Pitch invasions and ‘poor behaviour’ prompt WRU to shut stadium bars after half-time during Six Nations
Pitch invasions and “poor behaviour” have been cited as the Welsh Rugby Union announced that they will shut bars for half of each match in this year’s Guinness Six Nations Championship at the Principality Stadium.
A number of high-profile incidents, including two intrusions onto the pitch in consecutive matches, marred matches in the autumn at the 74,000 seater venue.
The WRU said that while it was important to note that issues reported only concern the behaviour of a small minority of supporters in attendance, they had “embraced the feedback” and taken stops to stop it from happening again.
A series of measures, which include closing food & beverage outlets in all concourses after half-time in all three home matches against Scotland, France and then Italy, have been put in place on a trial basis for the 2022 Championship and will be subject to an ongoing review, they said.
Pre-match messaging on all WRU channels and in-house stadium messages will emphasise responsible drinking, positive behaviour and consideration of others.
Lower percentage alcohol draught beer will also be phased into bars on concourses, with official brewer Heineken International bringing in 4.1% ABV Amstel Bier to eventually replace the stronger Heineken (5%) product.
WRU CEO Steve Phillips has called on supporters “offer a warm Welsh welcome and help create the atmosphere Welsh rugby is famous for”.
“We want our supporters to remain passionate and enthused and to continue to bring their best voices to the Principality Stadium – throughout the recent pandemic it is our supporters who we, and the Wales team, have missed most – but we also need them to behave responsibly and to encourage those around them to do the same,” he said.
“We have taken a series of measures which are designed to change a direction of travel from some quarters which was detected at our Autumn Nations Series matches, but do so without negatively impacting the experience of a hardcore and hugely significant base of supporters who make the Principality Stadium experience what it is. ”
The WRU said that it was the first Union to introduce a recognised Alcohol Free Zone in 2018.
“We know from our customer surveys that our food and beverage offering is an important part of the enjoyment of international rugby for many supporters, for 10s of thousands of supporters in fact,” said Principality Stadium manager Mark Williams.
“But we have listened carefully to all customer feedback and conducted our own extensive surveys and we will be trialling a number of new measures which we hope will encourage improved behaviour from the recognised minority at matches who risk spoiling the experience for those around them.
“There is a balancing act at play here. A safe and positive experience for all fans is of primary importance, but we are also acutely aware that actions can have unintended consequences so will be watching closely.
“We have a global reputation for excellence in terms of our matchday experience at Principality Stadium and we are trialling these measures to both enhance and protect that reputation.
“We constantly review our customer offering and we will look carefully at the effects of these new measures and evolve our match day experience accordingly.
“It is incredibly important to us that supporters enjoy their visit to Principality Stadium and we will continue to do all that we can to ensure this is the case for all.”
The pitch invader from the Wales vs South Africa game got a lovely welcome from the crowd as he got escorted out of the stadium. 👀 pic.twitter.com/FV3ScLZBE9
— RugbyLAD (@RugbyLAD7) November 6, 2021
The WRU said that surveys showed that drinking socially at rugby matches is an important part of the event experience for many attendees.
And it is was not clear that/if there is a causal relationship between alcohol consumption and any poor behaviour at matches, with other factors like kick-off times to consider, they said.
So the trial is expected to reveal more and could equally lead to more or less or different measures.
“Customers who filled out our surveys gave us an eight out of ten rating for their overall experience, which is a very high score in industry terms,” added Williams.
“This tells us we are doing a lot right, but we have had higher scores in the past and we, of course, would always look to improve in the future.
“There is evidence, some of which has commanded significant media coverage, that crowd behaviour at some matches has been a problem in some areas.
“We feel that there are improvements that can be made and we would like to do all we can to aid that process, but we do need supporters to help us out and work with us to achieve our aims.
“That means reporting poor behaviour to stewards and also looking in the mirror and making sure you are acting in a reasonable way from the perspective of those around you.
“Watching rugby at Principality Stadium should be one of the most enjoyable experiences you ever have, it is a once in a lifetime event for many and an annual pilgrimage for dedicated fans.
“The last thing we want to do is get in the way of people’s enjoyment, but we think these new measures will help ensure the greatest number of visitors have the very best time. Most importantly, they are entirely open to review so we will be listening to all feedback during the Six Nations and we will properly consider the evidence and react accordingly if necessary.”