Having stood astride the summit of Mount English Rugby, Moseley-folk have a certain flair for topographical-related metaphors.
Thirty-five years ago they were the kings of the domestic game, British Lions and internationals of all colours rolled down their slopes as frequently as Dairy Milk bars left Cadbury’s production line.
From their lofty vantage point they looked down not just on Birmingham but across the country with a gaze cast as far as Gloucester, Leicester and Bath. There was certainly nothing obscuring their view in Worcester.
The scenery is rather different these days. Many people in the Second City can’t see beyond Sixways and those at Billesley Common look around them not from the oval ball equivalent of Scafell Pike but from a peak similar in size to The Wrekin. A sporting hillock, if you will.
However, memories of their elevated status remain at the forefront of their consciousness and every week, every day even, there is talk about returning to the top of the game.
Which is why events in a council committee room this morning are of such interest.
Of the many items on the planning agenda the one referenced 2009/04190/pa stands out because it represents another cairn in the club’s dogged ascent back up the English game.
“Obtaining consent and then getting these permanent stand facilities erected and then functioning will be the biggest challenge that we have faced so far in our revival and we have faced some massive ones since we started in 2002,” says director Alan Adam.
“Each time we climb one mountain, we seem to find another bigger one behind it.”
Ah the new stand, that mythical staging post along Moseley’s arduous journey, for so long shrouded in low-hanging mist but now much more than just a dream. If things go the way they ought this morning, Adam and his colleagues’ vision will move steadily into view.
The expectation is the committee will agree with their officers’ recommendation of approval. Many a slip ‘twixt foothills and summit and all that and a site visit notwithstanding, there is cautious optimism.
And if the show of hands goes their way Moseley will have permission to build a state of the art, 5,000 seat facility, like the one at Exeter’s Sandy Park.
As well as more red and black seats than one can count there will also be ten changing rooms, 22 hospitality boxes and additional function rooms. The ground’s capacity will also rise from the nominal 1,000 to 7,500.
The club estimate it will create around 100 jobs to an area in need of opportunities. Not surprisingly objections have been few and far between. Only six people have expressed their concern set against 400 letters of support.
But as Adam is keen to point out, permission is one thing, engaging Persimmon – or any other of the many reputable building companies – entirely another.
The next mountain they must climb is finding the money to build the thing. A mere matter of £3 million plus.
Having invested £500,000 in their current facilities, much of which went on their excellent playing surface, they have £1.2 million of the Section 106 Agreement money left from The Reddings deal. They have also sourced cash related to the changing rooms of around £1 million. They are a considerable amount of the way there.
“There are obviously major challenges ahead,” Adam says.
“We have a superb team of James Jowett and David Aspinall well capable of putting it together but these are difficult economic times, the major challenge will be to raise funds.
“We might be able to cut our expenditure a little with the state of the building industry and there will be more than sporting grants available to us because of the nature of this development with its community benefits.
“But the state of the economy and the Olympics being held in London has pulled a lot of sporting related grants that way, so that they are more scarce.”
One thing in the club’s favour is their relationship with the city council. The local authority are named as the joint applicant and have worked hand in hand with Moseley since they provided Billesley Common as the club’s new home.
A couple of years ago they gave consent to build the All Weather Pitch that has brought considerable benefits to all manner of sporting organisations.
As well as local rivals Birmingham & Solihull and Worcester Warriors, Birmingham City FC and Maypole FC also use the facility. It is evidence of the way the club have worked with BCC and the RFU.
“This should be seen an excellent example of how politicians and officers in a local authority, its planning department and a major sporting institution can work together,” Adam observes.
“This facility would make us self-sufficient rather than needing benefactors to put their hands in the pockets every so often. It would also continue our work at making Billesley Common a centre of excellence for the whole city, something everyone can be proud of.”
The RFU are also on board. Their chief executive Francis Baron has sent one of the several hundred supporting letters and commented:
“The development of the new stand will undoubtedly support the administrative and management base of its [community] operation as well as providing enhanced facilities for schools to participate on site.”
Yet, committee assent is not necessarily the same as Moseley’s continued ascent. If and when it comes there’ll be another, steeper mountain to scale.