Image: Scott Wiggins / Coventry Blaze Press Release
Image: Scott Wiggins / Coventry Blaze Press Release

TBS101: An introduction to Warwick’s local teams

Coventry and Warwickshire is bursting at the seams with sporting talent and clubs that deserve your support throughout, and beyond your time at university. The region offers the most eclectic mix of sporting experiences outside of London, with state-of-the-art facilities and elite-level athletes on our doorstep.

For the first time since 2011/12, Coventry City will participate in the Championship this season. With former Manchester United forward Mark Robins at the helm, the Sky Blues have secured two promotions in three seasons, rising from League Two to the second division amid the most turbulent period in the club’s history.

The Sky Blues departed Highfield Road – the club’s 106-year home – in 2005, moving to the newly-constructed Ricoh Arena to the north of the city. Since becoming tenants at the Ricoh, City have been forced out of the city twice, fulfilling fixtures in nearby Northampton and Birmingham amid disputes with the stadium’s owners.

For that reason, the Sky Blues will play their home fixtures at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew’s Stadium throughout the 2020/21 campaign. Stadium swapping aside, there are plenty of reasons to support Coventry during your time at Warwick. Ultimately, the Sky Blues are on a recovery mission. The club has encountered tough times since falling out of the Premier League in 2000, but optimism has started to return.

Now could be the opportune moment to throw your support behind the Sky Blues

Coventry have announced plans to build a new stadium on the University’s “agricultural field area”, with the Sky Blues “entirely responsible for the cost of the new stadium”. Although an exact location for the arena is yet to be confirmed, now could be the opportune moment to throw your support behind the Sky Blues.

If football is a touch too sedimentary for your tastes, visiting the Skydome Arena must be placed atop of your to-do list. Coventry Blaze stunned onlookers last season, storming to fourth in the Elite Ice Hockey League standings before the campaign was curtailed by Covid-19.

Ice hockey is the UK’s third largest winter sport, and it offers a truly a unique evening of entertainment. Since arriving in Coventry in 2000, the Blaze have been crowned Elite League champions on four occasions, winning the EIHL Playoffs and Challenge Cup twice.

Led by a former player in Danny Stewart, Coventry Blaze will approach the upcoming season with a spring in their step. Fan-favourites Luke Ferrara, C.J. Motte and David Broll have agreed to return to the Skydome, an indication that Coventry will be competing at the top of the EIHL in 2020.

The ice hockey season is set to begin with a ‘Magic Five’ event on 5-6 December, although the league’s bosses have warned that the season can only take place if fans are able to attend games.

Holleran has taken charge of 541 competitive fixtures

Exciting times also await Leamington FC. The National League North outfit have strengthened over the summer, adding former Hereford striker Lance Smith to an already dangerous squad. Though the FA is yet to confirm when supporters will be able to return to the Community Stadium, the Brakes’ countryside ground offers the perfect non-league afternoon outing.

Established in 1933 as the works team of Lockheed Borg & Beck, a now defunct brake and clutch manufacturer, Leamington is deeply engrained within the local community. The club entered abeyance in 1988, returning ahead of the 2000/01 season after 12 years in hibernation.

Leamington are managed by legendary coach Paul Holleran. Since his appointment in November 2009, Holleran has taken charge of 541 competitive fixtures, upholding an impressive 243-125-173 record. The Brakes secured a 2-0 win over Brackley Town in August 2019, marking Holleran’s 500th match in the dugout at the Community Stadium.

Brakes fans raised £32,475 over the summer to help the club meet stadium grading requirements. Jim Scott, Leamington’s chairman, said: “We as a club are massively indebted to our fans and those within the wider community who have been able to make a contribution.”

The National League North season is expected to begin on Saturday, 3 October, with a number of clubs campaigning to allow a percentage of fans into stadia.

The 2019/20 campaign began with a rough start for Wasps

Wasps RFC are a Premiership Rugby Union side who play at the Ricoh Arena on the outskirts of Coventry. Known recently for their speedy back line, Wasps last reached the Premiership final in 2017. The team is comprised of a mixture of current international players, such as Joe Launchbury and Brad Shields, as well as exciting young prospects expected to make their international breakthroughs in the near future.

The 2019/20 campaign began with a rough start for Wasps, who were in the bottom two by Christmas. However, a change in coaching and management saw Wasps bounce back into the top five. Although Wasps may not make the semi-finals in 2020, there are great hopes for a strong start to next season. The 2020/21 season is due to begin in November, making attending a Wasps match an alluring prospect in term two.

Following the decision to cancel the 2020/21 Netball Superleague season, Wasps Netball will not be in action for the foreseeable future. Founded in 2016, Wasps rapidly became one of the most formidable teams in the UK, winning back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018.

Coached by Mel Mansfield, Wasps play most of their home fixtures at the Ricoh Arena, although the team also holds close bonds with the University. Wasps train at the Sports and Wellness Hub, and have also held a number of competitive matches on campus.

Coventry will host Saracens in the league next season

Coventry United Ladies compete in the Women’s Championship, with the Red and Green hosting their home fixtures at Butts Park Arena. United share Butts Park with Coventry RFC, the city’s Championship rugby side. Coventry will host Saracens in the league next season, as Peter Rossborough’s side seek to build upon their fourth-place finish in 2020.

Elsewhere, Warwickshire County Cricket Club are based at Edgbaston, with the club participating across all forms of the sport. Warwickshire are already back in action, with some fans invited to watch matches at Edgbaston as part of the Government’s pilot programme to support the safe return of sport.

Coventry and Warwickshire is comprised of an almost endless pool of fantastic teams to support throughout your degree. With cheap admission, quality transport links and ample hospitality, Warwick’s local clubs promise a brilliant day out, and a home away from home. We’ll see you on the ice.

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