Coventry aiming high

With the RFL due to announce on Friday that Coventry will stage a double header series of international matches in this autumn’s Four Nations tournament, a new initiative has been launched to establish Coventry as one of the leading cities in the world for Rugby of either code.

Coventry, a City of Rugby (CoR), is an ambitious initiative set up with the ultimate objective of establishing the West Midlands city as one of the leading cities in the world for both codes of rugby by 2023, which is commonly regarded as the year of rugby’s 200th anniversary.

It is a formal collaboration between key organisations in the Coventry area that have an interest in rugby, including Wasps, Coventry RFC, Coventry Bears RLFC, Coventry City Council and the city’s educational establishments.

Those bodies will work together to form a coherent framework for the development of the game at all levels, with the aim of promoting both Rugby League and Rugby Union, and the core values of teamwork, respect, integrity, enjoyment and discipline across the city.

A Steering Group has been established with representatives from all major rugby interests in the city to oversee the seven-year strategy. The group is co-ordinated by the Engage! Coventry programme, which will work closely with both the RFU and RFL.

“The Council is very enthusiastic about adding value to everything happening in the city,” Coventry Bears Managing Director Alan Robinson told League Express.

Robinson has already been working closely with Wasps, and on 8 May the Bears will play a home game against Keighley Cougars at the Ricoh Arena, which will be the venue for the Four Nations encounters later in the year.

“Wasps arriving has been a positive impact for us. I have worked closely with them and they have allowed us to market ourselves at their games,” Robinson said. “Our game against Keighley there is designed to raise the profile of Rugby League within the city.

“With respect to the City of Rugby initiative, I have pushed hard to ensure we are at the table every step of the way.

“I’m just really pleased that we’ve been heard and we are respected. A lot of what we have done locally over the years has stood us in good stead. Those people have seen what we have done at a grassroots level.
“The biggest marketing tool for us is that Rugby League is played in the summer. Everything we do has hinged on that, and getting people coming through the gate.”

Bears coach Tom Tsang is confident that the initiative will have important long-term effects on his club.

“It probably won’t have a massive impact on us on the field in the short term, but it’s another great bit of work the club is doing off the field to try and build our profile locally, in Coventry and the Midlands in general,” said Tsang.

“Working with Wasps and Coventry RFC on this City of Rugby initiative should, in the medium to long term, increase awareness of Rugby League and should start to allow us to develop a bit of a player pool locally, more than there is already, so that there will be Rugby league players, rather than Rugby Union converts, which is what generally the local guys we have are.

“Coventry as a city is sports mad and if we can spread the word about these things the people here will back us.”