Expansionist Blog: Coventry Bears are doing things the right way

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of Coventry Bears and they have come on leaps and bounds in recent years just by doing the simple stuff, right.

They were only formed in 1998 by a group of university students led by Alan Robinson, who is still the CEO to date.

Robinson has done a brilliant job with the club and it’s fair to say that without him, then the Bears wouldn’t be where they are now.

And he puts a lot of hours in to keep the club afloat.

“We save a lot of money because I do a lot of our branding, marketing and promotion,” he told loverugbyleague.com.

“I’ve got my own branding company in Iron Ape Branding and to me, you have got to put something into the brand like we have and then you get known more and it’s easier to sell yourself.”

The club were admitted into the Rugby League Conference for the 2000 season after making plans for the team with Coventry Rugby Union chairman and one-time Rugby League player, Keith Fairbrother.

Later on, Coventry won their quarter-final against Manchester Knights before being defeated in the semi-finals by Super League side Warrington Wolves.

The Bears reached the Rugby League Conference Grand Final in 2001 but fell short in a game against Teesside Steelers. But the club were successful the following season when they beat Hemel Stags at Cheltenham.

And after the triumph, the club’s application to be in the National League Three was successful.

Coventry then won the National League Three Grand Final in 2004 but unfortunately, had to resign from the National League to rebuild.

The Bears returned in 2006 as a Rugby League Conference Midlands Premier outfit and finished the year in second and made the Midlands Grand Final but were defeated by Nottingham Outlaws.

Coventry got their own back though the following year, beating Nottingham to win the Midlands Premier and they were also triumphant in the Kilkenny 9s tournament.

And in 2010, the Bears partnered with Super League giants Wigan Warriors.

The Bears were accepted into the professional ranks of the Rugby Football League ahead of the 2015 campaign as they joined League 1.

As a result of the first team playing semi-professionally, the club run a Reserves side that play in the amateur Conference League South, which is the fourth-tier of British Rugby League.

And a number of the Bears’ younger teams play in the Midlands Junior League.

The club does a lot of work in the community with the foundation side of the club and it continues to get youngsters involved in Rugby League despite being on a low budget.

“We are quite well known in the community already,” Robinson added.

“We try and tie everything we do in the community into gameday. We have business side that runs like water and then we have the Bears in the community so we try to be as active as possible in the local community.

“In the last couple of years, we have done quite a bit in the local area like we did the fives touch Rugby League when we came up with a small sided game version of touch and we’ve branded it up alongside the club and it was a massive project for Coventry.

“We registered over 1,500 people and that is still running on Monday nights and that is tied in with the local universities.”

The Bears share their ground with Coventry Rugby Union club at Butts Park Arena, a state-of-the-art 3,000-capacity stadium.

They gain an average attendance of 450 and Robinson revealed that the club is in a great place off the field.

“We sold just over 100 season tickets last year, we gain crowds from 350 to 500 people and I’m really proud of that,” he added.

“We play at the Coventry Rugby Union ground, we don’t have a massive opportunity to make extra money other than bums on seats because the rest of it is all hard work like getting sponsorship in and growing the business as organically as possible.

“I’m not a big wealthy millionaire that could just pump money in every year, our model is that we are a sustainable business and that we want to try and grow year on year and we have done that slowly over the years.”

Coventry are now a stable League 1 side with a lot of potential to go on to bigger and better things.

Robinson is a credit to the club as are the volunteers and if this club can get more financial backing then there is no reason why the club can’t grow and become a Championship club one day, or even, a top-flight side.

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