(Dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah, ooh yay, yay, yay, yeah)
(Oh, oh oh oh oh ooh-ah-ah, only the lonely)
(Only the lonely)
Only the lonely (dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah)
Know the way I feel tonight (ooh yay, yay, yay, yeah)
Only the lonely (dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah)
Know this feeling ain’t right (dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah)
Roy Orbison – Only The Lonely
Ealing Trailfinders were one of the two pre-season favourites for promotion, together with Newcastle Falcons of course.
Falcons have strengthened their case four games in, although mainly by default given Ealing’s unconvincing start, winning just two, drawing against Cov and losing the one, away to Pirates.
Ealing and that damn banana peeling again.
It’s still very early days, but the top 6 teams already have a familiar look to them, other than Ampthill who have made a very encouraging start although they have yet to play any of the top 6 sides. Ampthill’s two wins have been against Hartpury and Yorkshire Carnegie, two of the three teams (along with Ampthill thelselves) that might well be competing for Championship survival next April.
Ealing, then, already find themselves 6 points adrift of Falcons, a gap that they must ensure doesn’t widen further before their crunch game at home against Falcons on the last Saturday before Christmas. Should be a tasty affair, that one. (It’s worth remembering that with second legs of the cup competition still to play before Xmas, there are only four more Championship games before January).
And with Falcons likely to bring a fair few down themselves, maybe Ealing can achieve a 4 figure attendance…
625 on Saturday was pitiful really – and upwards of 50 of those were Cov supporters. For a side still harbouring genuine ambitions of playing in the Premiership next season, it’s a sad indictment of the game generally that one of the top clubs in the second tier of English rugby is struggling to attract anything approaching decent crowds at a time when the game has such high profile.
Ealing’s average attendance last season (according to Statbunker) was 1060 and so far in their two games at home since the start of this campaign they are averaging just 688, with the attendance against Cov on Saturday 60 fewer than their lowest last season.
Cov’s one home game in the Championship this season attracted 2128 (similar to last season’s average, so the World Cup clearly isn’t impacting heavily on us).
I mention this only because I was interested to see what preparations, if any, Ealing had made over the summer for potential Premiership rugby in 10 months time and the likelihood of a fairly dramatic increase in home gates, even if much of that stems from far greater away support.
Coventry Rugby have unveiled a two phase development for the BPA to coincide with a further strengthening of the team over the next two or three years in readiness for a genuine push for promotion into the Premiership in the next 3 or 4 seasons. The club has been very upfront about wanting to build on solid financial foundations ensuring that it lives well within its means and doesnt have to rely on being bankrolled by one or two individuals, as it has had to do in the past.
Jon Sharp has dug deep into his own pockets at times over the last few seasons, but they aren’t bottomless and the club has had to work hard to develop its commercial links both locally and nationally, as well as create facilities capable of attracting a wide range of events that in turn will generate additional funds that can then be ploughed back into the rugby side of the business.
Last I heard, the club was close to being financially self-sufficient. It might be that is has now achieved that target.
Coventry seem to be operating a sensible, business model which is building towards further expansion as the club becomes increasingly more successful on the pitch.
At Ealing on Saturday, there was some, albeit limited, evidence that it is also looking to develop its ground to meet the demands of Premiership rugby.
Since I last visited Vallis Way 12 months ago, a new stand has been erected at one end of the ground that will safely seat 1000 plus (a guesstimate – it might well be more than that) and there is limited seating at the opposite end still.
Sadly, this looks as if it will get little or no use this season if attendances remain as low as they have been so far. It’s not the most attractive of installations either – a lick of paint to match the club colours wouldn’t go amiss, together with some sponsorship (although if the stand is being leased/rented out to the club maybe this isn’t possible).
Seating above the clubhouse is very limited, maybe 400 at most and it is pretty cramped up there to be honest. With little space between the rows, movement is limited and when it is near full, latecomers aren’t greeted too warmly.
There is an outside bar (see photo) with limited covered seating above, but there are no external eateries at all and whilst the supporters are friendly and welcoming it’s not a ground that generates any sort of atmosphere on the occasions I’ve been there. Cov, on the other hand, has gone out of its way to make the match day experience a positive one for Cov supporters with the development of the Fans’ Zone proving particularly popular.
Several street food stalls, a couple of bars and, on occasions, some entertainment for the kids make it altogether a more interactive experience for those choosing to spend their Saturday afternoons at the rugby. And as such it is far more likely to bring in families than the fayre on offer at Vallis Way.
It’s a chicken and egg scenario I suppose – do you take the Cov route only when you have the supporters in to make it worthwhile or do you get in early and hope to attract more people as a result? With crowds of 2200 plus, it’s far easier for Cov to create more of an atmosphere around the ground than it is for Ealing but there were very few children there on Saturday and the average age of those watching seemed to be a good deal older than at Cov. And that must be a worry for Ealing.
It’s probably a hypothetical, but I’d be interested to see what Premiership Rugby would make of Ealing winning the Championship this season. They must be hoping Falcons make a swift return as marketing Trailfinders would be an ad man’s nightmare, provided of course they could increase the ground capacity further and fulfil Premiership requirements.
Either that or organise a groundshare with a local club.
Ealing Director of Rugby, Ben Ward, has made it clear that he wants promotion sooner rather than later because of the possibility of ring-fencing and if this is the case it would seem likely that Ealing would look to stay put at Vallis Way, otherwise on the current attendances they’re attracting, there would by no point in erecting that additional stand…?
Is Ward correct? Would Premiership Rugby look to ring fence if any side other than Falcons is promoted this season?
Chances are yes as Ealing have little current marketing potential for the Premiership. And there are those outside of the Premiership who would feel that Ealing’s presence in the Premiership would make a mockery of the system – but I’m not one of them.
Whether or not the club is being bankrolled soley by Mike Gooley, provided it is financially sustainable in the top tier and the club can fulfil its health and safety obligations, then it has earned the right to be there should it win promotion this season. No cherry picking, no last minute rule changes to ensure the Falcons are allowed in through the back door. Ealing would deserve their place in the Premiership.
And it would do teams like Leicester, Wasps, Quins and the like the world of good to have to face Ealing at Vallis Way on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon in front of a couple of thousand supporters; a reminder that rugby at that level isn’t just for the privileged few.
In all the excitement of Saturday’s draw against Ealing, I forgot to make mention that many of those travelling down to West London also watched the World Cup Final in the clubhouse before embarking on the trip down.
Despite the obvious disappointment of the result, it was a great occasion and thanks must go to those involved in hosting it. There was a good turnout and with plenty food and drink being consumed, it must have been a profitable venture for the club as well.
A bit of Tesco moment – every little helps.
I even succumbed to a bacon and sausage bun…
With only 625 watching Ealing at Vallis Way on Saturday, it really was a case of only the lonely…
This feeling ain’t right…