VIDEO: Rugby international Josh Lewsey unveils bold vision for Cornish Pirates
The Cornish Pirates' interim chief executive Josh Lewsey has unveiled a bold vision for the Cornish Pirates through which the club could be transformed into a sustainable operation capable of operating in rugby's Premiership by 2015, writes Dick Straughan.
The former England and British Lions full-back, who was appointed to the post at the start of April, told a press conference at the Mennaye Field in Penzance on Wednesday that after a wholesale review of the operating procedures at the club a new structure on and off the field including an injection of finances had been put in place to take the operation forward in a new direction.
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Lewsey refused to discuss the specifics of funding the Cornish Pirates over the coming years or any detail relating to the ongoing development of the Stadium for Cornwall but he denied that there was any financial risk to the club through the structure he is implementing.
He explained: "Our gates this season have not been good enough and the feedback from supporters is that the match day experience at the Mennaye Field is not good enough.
"We need to speculate to accumulate and upgrading the facilities at our ground is an absolute must if we are to re-engage with the community."
Lewsey admits that awareness and lines of communication between the Cornish Pirates and the rest of Cornwall must be much better and while builders set to work on replacing the stand and marquee at their Penzance base along with the floodlights this summer, a full-time commercial manager and full-time community manager will be appointed to strengthen the links with the rest of Cornwall.
But Lewsey wants the Cornish Pirates to become the heartbeat of Cornish sport and he is holding what he calls a "Purpose Workshop" shortly where prominent members of Cornwall`s economic and commercial community will be asked to tell the club what they want the Cornish Pirates to be.
He explained: "To survive long term you need a common or higher purpose and sport can connect people in a way no other medium can. This is absolutely where our opportunity lies."
With a clear purpose, a well defined structure and the right personnel in place to drive the Cornish Pirates forward Lewsey is confident that the club can compete at the top of English rugby and beyond.
A playing squad is being assembled with the objective of being "Premiership capable by 2015" but he added that money would not be wasted to buy short-term success.
He said: "A Formula One style budget straight away is not a sustainable strategy."
The Pirates squad report back for pre-season training on June 10 with the Championship season under way on September 14 but their warm-up games are being tailored to tie in with Lewsey's plans.
He explained: "We will select and coach a team from other Cornish clubs to play at the Newquay Sevens this summer as the Cornish Pirates.
"That team will later represent the Pirates at Twickenham against a British Lions Sevens team.
"Then in order to reconnect with Cornish people further afield we will play a pre-season fixture against Saracens in the City of London on August 22.
"This will be followed by a match back at the Mennaye Field on August 30 under floodlights against a Cornwall Select XV."
Pirates head coach Ian Davies added: "This is giving us all a clear direction from the bottom up and giving us the opportunity to get out into the whole community and explain how, what and why we do things. It is a very exciting time.
"The idea is that the Cornish Pirates will represent Cornwall as their top rugby team and we need everyone else to buy into that to achieve it.
"We are going to go out and work at all levels to try and achieve our aim at the end of three years."
For more from Josh Lewsey, see tomorrow's West Briton and Cornishman.