September 30th, 2016

OPINION: Coventry must cherish sporting pillars Sky Blues & Cov rugby club, not just favour Wasps

Updated: 3:30 pm, Jun 06, 2016

Jonathan Strange, chair of fans’ organisation the Coventry City Supporters’ Consultative Group, musician, and biographer of 1987 F.A Cup hero Keith Houchen, has his say (below) on planning proposals for Wasps to build a training facility at the Alan Higgs Centre currently used for the football club’s vital academy; while a new stadium groundshare for the Sky Blues at Cov rugby’s Butts Park Arena is being considered, away from the Wasps-owned Ricoh Arena.

“Coventry has many races, many religions, and many recreations. It is the adopted home of thousands. I include myself, although I have never lived here.

My imagination was stirred by Jimmy Hill and his Sky Blues. I would read of Curtis, Hudson and Gibson in the ‘Pink’. I also became aware of (Cov rugby legends) Duckham, Judd and Rossborough.

Football and rugby had nurtured a social fabric around the bicycle industry. Later, the motor boom restored prosperity and confidence to a city charred by the Blitz. Jimmy Hill gave people a voice and, as we discovered at the Cathedral celebration, he continues to unite and inspire.

Then, in 1987, a quarter-of-a-million people crammed the streets around the Council House, the bells of the old cathedral rang out and the Coventry Evening Telegraph observed,

It would be difficult to overestimate the effect of this football match on the spirits of our city…It’s footballers have now given proof to those workers whose skills were written off that seemingly impossible dreams are attainable. There is fresh hope in the air today.

Now, there is fresh hope again – through the universities, Jaguar Land Rover and within so many of the city’s communities and institutions. Coventry welcomes newcomers but it must take care to cherish those at its very heart. Coventry City Football Club and Coventry Rugby Club are pillars of this society.

Forget about who owns the football club. There are crucial issues to consider before favouring the aspirations of a London rugby club.

Over the past fifty years, Coventry City has developed some exceptional footballing talent, talent that has enriched civic identity and pride. Grooming young talent of any kind takes infinite care. Surroundings are crucial. It is one thing playing amongst black and orange flags at the Ricoh Arena; it is quite another having to salute them in our own Academy.

Forget about who said what to whom. We must fight for the sporting institutions we value – in this case for both the Sky Blues and Cov. The youngsters of your city – my city – are very precious.”