Coventry City supporter and local businessman Richard Overson has explained his support of the Club, which has now extended to helping provide improvements to facilities at Ryton for players and staff.
The passionate Sky Blues supporter has provided financial backing to the Club over the last couple of years, which has made significant improvements to the environment at the Sky Blue Lodge – most recently a new first-team changing room, which we unveil for the first time in the gallery above!
Overson began by explaining his background as a Sky Blues supporter.
Richard said: “I’ve supported Coventry City since I was six years old. My first game was 1975/76, and then been a true Coventry City fan for all those years. I have three boys who are now all Coventry City fans as well – we’ve got Season Tickets, we go to all of the home games and the majority of away games as well. It’s in my blood to be a Coventry City fan.
“I was born in Wyken, lived in Coventry for a couple of years and then moved to Rugby, then lived in Warwick and now I live in Stratford. I’ve been from this area all of my life. I’ve always gone to the games with my friends, there’s 15 to 20 of us. Over the years their sons go as well now, so there’s quite a good atmosphere when we go to all of the games.”
Richard ran a financial services business, which was sold in 2017.
Richard explained: “I’ve been lucky enough to do well in business. Three and a half years ago I sold the business. The company sold for £208m - I wish I got all of that but, despite some reports I didn’t, as there were others involved in the business too.
“Once I sold the business, I looked at ways that I could help my club really and that’s what it’s been all about for me really – helping the Club, not working against the Club.”
In July 2017, the Sky Blues advertised sponsorship opportunities at the Club’s Academy – and that was when Richard first became directly involved in sponsoring the Club. Before long, he was supporting the Club in other ways too.
“First of all, I supported the Academy a couple of years back. The Club had put something out about getting sponsorship, so I approached Tynan Scope (Head of Commercial) and said that I would be happy to help, so we got some minibuses for the Academy. We did some sponsorships with that, where we got charities in and their logos displayed on the shirts.”
“Then I got to know Dave Boddy and then Mark Robins. I have sat down over the last couple of years with them and said ‘OK, where can I help?’ – really where I can help the environment for the players at Ryton or actually within the Club.”
That objective has seen a number of projects undertaken to improve the Sky Blue Lodge, with improvements to the Gym used by the first-team and Under 23s only the start of Richard’s support in creating tangible benefits for City’s players and staff.
“We did some stuff downstairs with the Gym eighteen months ago, and then at the start of this season we did some technology where it can help with the players, thing like TVs and technology to help present information to them.
“My remit has always been where I can see physically it will help the Club. I don’t want to say ‘There’s a lump of money’ and it goes wherever, I want to see that difference.
“True to their word, I have seen it and we’ve seen the results this season.”
This season Richard has again been providing his financial backing to improve Ryton – from the offices for staff, flooring in player areas, decorating and much more.
“That’s continued with the improvement at Ryton now”, said Overson. “We’ve had all the greenery done around the site and decorating done as well, just making it a more professional environment.
“Listening to Dave and Mark, and it’s the same in any working environment, if people come to work and they are happy, it’s a feel-good factor and they are more productive. That’s part of what I’ve been able to help and do, and that’s part of what Mark Robins and Dave Boddy said. I’ve seen from a distance and close up what they have done.”
Most notably now, a new modular building came onto the Ryton site in February and is in the process of being fitted out to be the new first-team changing room.
“With the new changing room, we looked at the areas downstairs and a lot of it was not fit for purpose. It’s just not been kept up to date really – that’s no one’s fault. It’s now an old building and 20 years ago it was probably ahead of its time, and now it needed tidying up.
“One thing we looked at was the new changing room, so we’ve worked on that and it’s coming to fruition now - it’s been an 18-month to 2-year programme so far of helping out.
“The changing rooms are the biggest thing really. I think that will make a difference when you look at them, they are modern, up-to-date changing rooms and they are portable as well – it doesn’t matter what may happen in the future, they can be taken with the Club really.”
Overson was full of praise for the work of Mark Robins at the Sky Blues, and said that the role of the Manager was not limited to football.
“You only need to spend 10 minutes with Mark Robins, and you can see his vision.
“What I’ve been amazed with him about, it’s not just the football; he gets involved with the colours, the type of changing room, the floor – everything. He’s called me Nick Knowles!
Richard expressed his desire to keep supporting the Club and the work of Mark Robins and the staff at the Sky Blues, with another big project lined up for the post-season period.
“We’ve got some more to do in the Summer on the pitch, we’re going to do the irrigation on the pitch as that needs updating. It’s continuous stuff really, and to my mind the money is being well used.
“I think if you speak to Mark Robins, he’ll say the stuff that we are doing with the analysis with Paul Travis (Performance Analyst) really helps him. Rather than presenting stuff on paper, it’s using the technology now – you press a button on the screen and it is visual for them, and helps the players.
“We’ve also helped the backroom staff and their office spaces – the staff behind the scenes do a hell of a job and it’s making their lives easier. That’s across the whole Club – for example in medical, downstairs we’ve replaced the beds for the physios to treat the players on.
“There’s loads of little things which we’ve done, and they’ve made a big difference. All I want is the best for the Club.”
Sky Blues Manager Mark Robins said:
“Richard has made very generous contributions to improve the working environment for us day-to-day at Ryton, and we thank him hugely.
“It has made a significant difference to our surrounding and the wellbeing of the players and staff at the Lodge, and we’re grateful that Richard wants to continue to work with us to make these tangible improvements at Ryton.
“Richard has done this all in a totally selfless way, to help to move forward the Football Club that he cares deeply about, and we are all very grateful.”
Joy Seppala, of Coventry City’s owners SISU, expressed her thanks to Richard for his support of the Club.
She said: “We are all extremely grateful for the support that Richard has provided for the Football Club.
“He has helped to make a huge difference to the Football Club and the environment at Ryton, which has had a really positive impact on Mark Robins, the players and the staff at the Club. The new changing rooms are the latest addition and having seen them, they look fantastic and will be a real lift to everyone.
“Richard’s passion for supporting the Football Club is clear, and his contribution to it has been massive and extremely generous.”