Reports are emerging and rumours are circulating that a game in this year’s Four Nations could be set to go to a new venue – Coventry’s Ricoh Arena.
Rugby league has made some positive steps forward in Coventry lately, with the introduction of Coventry Bears to the professional ranks as they joined League 1.
They finished 12th in their first season in the competition, but with a big area to tap into, hopes are high that Coventry could get better and better as the years go on.
Would a Four Nations game help that? Would it help the game? Here’s the pros and cons of what would be a fairly significant move.
There’s little doubting that taking a game to a new area – particularly a significant game like a major international fixture – would give the game fresh impetus in Coventry.
No matter how well the Bears do in League 1 this year, England v New Zealand or England v Scotland (you’d assume they’d save England v Australia for London), would get big headlines in the media down there, which is no doubt what the RFL are looking for from the venture.
The stadium would also be one that appeals to the RFL. It’s got good links to the motorway, is a brand new arena and holds just over 32,000 people – which is a nice size for the RFL to target this year. They sold out the KC Stadium and DW Stadium with ease, and both of those hold around 25,000 people. This would represent a step up in attendance, and it would be a fair task to fill it.
With a game destined to be in London for the Four Nations – as mentioned, England v Australia is without doubt the likely candidate – it would be bizarre if the RFL used another non-heartlands venue in Coventry for a game that DIDN’T involve England: otherwise, what’s the point, and how will you attract new fans without the lure of England?
That would then mean two of England’s group games would be away from the heartlands, which is a big old kick in the teeth for those fans who spend thousands of pounds watching Rugby League on a weekly basis.
It’s vital that the RFL doesn’t neglect its traditional strongholds at the expense of risking expansion.
Sure, Coventry could work – but Coventry and London in the same series? It might be a step too far – and in terms of taking the sport ‘on the road’, London is the prime venue to pick, and it always will be.