September 30th, 2016

SAVE OUR CITY: ‘Hear ye, hear ye, Coventry is a City of Rugby!’

Updated: 12:57 pm, Jun 22, 2016

Jonathan Strange, chairman of fans’ group the Coventry City Supporters Consultative Group, classical musician and biographer of Sky Blues FA Cup hero Keith Houchen, writes for the Coventry Observer ‘Save Our City’ campaign, in response to our investigation last week – headlined ‘The shadowy Coventry sports bodies, a City of Rugby, and squeeze on CCFC’.

“Hear ye, hear ye, Coventry is a City of Rugby!” proclaimeth the town crier.

The edict is mediaeval, but there is more. Take a moment to google cityofrugby.org and watch ‘Coventry, A City of Rugby Movie’. It is a piece of PR of which even Kim Jong-un could be proud.

Who says Coventry is to be a City of Rugby? The decision, apparently, has been made between Coventry City Council, Coventry Sports Foundation, Coventry Sports Network, Engage, the rugby authorities and city rugby clubs, the two universities, the Millerchip Family Fund and others. That is quite a number, but who are some of these?

And wait a minute. Was there not a Coventry Sports Strategy, approved by all Coventry councillors in 2014 to provide ‘a wide range of high quality and exciting sporting opportunities and experiences’?

Watch the video and listen to the town crier. Ask yourself what is missing from this so-called ‘wide range’.

When the Sky Blue Song rang out from 2,000 voices in Coventry Cathedral in celebration of Jimmy Hill; when Keith Houchen launched himself and the Sky Blues into global awareness, it was not because of Coventry as a City of Football. It was because of what football brings to Coventry.

That is why we should be curious as to how Wasps – which has been part of this community for only two years – is being favoured over its plans for the current site of the Coventry Academy. The Alan Higgs Centre is a crucial home not only for outstanding young talent but also for the very future of football in Coventry. It is a future that should always, in my opinion, be at the fingertips of the football club.

Are Jimmy Hill, Keith Houchen and all those others to be relegated to a quaint nostalgia in a sky monopolised by the buzz of orange and black?

Rugby is a vital cog in our heritage. Youngsters must be enabled and encouraged to play the game. But please, please, spare us such presumptuous drivel. Coventry is not City of Rugby.

Throughout all its traumas, Coventry has aspired to be a city of all sports and all opportunities – for all people, at all times. And so it should remain.