IT HAS taken 16 years to get Coventry Bears into the professional ranks but the club’s managing director, Alan Robinson, insists the hard work begins now.
Robinson was the man who brought rugby league to the city back in 1998 after moving from Northern Ireland to study at Coventry University.
It was always his vision to improve the image of the sport in the area and increase its reputation.
And now with the Bears set to join the Kingstone Press Championship One next year, Robinson is hoping the club can bring to an end the North-South divide which overshadowed the sport for many years.
“It wasn’t until more recently that we felt this could become a reality.” Robinson told the Observer.
“It’s been an accumulation of 16 years of work since the club was formed. This is a huge personal achievement for me, and in a way we have been challenging ourselves to prepare to operate at this level for a number of years.
“We’ve always been probably the most successful amateur club in the West Midlands so all eyes were on us in some ways to make this step.
“We’re going from being an amateur club to professional and there’s a lot of challenges with that but we want the city to get behind us and it’s something we need everyone to know about.”
One of the biggest tasks now facing Robinson and his team is to attract a new generation of rugby league fans to the Butts Park Arena over the summer.
And one of the key marketing tools is to advertise rugby 12 months a year within the community alongside the city’s rugby union side.
“We’re really going to spread the word about the power of the Warwickshire Bear and the ‘power of the Bears.
“Go to battle with the Bears in 2015. We know it’s going to be a battle, we know it’s going to be huge challenge.
“We want to grab people’s attention. A lot of people need to know that we’re here and have a look at what we can offer. There is huge potential with what we’re doing next year.
“We’re a good thing for the city. We are effectively going to be competing two leagues below the Super League so that’s saying in itself to the public that this is something they should have a look at.
“The closest teams are going to the Oxford and Gloucester. And then if you go north you’re talking Sheffield and Warrington, so there’s going to be a 50-60 mile radius around us where we’re going to be the top club.
“That in itself will hopefully bring in potential sponsors, players and other commercial partners.”
One of the key factors behind the club’s success has been the positive relationship with Coventry Rugby Club and Robinson personally thanked them for their support.
He added: “We now have the facilities, the link with Coventry Rugby Club and the potential not just in Coventry but in the whole West Midlands area.
“We’ve got a great stadium based right near the city centre and we’re hoping that people are going to come along and take a look at use.
“In the summer we’re effectively going to be the only sport competing on behalf of the city.
“It’s going to be fast, hot and in the sunshine and those a few good attributes for sports and the fans so hopefully we can make it a real success.”
Alan Robinson outlined the vision for Coventry Bears at a press conference at the Butts Park Arena last Friday. Picture by Jon Mullis 30.014.004.cov.jm2