I hope you are all keeping safe and well in these extraordinary times.
I wanted to update you on what’s happening at our Club, how the latest Covid-19 situation is affecting us, and how we plan to make sure we keep you fully engaged with our Club while we’re unable to welcome you back to Kingsholm.
The Playing Side
As you know, we finished the 19-20 season in 7th place, up from 9th pre-lockdown. We had always said that the final post-lockdown games would provide a great opportunity for our new coaching team, under George Skivington, to get a good look at our squad and see what we needed to do to get where we all want to be – challenging for trophies.
It’s fair to say that some of our results were very pleasing, while others were certainly less so. But I can tell you that we learned a lot, and this has given us a clear view of where we need to improve. It also meant that we made full use of our whole squad, including some of our Senior Academy players. There were a number of players who may not ordinarily have had such a good chance to show what they can do who have most certainly made a strong case for their inclusion in George’s future squad selection.
With the 20/21 season kicking off in only two weeks’ time, games coming up every weekend throughout the season and our international players away for a significant period of time, squad depth is going to be an important factor.
There’s no doubt that George and his new coaching team have already made some noticeable improvements. Our pack has looked significantly better, and while pre-lockdown we were one of the worst teams in terms of giving away penalties, post-lockdown there was only one team who conceded fewer penalties than we did.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but these are good signs.
There are no shortcuts to sustained success, but we are putting in place the building blocks we need. One of the key strategies we have agreed is to put more emphasis on developing players through our Academy. We want to have more Gloucester boys playing for Gloucester Rugby, and I’m sure that’s what you want to see too.
George, Alex Brown, Peter Walton, Helen Chu and I have been developing plans to effect this, and the immediate evidence of this is how many Academy players have recently signed new contracts. They’re all bought into our vision for the future of our Club and have committed to play their part in realising our ambition. Jack Clement, Stephen Varney, Lloyd Evans, Tom Seabrook, Todd Gleave, Ciaran Knight and Alex Seville have all come through our Academy and committed their futures to our Club.
As well as those players we’ve also agreed extended contracts with Chris Harris and Matt Garvey, who have been immense for us.
We have also signed Jack Tyack and Kyle Moyle on loan from Cornish Pirates, and Jamie Gibson on a permanent deal to even further strengthen our squad.
There are also a couple of other signings and re-signings I can’t tell you about just yet but which I’m sure you’ll be as delighted about as I am. We are not expecting any departures (other than short-term loan players), so we will be fully ready for the challenges of the new season.
The Commercial Side
We continue to face considerable challenges on the commercial side of our Club, due to the restrictions around being unable to invite you back to Kingsholm to watch games and attend other events.
We have submitted details of the impact of these restrictions to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), who have in turn made a recommendation to The Treasury for a package of support for Premiership Rugby clubs. We expect to hear from them before the end of this month.
In the meantime thank you again for your support, including those of you who have donated from last season’s Club/1873 Membership, those of you who continue to pay for next season’s Memberships and those of you who have offered to contribute in other ways.
We will shortly be announcing ways in which everyone can help our Club, should you be in a position to do so. It will include the option to purchase items like stickers to show your support, up to things which would normally be very hard to come by such as signed training kit and tickets to exclusive events (which we will hold as soon as we can). Our aim is that there will be something for everyone, however much they may be able to spend.
We also plan to offer three-year season tickets, on sale from December, and covering seasons 21/22, 22/23 and 23/24. The benefit of buying one of these will be that you will get three seasons with no price increases. Full details will be announced in December.
We do expect to be in a better financial situation next season, when we should be operating normally again, so any help you can give to get us through this season will be much appreciated.
New Training Ground
Many of you were kind enough to donate towards the costs of our new training ground, and thank you again for that.
The money that was donated has been ring-fenced for use on the new facilities, but the financial impact of not being allowed fans into Kingsholm has meant that we have had to revisit the timings of our development plans.
We do still intend to build a fantastic new facility, and we have identified a site, but financial constraints mean that we are not in a position to proceed with the development within the time frames originally planned.
We will therefore develop an interim training facility at Kingsholm, which we will use until we are able to move into the all-new facilities.
We will share full details of our plans once all the details have been tied up.
Keeping you informed
The best way to keep informed about what’s happening at our Club is to sign up for our weekly newsletter. You can do so by clicking here.
You may also have noticed that we have re-engineered our website. This new website offers much easier access to our news stories, match reports, online shop etc. It will also allow us to fully integrate our app, as well as providing new features, which we will roll out in the coming months.
One of the first new things that you will shortly see on our new website is our campaign to keep you informed and connected while we’re unable to welcome you back to Kingsholm.
Under the banner of ‘Together, we are a squad of thousands’ we will be giving you the opportunity to show your support for our Club, whether that be by simply registering as one of our squad of thousands, purchasing the items we will have for sale or sharing your stories with us for us to share them with everyone else.
We will also be providing you with plenty of insights into what’s going on at our Club, including profiles of some of the people you may not know, but who are one of the many cogs keeping the machine working. We hope that you’ll find that interesting and that it provides some entertainment while there are lockdown restrictions in place.
We plan to publish full details in the next week or so.
We do believe that the difficulties we are currently facing will be overcome by the start of next season.
Our challenge, therefore, is to get through this season as best we can – and this is where your support will be invaluable.
We continue, however, to focus on our longer-term objective of getting our Club back to the position we all want to be in – challenging for trophies. We are certain we have the right coaching team in place. Together with further investment in our Academy, and with targeted and prudent recruitment at all levels across our squad, we will build towards turning Kingsholm once again into a place where you’ll be watching the kind of rugby you love, but which opposing teams really don’t fancy visiting.
We can’t wait for when you can be back with us to enjoy that. But in the meantime, do keep in touch, do watch out for more news in the next couple of weeks, and do, please, support us financially as best you can. If we look after each other we’ll all come through this in good shape.
After all, together, we are a squad of thousands.