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Keith Fairbrother
Coventry Rugby Club Chairman

As an England forward Keith Fairbrother never shirked a fight and he is no mood to back away when it comes to saving Coventry, the rugby club which made his name.

"Fairy" as he was affectionately known to thousands of rugby followers - though never to his face - is using the broad shoulders which heaved back some of the toughest men in world sport, to push Coventry out of the financial mire.

He heads a consortium of local businessmen who stepped in to buy the club at a nominal figure from the Official Receiver. Now they face the task of finding enough quality players to compete in the Second Division of the Allied Dunbar league, but more urgently, enough to fulfil the opening fixture of the season against Worcester.

But the new chairman, who won 12 England caps, played 28 games for The Barbarians, 78 times for Warwickshire and 250 times for Coventry, has already had one slice of great good fortune.

Player-coach Derek Eves, the man generally regarded as responsible for the club's success in winning the Third Division and then reaching the play-offs to Division One, has agreed to stay on.

He is actively scouring the country for men who will play for a Coventry club which is hamstrung by a restrictive budget.

He is hopeful of success, because the name of Coventry - one of the all-time great clubs of rugby history, still has a cachet among followers of the sport.

And Fairbrother says he has been inundated by telephone calls of help from all areas of the city and beyond.

"Former administrative staff have telephoned to offer their services, we have had people helping to mow the pitch, paint the fences and clean the clubhouse.

"Others have offered to be turnstile operators and the Old Players Association has taken over responsibility for the pitch. Out of their own funds they will pay for a groundsman to keep it in good order, re-seeding, rolling and mowing etc. It has been a phenomenal response, but no more than I expected from the supporters of this great club."

Most importantly Fairbrother has already made contact with local junior rugby, for so long the backbone of the great Coventry sides.

"I met with a positive response although understandably the junior clubs are reluctant to let go their best players because they have ambitions of their own. But I explained that our former stars were always drawn from junior rugby. I played for Stoke Old Boys, John Barton for Caludon Castle, Ivor Preece for South Street School, Phil Judd for Broad Street - all of us internationals and there were dozens more.

"To help all of us we are launching an under-23 development squad. They will include the brightest of the local junior players, but their matches will be played on Wednesdays. That way they can play for their junior clubs at weekends, but will benefit from playing alongside and against better quality players in midweek."

But what are Fairbrother's ambitions for his club?

"I have three aims for this club: to put it on a sound financial basis, to consolidate our Division Two position and then push on to Division One and to create a new stadium in three years time which will seat 10,000 people."

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CWN / Sport / Rugby / News / 14 Aug 98 - Keith Fairbrother

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