Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The (Chateau) Grim reality of support

It’s often said that Bath is a ‘rugby city’ and that association football never gets a look-in. There’s Bath Rugby - the global brand in the heart of the city - and then there’s the poor, parochial relation down the road in Twerton-upon-Avon.
Well, that hierarchy may be about to change - however briefly.
A decent barometer of a club’s support is how many fans opt to make the journey to away games.
And this weekend, it will be Bath City FC that trumps Bath Rugby in those stakes.
On Sunday, not a single Bath Rugby Supporters’ Club coach will make the trip to Vicarage Road to watch Bath take on Saracens. The supporters’ club had to cancel its coach after just eight people signed up for the trip to Watford.
But at Twerton Park, no fewer than three coaches will roll up to take Bath City fans to Grimsby.
An estimated 250 City fans are set to make the trip north, according to its supporters’ club.
So, for the first time in goodness know how many years, it’s likely that more football fans from Bath will travel to an away game than rugby fans.
Okay, so some context is needed. Bath Rugby are playing in the LV= Anglo-Welsh Cup , a competition which - despite its new sponsor - remains very much a low priority for head coaches, while Bath City have a dream fixture in the first round of the FA Cup. And Chateau Grim, as Vicarage Road is ‘affectionately’ known, is not exactly the most salubrious of sporting locations.
But there is further context. Bath Rugby were jeered at The Rec a week last Saturday following their defeat to Newcastle Falcons, and supporters weren’t exactly backwards in coming forwards with criticism during the defeat to Saracens at the weekend.
Yet for all the jeers and the missed tackles, all the seats were taken at The Rec.
So, given all the evidence, are Bath Rugby heading for a dip in support?
On the evidence of away support, yes. On the evidence of home support, probably not.
The Rec continues to be packed to the rafters every home game, despite Bath’s failure to notch up a home win since April.
And that’s before the pantheon of big names - James, Barkley, Watson - make their first appearances of the 2009-10 campaign.
Just having those names on the teamsheet will surely act as a potent hook which which to reel in any waverers.