be that Wasps have ‘poached’ a good few Cov supporters over the last 4 years, but that’s down to Cov’s lowly status as much as anything. Had Cov been a Premiership side Wasps would never have come to the city, so it’s hardly their fault that they saw a gap in the market and took it. Many thanks for the comment, as always very reasoned and balanced.

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