Death of Din

It would be lovely to attend a top rugby match without wincing in pain at the noise assault. Perhaps a club could issue an experimental ban on the horrendous row that afflicts rugby stadiums under the guise of “entertainment”. I refer to screaming announcers who demand that you get behind your team-as if in 150 years of rugby no fan had ever worked out that that was what they were there to do.

Perhaps for a season an enlightened owner could allow the atmosphere in their stadium to grow organically-no ranting or raving,or ear-splitting noise. Crowds react to what is happening on the pitch. You connect with the crowd when it wants to be connected,not, when you order them to be.

And de-corporatise the whole thing.Twickenham may or may not be the worst, but here is one example of what I mean. England have an “official  anthem singer” in Laura Wright, and there she was on duty last week-end at the Ireland game.Laura is a gorgeous girl, she sings beautifully, and she comes out dressed for the summer in the middle of February.I hope she is being paid enough, but why does she have to be called “official anthem singer”? Can’t she just turn up and sing?

What a difference a decade makes

Last Saturday I went to watch Harlequins play Clermont Ferrand in the fifth round of the Heineken Cup at their Twickenham Stoop ground. I was one of a crowd of 12,800, about 2,000 below the current 14,800 capacity.

I recalled how, idling through the rugby books section on Amazon recently, I had come across the title “Britain’s Rugby Grounds”, by Chris Harte. Published in 2003 it called itself “A guide to 50 rugby union grounds in Britain” -(Kendal anyone?). Idiosyncratic the choice may have been, but the Stoop is among the more well known venues covered. Thus the book unwittingly offers an insight as to  how much rugby stadia have changed over the past decade.

It contains a photo from the (then recently opened) East Stand. In fact,this  is the only part of the ground still with us. On the other side of the pitch is the small West Stand, and the uncovered South Stand is plainly visible. Harte refers to the “permanent-temporary” seating behind both sets of posts, where some “5750 spectators can watch in relative comfort,just so long as it is not raining.” A new South Stand now seats 4000 under cover. The West Stand then had 448 seats, but has been transformed into a modern 4000-seat structure.

As  the stadium itself has changed so has the crowd . Quins have been teased over the years for being champagne charlies; city boys who were all style and no substance.But the rich City set from the commuter belt no longer dominate Quins’ fan base. The majority of fans come from the club’s four local boroughs, and it to accommodate that expanding fan base that the Twickenham Stoop has undergone such huge development over the past 10 years.

Some thoughts on Adams Park

I’ve always had a soft spot for London Wasps, and when I came across the following story I can understand why….

As a reasonably well-established rugby club by the latter part of the nineteenth century Wasps were eligible to be founder members of the Rugby Football Union. A meeting was scheduled for January 26,1871, for the formalities to take place. However a mix-up led Wasps to sending their representative to the wrong venue,at the wrong time on the wrong day. So he was not present at the inauguration ceremony and Wasps forfeited their right to be call founder members of the RFU But the version I prefer is that the Wasps man went to another pub of the same name and got so drunk he never made it to the right venue.

The club’s biggest present day problem is that they are having to share with a football club, and there will be no long-term prosperity until they reap the financial benefits of playing in their own stadium. That prospect appears further and further away. Indeed, the latest rumour is that Wasps will ground-share with Brentford F.C. when (and if) the latter move into their proposed brand new stadium near Kew Bridge in west London.

A day out at the Arms Park

Cardiff Arms Park is one of the most iconic grounds in world rugby, but it has taken me until now to get there, for the Cardiff/Toulon Heineken Cup game.

Cardiff Arms Park (named after a hotel which once stood on the site) built its first stand in 1881. The architect was Archibald Leitch no less, famous for designing Glasgow Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium, and Fulham’s Craven Cottage, among others.In those early days there was even a cricket ground to the north as well as a rugby stadium to the south. by 1969 the cricket ground had been demolished to make way for the present day Arms Park to the north and a second rugby stadium to the south. This was the National Stadium, and used by the Welsh national team  until it too fell under the wrecking ball in 1997, to be replaced by the Millennium Stadium.

The latter dominates its much smaller cousin, but the two are conjoined as if by an umbilical cord. For the South Stand of the Arms Park forms a complete unit with the North Stand of the Millennium Stadium. My seat was in this South Stand , which you enter underneath the North Stand of the Millennium – all that prevents you from entering the latter are heavy barred gates and some wary stewards.

Apparently this section is known locally as “Glanmor’s Gap”, after a former W.R..U. President. The story has it that the W.R.U. were unable to secure enough funding to include the North Stand in the Millennium Stadium. The latter was therefore built with the old reinforced concrete structure of the National Stadium’s North Stand, with the rest of the new steel Millennium Stadium structure built around it.

So it may not have been due to the most satisfactory of reasons , but I believe that somehow what has emerged does work for an unashamed ground enthusiast such as me.