In the event the official attendance was 25,584.
For a semi-final of rugby’s premier club tournament, and a match featuring a team from the home city, the lack of atmosphere and paying customers was an embarrassment. Twickenham has a capacity of 82,000, but the upper and middle tiers stood solemnly empty.
One columnist blamed the lack of fan appeal of Saracens, as their pragmatic decision to build a stadium holding just 10,000 ostensibly showed. However, when Saracens have played the occasional game at Wembley they have consistently attracted crowds around the 40,000 mark. So we must assume the majority of these were “non-core” fans attracted by the prospect of a day out watching live sport.
One of the attractions must have been that tickets were offered at a much cheaper rate than normal. I speak as someone who was looking forward to a trip to Twickenham to see Sarries play Toulon, but when I was asked to pay £35 to sit behind the posts watching the game on T.V. was a much more attractive proposition.
Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths refused to lay the blame at ERC’s door, even though it was they who had set the ticket prices. Reading between the lines however, it was plain that if Saracens had had control over prices they would have been a lot more flexible and innovative when it came to filling seats. After all this is a club with a proud history of marketing innovation.
Derek McGrath, the chief executive if European Rugby Cup Ltd, had specifically rejected calls for discounted tickets to be made available, and insisted over-pricing was not to blame.
However, Griffiths also said that there is “probably” something inherently wrong with a competition for clubs being run by unions, and this points to the wider issue where English and French clubs have been at loggerheads with ERC for almost a year over the future format of the tournament and, crucially, who should be allowed to run it.