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Bill Sobey: Truro strife is another lesson to local clubs

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 01, 2012

Truro City were the pride of Cornwall when they won the FA Vase at Wembley but their recent difficulties are a sad reminder of Mounts Bay's demise in rugby picture: Phil Mingo/Pinnacle

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The start of a new season is usually a time for great optimism, a time to dream of the possibilities and for supporters to make those wonderfully delusional expectations.

Sadly, the start of the 2012-13 season has been little short of a nightmare for Truro City followers.

This great club has achieved so much in a short space of time. Their rise up the football pyramid with five promotions in six seasons has been an incredibly journey.

However, the parallels with another great Cornish club are unmistakable and ominous.

Mounts Bay made even greater strides through rugby union's league structure not so long ago, before their status eventually outgrew their infrastructure and the inevitable happened.

We all hoped Mounts Bay's demise would count for something. Other ambitious clubs – in all sports – had a perfect illustration of what happens when success comes too quickly.

Just like Truro City, Mounts Bay were too dependent on the financial input of one man who perhaps allowed an inner competitiveness to destroy all he had built.

Of all people, property developer Kevin Heaney would surely have known that long-term success must be built on a solid foundation.

Without his financial backing, Truro no longer have the means to meet the demands of Blue Square Bet South football.

It certainly puts the remarkable accomplishments of the Exeter Chiefs into perspective.

The Chiefs are about to begin their third season in rugby's top flight but it took them many more than that to get there.

This is a club that judged the property market well, moving from the County Ground to the future-proof Sandy Park at just the right time in 2006.

They have been rewarded for building a club capable of supporting success before bringing their playing squad up to similar standards.

The challenges of building and sustaining success in the Westcountry are obvious.

As much as we all fortunate to live in an amazing part of the country, it is certainly far from the most affluent during these difficult times.

All of the region's sports teams struggle to generate income through sponsorship and have been forced to endure falling attendances as our disposable incomes rapidly diminish.

The Chiefs' success is a double-edged sword for many of the clubs around them. When given a choice, many supporters will now prefer a day out at Sandy Park, just as potential sponsors want to be associated with their success rather than other sporting clubs currently going through transitional periods.

However, the Cornish Pirates and Plymouth Albion have benefited from taking some of Chiefs' fringe players on dual-registration.

It is perhaps the Pirates who have most to learn from Truro's recent misfortune. For years, they have been close to reaching the Premiership without having the underlying facilities to support promotion.

It brings to mind an interesting comment Chiefs CEO Tony Rowe made last season about the time his club were in a similar position.

"For a number of years we were knocking on the door to the Premiership but didn't quite get there," he said.

"When I look back, I realise we were not actually ready. If we had gone into the Premiership earlier than we did, we would have fallen flat on our faces."

Pirates have stabilised at Championship level and this season there is a notable shift away from depending so completely on chairman Dicky Evans' support.

It is a shame Truro City failed to cut their cloth sooner as well. But it is an even greater mystery why so few sporting clubs recognise the proven formula for success in our region.

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