You, who are on the road,
Must have a code
That you can live by.
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a goodbye.
Teach your children well.
Their father’s hell
Did slowly go by.
And feed them on your dreams.
The one they pick’s the one you’ll know by.
Crosby Stills Nash and Young – Teach Your Children
Despite increasing speculation in the media about the likelihood of a relaxation of some lockdown restrictions over the next couple of weeks, the chances of the rugby season beginning on time doesn’t seem quite so probable.
I presume that social distancing is going to be one of the last restrictions to be removed, and I’ve heard mention of it lasting until at least Christmas. If that were to be the case, then it’s hard to see how sporting fixtures can take place unless behind closed doors – and without television rights, there isn’t enough money in the sport to enable leagues below the Premiership to contemplate a resumption of games, even provided the players’ safety could be guaranteed.
Interestingly, in the world of football, Bradford City has already suspended sales of season tickets for next season believing that:
…it is now highly likely that next season will commence behind closed doors.
Should this be the case, the club will endeavour to ensure those who have already purchased season tickets for the coming campaign will be able to view matches – FREE of charge – from home via iFollow.
Hopefully, though, my pessimism is misplaced and fixtures will begin again well before my own expectations.
That said, I’m actually both excited and optimistic about Coventry Rugby’s next campaign once it gets under way.
Of course, it will be sad to see so many enforced changes to last season’s squad as the club looks to rationalise as a result of the huge loss of income it faces and the RFU’s stringent cuts to its funding of the Championship, together with revenue streams that have now currently dried up with the early cancellation of the 19/20 season and the club’s current inability to profit from its excellent facilities, both sporting and commercial.
However, on the bright side Cov has announced it is keeping a core squad of players from those who finished the 19/20 season at Cov. It intends to recruit others once the situation becomes clearer nearer the game’s resumption and it is known which players will be out of contract and/or available within Cov’s limited budget.
The club is still talking of remaining fully professional, this despite a number of other clubs already announcing that they will become part-time, including Nottingham, Bedford and London Scottish, as well as Richmond obviously.
Although it’s frustrating that Cov hasn’t as yet released names of players who definitely won’t be with us next season, it is entirely understandable, but from what I’ve heard and read, it appears that at least one of the names unofficially mentioned as moving to pastures new will in fact be remaining with us next season.
I’m sure Rowland Winter and co. will continue to put their faith in a mixture of experience and youth, and whilst RW said a while back that the average age of the squad will be younger than last season’s, I expect to see a few old hands still with us when we do at last get to see Cov in action.
Although it must be a very worrying time for everyone involved with Coventry Rugby, it’s heartening to see that the club is trying its best to maximise its earnings, even in lockdown. The Crowdfunder initiative illustrates how forward-thinking it is and it’s precisely because it is showing itself able to adapt and respond to such a difficult situation that supporters should feel a degree of optimism for the future.
To have raised almost £32,000 through donations in such a short space of time demonstrates real initiative and the club deserves plenty of praise for showing such resourcefulness, especially as it appears most of that money will go to paying off local creditors who are themselves struggling to make ends meet in the current crisis. By supporting the club we also appear to be supporting the city – Your Club, Your City.
However, the immediate benefits of the funds raised through Crowdfunder need to be seen against the longer term impact of a reduction in possible revenue nearer the start of the season.
Over 90% of the current Crowdfunder donations total is made up of tickets and season tickets rewards, together with some for Vice-Presidents’ – so not ‘new’ money as such, just money coming into the club earlier than it might otherwise have done.
By buying my season ticket now, I’ve actually saved money through the reduction in price – yes, it gets money into the club when it is most needed, but it does reduce the amount the club might get further down the line when it is gearing up for the start of the season.
I imagine the immediate survival of the club is of more importance than its second, ‘revival’, phase.
(I did also donate enough to earn one of the commemorative shirts, although I do fear that after several months of lockdown it will need to be a couple of sizes bigger than I would have otherwise ordered…)
Despite the clubs’ pressing financial woes, it appears Coventry still have a war chest of sorts available to supplement the core of players the club has retained over the enforced break.
Listening to Jon Sharp’s update (April 30th) on Facebook was fairly uplifting and it should give heart to any Cov fan who fears for what might happen on the pitch when the season does at last get under way.
His comments suggest that the club will be looking to recruit the best players available on the market before the season starts, within Cov’s financial limitations, to supplement the core still remaining at Coventry Rugby after salary reductions and redundancies. And we will probably be in a better financial situation than many other Championship clubs.
JS refers to next season as a ‘holding’ season but still feels that Cov will be competitive enough to emerge from it a ‘top 3’ side.
It’s hard to imagine how such success could come our way when we’re currently reading of the ‘loss’ of players of the calibre of Denman and Burrows (bearing in mind my previous caveat), with no apparent arrivals currently expected.
It would appear, however, that the coaches have a strategy in hand as far as recruitment is concerned, one that will give them an advantage over many Championship sides with the exception of Ealing and Saracens. This, together with the luxury of quality training 5 days a week rather than two or three evenings for those part-time clubs, should make us far more competitive than most in our league.
One of the things that makes me more confident than I might otherwise be is RW’s track record of bringing in talented youngsters and allowing the coaches to work with them to enable them to fulfil their potential.
Players like White, Stokes, Tolmie, Woolford, Trimble, Knox were all in their early 20s when Winter brought them in and they have all excelled at this level, together with those of the calibre of Jeannot, Lewis, Flinn, Hutchinson and Martin who have come through the Academy set up and have a real future in the professional game, with the bonus of having them wear a Cov shirt in the next season or two .
The decision to pump resources into setting up a Development Squad/Academy was always going to pay dividends in the long term, but given the current climate, it’s arguably the best ‘off the pitch’ initiative in the last 4 seasons.
Cov have, indeed, learned to teach their children well…
RW has also shown that there are young players in National One and below who can be bought in relatively cheaply and who will quickly adapt to the challenges of rugby in the Championship. Louis Brown is a good example of this – a player who showed in the few appearances he made for Cov in the latter part of last season that he is a gifted footballer who has the ability to be a key player for Cov over the next few years.
I’m hoping for more of the same rather than any marquee signings.
Despite Coventry’s poor away form again last season, there was much to be pleased about and the continuing year-on-year improvement was encouraging. When the 20/21 season does at last kick off, like all teams Cov will have to rebuild again. But at least this time, other than Ealing and Saracens, Coventry Rugby will be starting the season at least on a par with the other clubs, if not with a slight advantage.
Once you get over the initial doom and gloom of the current situation and the obvious concerns this has for rugby as a whole and for clubs in the Championship in particular (and that’s not taking anything away from clubs at all levels of the game), then the future rugby-wise isn’t without its attractions.
As Jon Sharp suggests, the rugby model will have to change and under his stewardship, together with that of the Board, RW and all involved at Coventry Rugby, it appears everything is being done to ensure that the Club will be ready to meet the changes head-on and be in a better place than most to succeed in what will be a brave new rugby world for sure.
Like everyone else I imagine, the hardest aspect of lockdown for me is not being able to see my family.
My middle daughter, Charlie, had twins last December and missing those key moments in their development over the last couple of months has been tough.
The first smile…rolling over…sitting up only to fall flat on their faces…
Charlie has kept sent me photos and I’ve got Amazon Show, but it’s not the same as actually being there.
Fortunately though, Charlie has continued the family tradition and is already bringing Chloe and James up to be Cov supporters. The most recent photo was of Chloe clothed in a Cov Rugby babygrow which was bought 4 years ago for her sister and which I’d long forgotten about.
A proud moment.
My only concern is that James is Cov-less on the clothing front as of now and I’m not altogether sure what babywear will be available when the club shop reopens – I don’t even remember there being a blue version, although that does open me to accusations of sexual stereotyping which I guess would be fair criticism.
Still, it’s comforting to know the next generation of Smiths is already boasting 4 Cov supporters in Joshua (12), Jessica (4) and James and Chloe (16 weeks).
Well done kids, you’ve taught them well…