In October fans from Yorkshire Carnegie gathered for a Fans Forum meeting held at Headingley Carnegie Stadium and were joined by special guest, Jon Pendlebury.
Date: Wednesday 28th October
Attendees: Ian Waterhouse, Malcolm Robinson, Susie Woffinden, Andrea Green, Gary Marks
Leeds Rugby Attendees: Sian Jones (Head of Customer Experience & Meeting Chair), Jessica Ives (Customer Experience Telesales /Minute Taker)
Guests for the Evening: Yorkshire Carnegie Academy Manager– Jon Pendlebury
Next meeting dates
Wednesday 25th November RHINOS
Wednesday 16th December GROUP
Sian: Welcome to the forum. It has been a while since we got together with all the activity we had in September. Going forward I believe it would be best to leave September forums and have a month out. So to start with I would like to welcome Jon Pendlebury as our guest speaker and start a little background on Jon himself and where he came from. Over to you.
Jon: Thank you for having me tonight. It’s good to meet you all. To start with I got the opportunity in 2008 to come back to the club. I was at Gloucester as a player but wasn’t getting the game time I wanted and I wanted to challenge myself. I was still in contract at Gloucester so I asked them if I could begin to talk to other clubs at the time. Stuart Lancaster approached me about the potential opportunities that were available at Leeds Carnegie.
At the time looking across the country I believed that Yorkshire deserved to have a Premiership club representing all the clubs within the county bringing through the junior and senior players, and that is something I really wanted to be part of and help bring the club back into the Premiership. We got into the Premiership for a few years but then we dropped back down but we could still see the potential.
In terms of playing I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the club but unfortunately due to injury it was cut short. I wanted to stay with the club and my role was then to go out and coach within the academy and also with the clubs out in the county which I had done whilst playing as part of the Community programme. The club then offered me a full time academy role coaching.
Last year my role changed due to the club rebrand and Academy department re-structure and I became Yorkshire Carnegie Academy Player Development Manager. Andy Rock became the Academy Director and then bringing Ben Lazenby in in a full time position as Yorkshire Carnegie Programme Manager. The structure underneath is that we have some part time and volunteer staff who join us on Academy training evenings and could go out into the county and service the local clubs for one or two nights per week.
What we are proud about is, as it currently stands the structure supports everything we want to within the academy and how we want to develop Yorkshire Carnegie within the county in terms of player development, our brand and developing the ERDPP supporting younger players, but also supporting the coaches within those clubs and giving them ideas and tips to create better coaching staff within those local clubs. This will then help to create better talent pools in the long run so that we can strengthen the academy as well as supporting the community game across the county.
Malcolm: Obviously the club got an influx of money from Asda Grassroots. Has that money started to filter into the system yet and how is that quantified?
Jon: The Asda project is important to us and we want to do it a great service so we need to get things in place to launch it. Andy is currently working on this together with the Board so that it is ready to go when we make any further announcement.
Ian: It is more of an add on isn’t it
Jon: Yes, it is additional and it under pins and works alongside what we want to do to get our brand across and out in the county supporting current project and programmes we already have.
In the Academy you are trying to build so many relationships with community clubs, partner schools etc. which is so important to us at academy level as we need these partnerships in order to pass players out on loan and develop players within the clubs. We don’t want to be at a stage where we are doing ten things right and one thing wrong because the negativity from getting one thing wrong will taint the name of the club.
Malcolm: It’s all about building trust at the clubs.
Sian: You don’t want to be recognised as someone going and stealing players from clubs.
Jon: That is where we have our affiliated clubs like Sandal and Wetherby that we work with. It would be fantastic if every Yorkshire club was an affiliated club. This is where we really need to build those relationships. As of next week it will be ERDPP week 2nd Nov again and this is where we will focus to get into clubs and build the relationships.
Sian: I think the club affiliation scheme is great. We have worked with the clubs and have selected the clubs that feel they can dedicate time and effort to us as well as us delivering projects to them. It is a two way relationship. They have to do things for us as a club when we do things for them. The affiliated clubs are a main focus of building the relationships and getting a proper model and
structure that works.
Susie: It does seem higher profile than it has been before in terms of players going out to these clubs etc. I think it is because I see feeds on Twitter about it.
Jon: It is more focussed than it has been before. Bringing Ben Lazenby in and including the players in the ERDPP coaching structure alongside our volunteer coaches is great. Bryan Redpath has spoken to the players and explained where we want to be with the club and explained we can’t do it on our own and we need their help. They have all bought into it and we want to continue but we need help from the whole county. We talk an awful lot within the academy about reward and recognition, so when it comes to the affiliated club scheme we have things in place to show reward and recognition to make it public and make people see how they can register interest if it something they want to get involved with. They might only ask for coach education or for a player to go down and do some coaching support scrum practice for example, but it works for the club and getting the name
Yorkshire Carnegie out there.
I think it would be great if we could have an affiliated club that had a player each that represented them along with coaching etc.
Questions for Jon Pendlebury from Susie Woffinden (Fans Forum Member)
As someone who has previously been at Roth – what is your view of how the “Yorkshire” concept can be used to the benefit of all Yorkshire clubs, and how do we get their buy in?
Jon: I’m from Rotherham and played for the team and made my senior debut with Rotherham and then got the chance to come to Leeds. I touched on it before but the amount of juniors that Yorkshire has I feel it is too big a county to not have a Premiership club. We have the academy licence to develop all these players and coaches in the county. We want to work with Rotherham and Doncaster but in the same way as we like working with Otley, Harrogate and Wharfedale who we work with and have the ability to dual register some of our Senior Academy players as they are at different stages of their development pathway. They are not many players that can straight away just go into the first team. Not everyone can be like Jack Walker for example. We have guys out there who are school leavers at National One and Two clubs. Some of these players may be front row and need to develop their technique and experience in a full live scrum as the U19 scrum laws are different, another player may need a lower level due to his physical development. We have other guys who are playing at Leeds Beckett University and gaining experience through their fixtures. Through these clubs they are building their confidence, experience at game understanding which comes from playing regularly at clubs like Otley and Wharfedale.
Malcolm: We played a guy on Sunday against Moseley from Worcester, how old was he?
Jon: Gareth I think he is 20. Again it goes back to development with the players, some can get fast tracked to a certain degree with the ability that they have and some guys need more development time to improve. Our job as an academy is to find the level that they are at and work on that. We need to make the decision as to what level to enter them into whether it be first team Yorkshire Carnegie or is it to enter them for Leeds Beckett BUCS league, National Leagues etc.
Susie: Is there a conflict if they have juniors coming through from Rotherham and Doncaster?
Jon: Do you mean as in local players? Rotherham and Doncaster have not got the academy programmes and the opportunities for them possibly to be able to maximise their potential. They haven’t got the licence or the pathway to do it. That could be the player’s choice to stay at their home club and develop. All clubs could ask why their juniors aren’t playing for them but at the end of the day it is the player’s decision and an aspiration they have to play at the highest level they can achieve. Some players do go back to their home club and play, which may be part of their developmental journey we have spoken about. We have obviously seen a number of players over the years who have spent 4-8 years for the junior and early senior years with us but have then moved onto premiership clubs.
Sian: In terms of the licences there is a lot of work to do in order to achieve certain statuses?
Jon: We get audited on everything you can think of as a club from medical to coaching to budgets. From the audit you get rated and then awarded x,y and z in terms of levels of funding for these areas. If Rotherham and Doncaster had an influx of cash and decided to try and gain a licence then they would have to abide by the regulations and systems in place by the RFU and Premier Rugby.
Malcolm: The structure you are putting together within the academy is only something I could see a club like Bristol being equal to.
Jon: There are 14 academies across the country. Yorkshire Carnegie and Bristol are the only two who have them who are outside of the Premiership.
Sian: What are the best and worst parts about your job?
Jon: Best parts of the job is definitely working with the youngsters with how ambitious they are and not realising their potential they have then, seeing them recognise their potential. Seeing them grow over six week, months and years is fantastic. That’s why I wanted to be a part of it in the first place. I wanted to try and support young ambitious players in a way I felt I didn’t get as a player coming through when I was younger, however it was very different.
The worst part is the challenge of not being in the Premiership at the moment along with a lot of the work that is done behind the scenes like the administration side of the job. With the auditing we have we have to make sure everything is done regardless of how big or small.
Sian: It can be a massive job for the guys in the academy with the paper work side. I know Jon is the sort of person that wants to be out there talking and coaching young players but they obviously need to make sure all these areas are addressed.
Jon: It is a large part of the job but the rewards at the end of it make it easier.
Questions for Jon Pendlebury from Malcolm Robinson (Fans Forum Member)
When you started as a young professional how were the following compared to the standards of today:
a) Fitness levels
b) Dietary programme
c) Conditioning in general.
Jon: At a senior level it is changing from what it was like four or five years ago. Academy level is forever changing due to the money that is being invested all the time and the part that the RFU and Premier Rugby is playing as part of their vision and taking it forward to a stage that we want to get it to.
Academies at the moment in compared to four years ago or eight years ago is different. The teams we had 8-10 years ago were Under 19 level and Under 21’s. It has now come into a more global age category a lot to do with school years where you would have had a cross over with out of age group and under age group ages.
What we try to provide, which is different to other academies, is nutrition support, holistic approaches and try to support the players off the pitch as well through their different stages. These types of activities are working really well at the moment.
Malcolm: When you look at the fitness of a forward and a back now do you think things like diets have been improved over the years?
Jon: The diet for players have to be right, but you also have to help the players sustain longer and better careers so they can recover quicker and prepare better for training and fixtures. There is a lot of areas where sports supplements get mentioned. They will sponsor big clubs and get involved. We don’t advocate sport supplements at our younger age groups as ‘magic formula’ we don’t want to make them think that they don’t have to put the work in at the gym and get a good sleep and generally eating well. We want to be able to show them how to balance everything right and a sports supplement wouldn’t teach this. The fitness and recovery in the game is completely different but the game has become different too.
Susie: It is amazing that so much has changed in a short period of time.
Jon: It is down to better coaches, research, players and better practices.
Do Carnegie work with them in terms of the Fitness and Diet standards and other aspects to get the best out of a player?
Sian: Tell us a little bit about strength and conditioning around eating and diets etc. With them being younger they will need something a little more than the seniors with them still growing.
Jon: It is tough with the youngsters as some might not be living at home and they might be in boarding so it is then left up to them to organise. The ones who are at home have their parent’s dong their dieting plans. We are trying to work more with the parents and educating them on the supporting their son. One of our staff, Debbie Smith PhD student from Leeds Beckett University, does a seminar about ‘Fuelling Your Growing Rugby Player’.
Do you find that you are not only teaching the skills of the game in the academy but need to know more about the scientific ways that make a player tick?
Jon: We have sessions all about developing your habits and behaviours. This gets the guys to a stage where they know exactly what they should and shouldn’t be doing. We also have the support and on going partnership with Leeds Beckett University and the PhD studies that are on going and have been since late 2013. We have coaches working in our S&C department supporting or ERDPP, JDS, JA and SA looking at the recovery and player growth & adaptation to training, how different age groups recover/respond at different speeds. These guys are looking into research to see how we can implement and integrate better practice into our sessions and support.
We are also currently looking into the level and volume of rugby that these youngsters are playing within school and club teams. It is all about the level of the game they are playing. I have conversations with players about the number of games that they have to play during that season whether that be with our academy or within their schools. They have a lot of commitment towards their own school teams but the level of competition is different between each school. There are a lot of challenges at the time when they are crossing over between schools and academy teams but we need to assess what is better for them at that time in their development.
Questions for Jon Pendlebury from Ian Waterhouse (Fans Forum Member)
We know the structure in Senior rugby teams with the coaches etc. I guess academies are different although you have the title manager you are a coach. Are you involved in all the areas?
Jon: Yes I am a coach, you have to be. You become more rounded as a coach, having not to just specialise. Yes I was a forward and I had abilities in areas and lacked in others, but in terms of coaching I have to be more rounded and I have to work across the team in every area. I always have support from Andy Rock and Ben Lazenby. We have Dan Scarborough who comes in from Bradford Grammar School and we can draw on his expertise. We have other coaches like Danny Wild who does a great job with our Under 16’s and regularly have ex academy players that come in as well. You can specialise in areas and we do have skill specific training nights so we get some players down to help focus on those areas and do specialist sessions with them.
You said your ambition was coaching, but now you are coaching what is your ambition going forward?
Jon: To help support and be a part of Yorkshire Carnegie being the best academy in the country!
Malcolm: It must be great when you see them in the first team?
Jon: That is the best bit when you see them playing well and also on loan. You get out to see them in their loan teams and see how much they are learning from the teams they are playing for. You sometimes see them struggle and then overcome it when they are playing. It is great to see!
Andrea: Have you been to other academies?
Jon: Not as such, we have regular forums where we meet. Sometimes it might just be Andy Rock that goes along to a central meeting and other times we might meet as the three Northern Academy teams and catch up. We trialled a joint session over the summer where we invited Falcons and Sale over and we had a training sessions together. It’s all knowledge sharing.
Gary: You haven’t entered the ‘A’ League, is this something you will do?
Jon: The ‘A’ League is what we want to get involved in, but at present unable to support that with squad size. Having dropped down and getting relegated we couldn’t support the league with the squad numbers and playing numbers we need. In addition a number of our Senior Academy are playing regular Carnegie 1st XV at present, we want to gain entry back into the A League and its another great opportunity for our younger players to be playing regularly against their peers at other clubs in the 18-24 year bracket.
Malcolm: How many teams play in the league at the moment?
Jon: All the other premiership teams.
Malcolm: They will have a lot of games then.
Jon: You would split it between north and south conferences. The furthest south we would travel is Worcester. You could have twelve fixtures home and away or you might have six playing home OR away, depends how the RFU and Premier rugby set it up around other playing opportunities they have for example LV Cup.
Malcolm: It’s amazing how many injuries you get over the season.
Jon: Andy attends regular academy managers meetings. There are some discussions looking at the who Academy playing structure from U15 right up to and including A League and Andy is going to sit on a board that is going to review all the academy playing structures. They will be smart and sensible as to when they put A League game in, an awful lot is affected by it in the structured season. They will look at player’s availability and what sort of games they have been playing and getting players more game time. Then you have to take into account the autumn internationals when all the international players have gone to their countries and then you have opportunities for younger players to play in Premiership 1st XV’s.
Feedback from Gary Marks (Fans Forum Member)
I got resounding feedback that the carvery was really good I’m very pleased with it (gravy may have been a little bit southern though)
Feedback from Susie Woffinden (Fans Forum Member)
We came to the café bar for the Carvery today- enjoyed it, and there has been a post on the message board saying how good it was and good value, including positive comments from the Moseley fans too.
Sian: Great that we have had such good feedback. Brilliant that it is a ‘You Said We Did’ type scenario. We will look at the possibility of the hot roast sandwiches for you.
There has been some feedback surrounding the Satsuma Boxes that these are not being
distributed widely enough
Sian: I will ask about trialling the scheme running during half time rather than full time to ensure and even spread of the boxes. At the end of the game everyone other than people in the North Stand have dispersed so it is limits the number of fans we can distribute to.
The players in suits and all being there is going down well a few in the stand near me mentioned that Sunday
Sian: It is working very well and it is very much appreciated by the fans to see them there supporting the team
I did get asked about the on the road games and if there’s the possibility of transport for fans to the club’s?
Martin has asked about the possibility of a coach to Bedford? I appreciate this is very short notice but have you any plans for away coaches this season – for example when/if we make the playoffs
Are there any coaches for the On the Road games?
Sian: There will be £1 travel for members and £5 travel for non members for the ‘On the Road’ matches – this has now been promoted and is available for sale. Andrea will captain the coaches. For Bedford I will need ten minimum for the coach and if you can advertise this within your forum boards and I will do it on the website then we can gauge interest and try run it.
Feedback from Susie Woffinden (Fans Forum Member)
Post match in the café bar today was a bit of a farce though, only the football on, instead of the Australia/Argentina game and the Satsuma podium blocking the screen. I approached the security guards who basically said it was nothing to do with them, only the intervention of Gary H eventually sorted it. Feedback from those who watched the England/Wales game in the café bar was that it was an enjoyable experience
Sian: Going forward we will make sure situations like this are avoided.
The shop – I had to go back to my car straight after the game today, then went straight to the shop, and they were locking the doors. This must only have been 15 minutes after the game, and I was not the only person wanting to get in. I eventually went through the outdoor, as I really wanted to buy a shirt. How long should it be open for?
Sian: The rule for the opening and closing times of the shop is 20 minutes after the final whistle. If there is no one coming into the shop then they will close. They will have kept the exit door open but have closed the main double doors which I can understand will cause confusion.
The players seem to have stopped recognising the fans post-match – particularly the South Stand- they were doing it earlier in the season but didn’t today, and I had had feedback before today saying the same thing too
Sian: This is something that we can feedback to the team.
My mother has mentioned to me she hasn’t had any acknowledgement of her season ticket membership or her £5 voucher (do OAP’s get them?)
Sian: The voucher will have come in the envelope along with the terms and conditions of your membership and the car sticker.
2 people have mentioned that the PA in the South Stand is too loud
Sian: We will get this investigated in terms of the volume control via our match day sound
Feedback from Andrea Green (Fans Forum Member)
The Speakers/ Tanoy are far too loud in the stadium.
Sian: This will be passed on to the correct people within the team to have a look at.
One person has mentioned that they really like the design of the Car Stickers but they are too big
Sian: Thank you for your feedback. We will have a look at the sizing going forward.
Is it possible to have some more Friday night games as these seem to have a good atmosphere? Personally I think it is good to have a mix of Sunday afternoons and Friday nights
Sian: We will put in a request as a piece of feedback when the fixtures are due out. It all depends on the player timetables and turn around between matches.
It’s great to have lots of kids at the matches – and particularly playing at half time – but there have been occasions when they have been making a lot of noise when kicks are being taken. I appreciate that there are now notices on the big screen, and it does seem to have been better recently, but can this be raised specifically with the Junior team coaches
Sian: This will be something we will highlight over the PA system aswell as on the big screen.
One poster on the message board is very keen to purchase a home shirt in the same style as the player’s shirt – is this an option? The away shirt is generally very popular
Response from Lee Jenkinson – Head of Retail: No as they do not sell and the minimum order quantity would far outweigh the demand for these. This was proven in the past when we put a small number in store.
Lanyards have been suggested as an option to sell in the shop
Response from Lee Jenkinson – Head of Retail: Again, the quantity we would have to order to purchase a decent lanyard would fair outweigh the demand. When we held a big ‘fire’ sale to sell all the Leeds Carnegie stock there were hundreds of unsold lanyards.
One person has said they were not happy to receive Rhino’s SMS messages which they have not asked for and which seem to have started again after the double header.
Sian: With the double header match being a Yorkshire Carnegie match as a curtain raiser to a Leeds Rhinos match, the data will have been used from this as they will have had to purchase a Leeds Rhinos match ticket to access the curtain raiser game against Romania.
Feedback via Ian Waterhouse (Fans Forum Member)
From Plumgarth 400 on message board after home game v Ealing Trailfinders last month.
“There were a load of kids playing with a rugby ball behind the steps in the Carnegie stand. Making a racket and totally distracting people who had paid to get in. They were even making a noise and waving arms in the eyeline of our kicker while he was concentrating on taking a kick. Eventually a steward did something about it but this is something the club are going to have to do something about or I for one will be making a complaint.
It’s fantastic having lots of kids in the ground for the half time stuff but they have to be kept under control by the people who are supposed to be supervising them while the game is going on. This happened a lot last season and totally distracted me and my better half.
I realise that we should be encouraging children and I have absolutely no problem with that. It’s super to see so many kids on the pitch playing at half time. This is about respect and correct supervision by the adults that bring them to the games.
Can this be taken up at the Fans Forum please.”
Feedback from Andrea Green (Fans Forum Member)
The Carnegie times was not available on line or in the South Stand bar which was disappointing.
Sian: The Carnegie Times is distributed to every open bar on match days. If there isn’t one available in the bar, please have a look in the shop where there is a batch left also. There is also a PDF link posted on Social Media for the Carnegie Times.
Great hosting the England world cup game in the Carnegie bar thank you. Shame about the result but unfortunately that is not something the forum can deal with.
Sian: It was a great ‘Club’ atmosphere
Laura Ashley Bruce @orangelaura 11h11 hours ago
@carnegierugby I’m so incredibly upset I missed this due to the website and telephone ticket office being so woeful! #sortitout #yourloss
Sian: Unfortunately on that morning there was a phone issue within the ticket office which was quickly resolved once we were aware and the promo code was extended to 12.15pm to satisfy the customers who were unable to get through. There were no issues reported with regards to the website and the code not working – we received a few via the online booking system.
E-Mail feedback from Mike Higney
Well done on the efforts to keep us informed, including:
a. Prompt video feedback of each game from Redpath and Players
b. Prompt videos of games
c. Good preview about next game on website
d. Newsletter – but not enough available on the day – why not put some at Reception in entrance to Carnegie Café and at the self-service buffet? There have been occasions when those left at the bar had all gone even though there was still 10 minutes to kick off.
I like the entertainment and the announcer’s voice is clear BUT please turn the PA + music volume down! I have to shout to fellow fans standing right next to me both before and after the match to hear and to be heard. For the same reason it is almost impossible to make out the BBC radio commentators in my car on the way to and from the game (or when I can’t get to HC) as their voices are drowned out by the volume (try it yourselves) Before the Donny game on 9 October, Gareth Jones of the BBC remarked on air “That PA couldn’t be any louder, could it?” Please turn it down and turn it off 5 minutes after the match ends.
When I was at Clifton Park watching the game I was impressed by the respect the local fans showed to penalty/conversion kickers of both sides. We used to be better than we are now. It helped that we used to put up a message on the big screen to remind all spectators to respect the kicker by remaining silent and make a PA announcement as well. It’s great that so many youngsters are coming to HC – but some may not have been told to respect the kicker. I notice that this message was shown at half time today (Moseley game) on the big screen (but the kids were busy playing rugby at the time!).
Last but not least, a big thanks to the players and staff for a much better performance this season. Of course, there’s a long way to go and we need to keep improving, but I no longer feel suicidal. And I hope the backs will see a bit more of the ball and make it a 15 man game? Stop press: much better against Moseley – suppose we had done the same, much earlier against Bristol?!
Thank you also to the members of the Fans Forum – we have you to thank for many things – 3pm kick-offs, for example – so keep it going!
Sian: Thank you for your feedback Mike. We do put a message on the scoreboard about being quiet when the kicker is kicking and we are going to get our sound engineers to investigate the PA system.
E-Mail feedback from David Walker
How about the possibility of having a referee, from any reasonably senior level, putting a small monthly contribution in the C Times on the rules? Maybe it would clarify a few things that too many fans don’t seem to understand, so perhaps there could be a question/answer section as well. He/she could always remain anonymous if preferred!
Sian: This can be something that we suggest to our Media and PR department who publish the Carnegie Times.
E-Mail feedback from Brenda Wilson
I tried again today to buy baseball caps but was told that they had sold out. There have not been any in the shop this season at all. We purchased one earlier in the year and if they have sold out then there must be some demand for them. These are the sort of items together with scarves and beanie hats that fans will buy. Mugs were also out of stock. It really is very difficult to spot Carnegie merchandise in the shop due to all the Rhinos stock.
Response from Lee Jenkinson – Head of Retail: We had 12 baseball caps which we ordered last season and they took the whole season to sell therefore we chose not to re-order. We have a small selection of beanie hats and scarves available in store. We have extended the clothing ranges this season and that seems to be have been the correct decision judging by the sales.