Monday 28th August 2017 ko 17.00
South Wales Alliance Division 2
LLANRUMNEY UNITED 3 (Cachia 19 Raymond 61 Beckley 76og)
CARDIFF COSMOPOLITAN 1 (Ramasut 51)
So all good things must come to an end, and so two coaches slowly picked their way through Cardiff towards the city’s north-east. By repute the area is the birthplace of Sir Henry Morgan, privateer, governor of Jamaica, and inspiration for Captain Morgan rum. But I had plenty to think about.
We passed the University of Cardiff Playing Fields, where back in 2005 GroundhopUK had visited Splott Albion, and behind the clubhouse is the 3G cage that is now home to STM (St Mellons) Sports. That is now also home to Cardiff Cosmos, with the pitch they used to use still there, lying next door to Splott’s. However we were heading to the wide expanse that is Riverside Park, home to both Rumney Rugby Union, and Llanrumney United. And neither Chris nor I were completely certain of what we’d find when we arrived.
It’s probably common knowledge that the GroundhopUK way is to understand the compromise that is the organised football watching weekend, and try to give the sometimes conflicting interests the chance to get to get sufficient out of our visit. It’s a set of compromises that has a few hard and fast rules, a programme being an example, and far more that are a good idea, but negotiable. Some clubs are superb hosts, who could forget the likes of Sawtry for example, but others find the whole idea difficult, and Llanrumney seemed ill-at-ease about the whole thing.
If you stand in front of a club rep at a planning meeting, the first question they’ll ask is how many people they think you’ll bring (that’s why any serious hop has an advance ticket) and they’ll multiply that number by the entry fee. Your job as organiser is to convince them that that the gate money is only a starting point, and such things as catering, advertising and so on are more lucrative.
You have to remember though that these are volunteers often with little or no experience or dealing with a crowd. You manage to high standards, knowing that even when there’s slippage, you’ll still get a visit that’ll fulfill the compromise, that at it’s minimum adds up to as take a gate, play when asked, and do a badge and programme.
So when the club said they were going to let the rugby club do the catering we raised an eyebrow. Then the rugby club decided that they weren’t going to be open so there was going to be no catering at all. We regretted their move, and counselled against it, but ultimately that was their decision. Ultimately if a club feels it either cannot, or will not make the most of their opportunity, that is their call, not ours. But as the weeks went by they told us they couldn’t do more and more things we were hoping for, and both Chris Berezai could see the red lines approaching. Sure enough a few days before the event they told us they couldn’t do a programme.
Now for a club run by volunteers in a league where a programme isn’t mandatory I can see why they thought it wasn’t necessary. However sufficient numbers of groundhoppers regard a programme as essential to make it a red line that simply couldn’t be crossed. In the end league fixture secretary Phil Sweet and Chris put together a programme for them; so found ourselves getting off the coaches repeating the mantra “Game, Programme, Badge”
So you can imagine our surprise when Llanrumney’s staging was far better than we could have expected, even down to the PA system allowing referee Graham Evans to dance as he walked over to the pitch. And while there was no hot food, there were sweets, and thankfully after such a hot day, cold drinks, and even the line-ups were posted. I’m not sure what happened in the last few days before the hop but alls well that ended well. Even the crowd held up too!
So we finished the hop sprawled out in the sunshine watching a thoroughly entertaining local derby. There was even the chance to see a former professional in action. Cosmo’s Tom Ramasut has had a long and illustrious career in the Welsh game, but before that played for the likes of Bristol Rovers. He’s still got the skill even if at 40 he isn’t quite so fleet of foot these days. He scored but wasn’t able to prevent his side slipping to defeat but the game was a fine coda to the hop.
And what a hop is was! I expect the South Wales Alliance to be good, and this managed to exceed even my high expectations. A real bonus was the crowds, virtually the same as last year and last year we had the bonus of a huge crowd for the local derby at Cornelly. But this is a hop that has always been greater than the sum of it’s parts, and my only real sadness is that next year will be our last with the league; we’ll have run out of clubs to visit!
We’ve started talks with the Gwent County League, it does pay to plan a long way ahead in these things. If we were to switch to the GCL we’d be able to maintain our base in Treforest, and the popular Otley Arms, but history tells us to expect a few twists and turns along the way. I’m not sure it would be quite as much fun if it were completely straightforward!
To finish, my profound thanks to everyone who played, refereed, volunteered and attended these games. You helped create something special, and made a real difference to grassroots football in this part of South Wales.