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Les Bois View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Championship Rugby on The South Coast
    Posted: 04 Mar 2013 at 21:27
Aha Mes Braves....Les here!
Les was quietly scanning through Darth's TRP whilst D was explaining the problems of The Death Star, his intergalactic Mondeo, to an unsympathetic serving lass, when he fell upon the Mr Dawson interview on one of the inside pages. Championship rugby based in Sussex, speculates Mr D with some sound arguments for a venue and no lack of population around to support this dream....
Alors, thinks Les...this is interesting....looking at the South Coast towns and cities and the roads and transport infrastructure, (before a man of The West pipes up 'we too have a South Coast'. Could it be that The South Coast of England stops around Bournemouth and then it becomes The West Country n'est ce pas?)....from Southampton to Hastings and up to the M25, perhaps Mr D has a point...could this level of rugby be sustained? There is certainly a large Rugby Union following in this area, with many of whom who travel to watch Premiership rugby around London, who may be prepared to entertain travelling South instead of North....Les is not so sure of an amalgamation of clubs to achieve this level....after all, some of the current players at Raiders have gravitated from the smaller clubs in the South looking for a higher standard of rugby.....
Any thoughts?
Salut
Les 
  
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Mar 2013 at 21:39
It is certainly an area that lacks representation at a higher level and if you were going down the line of regional franchised rugby it would be somewhere I would place a side.
 
But exactly where is the $64,000 question.  Are Southampton and Portsmouth too into their football for it to be placed around the Solent?  I see Brighton drew 25,000 for the game against Huddersfield which would suggest another market lost to the round ball game. I would therefore be tempted to go further East and look at Kent - a great rugby county and no big football clubs to worry about.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Mar 2013 at 21:49
Interesting points. It's a tough point to quantify, but I'm not sure it's  correct to say that there is a strong rugby following on the South Coast - given the population and relative wealth of the area, it seems strange to me that a strong rugby following wouldn't have lead to a lot more success on a club or county level in the past.

I can't say as I have much knowledge of the area, but if this was to happen, I would suggest that there would be worse venues that Havant, who have good facilities, are near plenty of population and have good road links (as far as Pompey anyway).

However for anything like this to happen there needs to be a catalyst. Did the article suggest what this could be?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Mar 2013 at 22:16
Merci for the prompt responses Both
Richard, Not so sure that the loss to soccer is that great, the clubs you mention have traditionally drawn reasonably large crowds, even in their dark days. Brighton have benefitted with a new stadium, not disimilar in atmosphere to The Aviva in Dublin, albeit a bit smaller. This has certainly brought out larger crowds for this side. Could be that the central South Coast location with tremendous rail and road links has helped them to pull fans from further afield? Les agrees that soccer is on the up, but believes that is because these clubs have traditionally played at a higher standard and have their loyal fan base.....
Not so sure about Kent as the home of a big side in the South East though. Apart from the motorway links to the channel ports, there are not many good roads to get you around the county...
RoD
This area enjoyed a level of success from Havant a few years back, regretfully this is not the case now....it would be good if they did get back to their halcyon days, but it looks unlikely at the moment. Certainly the momentum appears to be with Worthing at this time....maybe the catalist will come from two areas. Firstly, if Raiders can achieve promotion to Nat 1, still a big ask! Secondly, careful use of any revenue that may be derived from development of their existing ground....Les and ses Amis await with the usual patience of the 'one eyed supporter' eh!
Les

Edited by Les Bois - 05 Mar 2013 at 07:45
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Mar 2013 at 22:21

Richard.....I confess to being something of a charlatan as regards rugby union, as I have been watching  Raiders for only nine years now....prior to this, I played and watched the round ball game all of my life.  In the last 3yrs I have bumped into 5 different iold football friends who all have the same story.....they now watch rugby union by preference.  We are all sick of  what football has become and become progrssively more enamoured by what rugby has to offer.
Far from any county being a football bastion, I think that rugby has so much more to offer as a sporting spectacle, and although it is clearly superior in terms of its sporting ethos, it has much to learn in terms of being run as a professional sport.  Football does this extremely well and sells an (IMO) an inferior product superbly.

By way of addition, I learned late on that I would not be able to travel to the Dings away game, but found that a friend had spare tickets to the Albion home game, 25k attendance as reported and a resounding 4-1 home win. The noise was extreme, albeit mostly abuse. 
I was amazed at myself (I must have watched Albion 200 times home and away in the past), that frankly I was bored.  Nothing much seemed to be happening. 
There is no doubt in my mind that watching Raiders with 500 other fans is more enjoyable to me now than anything football has to offer.
Also, 25k fans is nothing in one of the most (if not the most) heavily populated county.

For anybody wanting to add to this discussion, I would recommend reading Kieran Dawson's TRP interview.
Rugby is on the up in Sussex and (again IMO) should be on the up everywhere.

Given the quality of entertainment, I personally see no reason why Raiders should not attract at least 2500 spectators a game now.....although there are not yet the facilities to entertain anything like this number.
Lastly, for anyone who does not know, Raiders MAY be selling their current ground for a considerable amount of money in the months/years ahead.

Me.....I would love to see it all move forward, but I am perfectly happy at the moment watching a young group of home grown players, improve and mature at Nat2S level.  They play some damn entertaining stuff and I love watching it.
Shelford Saturday..........can't wait !!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 11:49
DR, I'm on the opposite side to you. Having watched, played and refereed for som 50 years, I have had the odd chance to see an occasional game of soccer and seriously I just cannot get into it. At HT in a Premier League game two years ago, I went home. The abuse hurled at both teams and the referee just amazes me. Yes, there can be some admirable skill involved, but by en large there is so much negativity.

If RU is to move , with more spectators/commerciality, I feel that we must simplify the laws, particularly the scrummage which in this day and age is an anachronism ! The number of re-sets in 6 nations and even Premiership Matches baffle even hardened followers such as myself. If your average spectator doesn't understand what's going on, what chance has the man going along to watch a game for the first time. The Australians simplify things and get better crowds; dare I say that we could learn from them ! RU is comparatively minor in Australia, after Aussie Rules and Rugby League, with soccer coming up on the rails, They have had to make our game consumer friendly, think about it ?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 12:10
Originally posted by Darth Raider Darth Raider wrote:


Richard.....I confess to being something of a charlatan as regards rugby union
 
I understand what you are saying but for a club to be competitive it must have both a potential audience base and opportunity for sponsorship. It is easier to obtain both these if you haven't football teams on your doorstep.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 12:13
Originally posted by John Major John Major wrote:

They have had to make our game consumer friendly, think about it ?
 
It is claimed that rugby is more a game for the player than for the supporter.
 
I agree the scrums needs revamping - IMHO back to the 'good old days' of pack down, ball in, push and get the ball out quickly. But in an era when props are the size they are, we are not going to see this happen.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 13:21
Before this current season Worthing's best spell was in the 80s, before the Leagues staretd but when we (I was involved then) were making the main competition at the Middlesex 7s and winning rounds of the John Player Cup. That team was largely homegrown and built on a very successful period at Worthing 6th Form College.
 
Even then we were wondering how far Sussex rugby could go. Havant were very strong, as were US Portsmouth but both of those have dropped away. The catchment area for players is large but dispersed, the same goes for spectators and sponsors. That said, the West Sussex/East Hampshire area is sufficiently far away from London to be able to build success without that giant magnet impacting, although Harlequins  and London Irish have relationships with schools across the area.
 
It will be interesting to see what happens with crowds at Worthing next season. They will need to be pushing the 1,000 mark to demonstrate  what could happen in the Championship. That's up where Esher are and it's salutary to note that in our years in the Championship things like midweek B&I Cup, Friday nights and Sunday afternoons seemed to reduce our gate numbers without educing costs.
 
Good luck to Worthing this season, it will be a new challenge next season!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 14:09
Richard, as usual, good points, well made: attempt to get sponsorship and crowds for a RU club
adjacent to a City with an aspiring Premier Division football club and two Pro Rugby League sides, that is competition !!!!!!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 14:43
Good post Halliford, it did occur to me that Esher's experiences at levels 2/3 can offer an insight into how realistic Dawson's article is. It seems to me that being fair enough away from London based competing clubs could be considered an advantage, but is this enough of an advantage to make it possible for Worthing to achieve what Esher currently aren't able to? Failing that are there other advantages that their situation gives them that I'm not picking up on?

Assuming the status quo is maintained, Ealing's experiences next season may also offer an interesting insight for aspiring clubs.

I recall not seeing a lot of point in geography lessons in my youth, but this topic is sufficiently interesting that I wish I'd paid attention!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 16:15

RoD, Esher ought to have an advantage being near London and its large pool of players and work opportunities. That is borne out by the number of players at Ealing, Rosslyn Park and Richmond who have played for Esher and moved on.

Worthing may find it more difficult to attract semi-professional players unless thay can link them to jobs in Portsmouth, or they are all farmers! But then IMHO Worthing are a better-organised Clubh off the pitch than Esher. We are just beginning to put in place the right support structure whereas Worthing did it years ago when I was there!
 
Esher can host a large crowd, having a stand and we can get over 1,000 for home matches (Ealing and Richmond this season). We hit capacity of 4,500 with Northampton a few years back. Worthing will need their new stadium to achieve that!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 16:37
The only small point that bothers me is, where did Havant fail? if you have that answer and can fix it then good luck to you
It's not the size of the dog in the fight, more the size of the fight in the dog
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 16:40
Originally posted by Halliford Halliford wrote:

RoD, Esher ought to have an advantage being near London and its large pool of players and work opportunities. That is borne out by the number of players at Ealing, Rosslyn Park and Richmond who have played for Esher and moved on.

Worthing may find it more difficult to attract semi-professional players unless thay can link them to jobs in Portsmouth, or they are all farmers! But then IMHO Worthing are a better-organised Clubh off the pitch than Esher. We are just beginning to put in place the right support structure whereas Worthing did it years ago when I was there!

It seems the jury is still out as to the merit of being close to London. I can see both sides of the argument. If we say that this is a mixed blessing and hence neither an advantage or disadvantage, the question remains, what advantages do Worthing have that will enable them to achieve something that Esher couldn't manage in the long term?

Your point about off field organisation is a good one, from what I hear, Worthing appear to have a strong youth section, which will provide strong foundations for the club in the long term.

With regard to facilities, if the club can manage to use what they have currently to fund improved facilities, great, but IMO for this to really pay dividends in terms of bolstering the first XV, the $64,000 question is how to effectively monetise these facilities. I won't name names for fear of causing offence, but I can think of a number of clubs who are justifiably proud of their facilities but struggle to recoup the money they paid for them.
 
Originally posted by Halliford Halliford wrote:

Esher can host a large crowd, having a stand and we can get over 1,000 for home matches (Ealing and Richmond this season). We hit capacity of 4,500 with Northampton a few years back. Worthing will need their new stadium to achieve that!

What is Worthing's capacity? I consider Polson Bridge pretty compact, but it still claims a capacity of 6,000. Capacity may be a financial bottleneck once in a while, but I would suggest that the real bottleneck with outdated facilities (as a Redruth man, this is coming from one who knows) is the lack of commercial opportunities and the lack of much to offer to the local community. Good luck to Worthing if they can leverage what they have to improve their lot, although it strikes me that they have got to this bandwagon rather late and would have been better off taking this opportunity a few years ago.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 16:48
Originally posted by womble womble wrote:

The only small point that bothers me is, where did Havant fail? if you have that answer and can fix it then good luck to you

That question crossed my mind, maybe some longer standing posters will be able to offer an insight. My last visit there was the season that Redruth got promoted from level four, at the time they had a good side and appeared to have a lot going for them with pretty good support, a good location and excellent facilities.

That said, Havant only got as far as being a good level 4 side and didn't trouble the heady heights of level 2, so something more than just fixing Havant's mistakes would have to be added to the mix.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 17:14
Haven't read the original article, but is it possible that Championship is where Daws is aiming at - maybe a 3 - 5 year plan.

As for amalgamations, do they really work? Would all fans travel to the new base wherever that may be?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 18:41
Originally posted by Halliford Halliford wrote:

Esher can host a large crowd, having a stand and we can get over 1,000 for home matches (Ealing and Richmond this season). We hit capacity of 4,500 with Northampton a few years back. Worthing will need their new stadium to achieve that!

What is Worthing's capacity? I consider Polson Bridge pretty compact, but it still claims a capacity of 6,000. Capacity may be a financial bottleneck once in a while, but I would suggest that the real bottleneck with outdated facilities (as a Redruth man, this is coming from one who knows) is the lack of commercial opportunities and the lack of much to offer to the local community. Good luck to Worthing if they can leverage what they have to improve their lot, although it strikes me that they have got to this bandwagon rather late and would have been better off taking this opportunity a few years ago.
[/QUOTE]
The 4,500 at Esher included 1,500 seated in stands, including temporary stands and was the police limit on the day. Worthing currently seat about 50 in a stand so their limit is provbably around 1,000. At Championship level it's not the Club that determines the capacity it's the police and the local H&S team! I wouldn't like to try and see much of the game from the middle of 6,000 at Polosn Bridge!

Edited by Halliford - 05 Mar 2013 at 18:41
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2013 at 19:22
Bonsoir
Les does very respectfully suggest that contributors take a quick look at the atlas. Worthing is not next door to Portsmouth, it is handily situated around halfway between Hastings and Southampton and directly South of Gatwick and Crawley. Les does not really think that part time pro's need travel to Pompey for work when there is ample to be found in Worthing itself, with Brighton, Hove, Chichester and Gatwick/Crawley all within 30 minutes travel. Luckily Raiders are blessed with generous sponsors who are able to assist with both work and accommodation.
Back to the thread....Darth mentions that Sussex is heavily populated and Les has noticed that the Raiders supporters of today are not made up of solely of past players wandering the touch line. There is a swelling number of people from varied backgrounds and the age span seems to bridge the generations. Talking with many of them, they're coming to watch the games and enjoy the atmosphere of a decent game of rugby. Worthing's PR machine does a pretty good job of spreading the gospel and with a promotion (possible) being predicted, Les would expect to see an increase in interest reflected in larger crowds on match days...

Allo Womble....Ah Havant....Les remembers they were probably the strongest contender to go forward to greater things, albeit a few seasons ago.....he also remembers that Worthing were ambitious and didst persuade some players to jump ship (in the reign of then Director of Rugby Ian Davies.....now on the staff at The Pirates).....not that this was the total reason for their drop down the leagues lately....could be that they languished in their success for too long, possibly a committee that stayed put for a few seasons, when fresh blood was needed, maybe their lack of easy access and minimal parking forced people away? Maybe for all the reasons stated by learned posters on this thread.....too much competition from soccer, too far from London....who knows? Perhaps a member of Havant will read this and revert back to us with some pearls Eh? 
Salut
Les


Edited by Les Bois - 05 Mar 2013 at 22:22
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Mar 2013 at 08:39
Originally posted by womble womble wrote:

The only small point that bothers me is, where did Havant fail? if you have that answer and can fix it then good luck to you
Womble, your wisdom is impeccable!Clap

More clubs would be better prepared for the higher echelons if they spent more time considering where others have failed, rather than where others have succeeded, for too often their shining role models are themselves heading for a fall!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Mar 2013 at 09:49
A few words in support of Les Bois' latest post.....

I think that the opportunities facing Worthing  Raiders are twofold.

The first, and the one most attention should be focused upon, is the gradual uptrend we are already seeing in attendance figures (I don't have any stats to hand, you will have to trust me on that). I think a part of this trend can be apportioned to a generalised, national level of increased spectator interest in rugby union.  The second perhaps slightly fortuitous, in that the Raiders production line is functioning well and the current crop of players are delivering a winning formula, abetted by a very good coaching team.
The current issue from my perspective, is that further attendance growth is unlikely unless it is at least matched by an increase in both the quality and quantity of facilities, starting off with being able to but as much beer as you want without a protracted wait. I'm sure everyone involved at the club knows what is needed so I won't belabour the point.  But this is the chicken/egg situation facing most clubs, do they try and fund improvements in the hope of attracting a bigger and more family based fan base, and of course the additional revenue this infers ?  It's a tough call.  I tend to the opinion in our particular case of 'if you build it, they will come'.

The second point surrounds the potential ground sale, as this carries with it the potential for a step change in Raiders fortunes.  This too is a terrific responsibilty for the decision makers in place and will take careful planning and execution.  That is for the medium term and I wish them luck.

Lastly, I think Kieran Dawson was suggesting that higher level rugby in the Sussex area would be predicated upon a merger of two or more clubs.  Some might say Raiders have the potential to go it alone, but that is another complex issue and perhaps better discussed on a separate thread.  Mostly, I think it best for us Raiders fans to concentrate on this season and the team's efforts to better themselves.  We are justifiably optimistic and should not completely eschew some forward thinking, but we don't want to start 'Daring to Dream' do we ?  Best to get some substantial achievement under our belts first, and there is still much rugby to be played this season. Let's keep our eyes on that funny shaped ball for now.  
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