The Death of the Regional Rugby Fan.

Debates being had this week once again on the issue of attendance for Welsh regional home games, as the collective head scratching goes on. Why do 60,000 Welsh fans turn up in Cardiff to watch a game on the television, while barely any of those numbers can bring themselves out to watch their regional sides complete against the best in Europe? One wonders really how there can be a debate at all when you give some consideration to the statistics pulled out by the BBC on the subject.

 •Scarlets – 7243 (7 games)

•Blues – 6723 (6 games)

•Ospreys – 6528 (8 games)

•Dragons – 4766 (4 games)

Average attendances certainly nothing to shout home about, especially at the Dragons where the Newport region has become the latest in Wales to unveil a shiny new stand, only to have nobody sitting in it. But take a look at the other statistic, some Welsh regions have enjoyed 8 home games, others have enjoyed only 4. It is this inconsistency that is at the heart of the problem. What games are played at home for the Welsh regions are dramatically inconsistent, and more to the point, when they are played, nobody knows what day they will be on. Saturday afternoon perhaps, Sunday lunchtime, Friday night, sometimes even Thursdays and Wednesdays have played host to key Welsh regional home games. And the powers that be wonder why the crowds stay away?

It’s quite simple. WRU, regions, if you want crowds, say ‘tough luck’ to television, and put games where they belong, at 2.30pm on a Saturday afternoon. The only way the current mess of a fixture list can be sustained is to move the whole season into the summer, simply, people do not like standing in driving rain on a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon. It might be tolerated on a Saturday, but not anywhere else. The Millennium Stadium example in the rugby world cup is a critically flawed one, why, because the damn thing has a roof! No cold, no wind, only comfort and convenience.

If this hand wringing from the regions about attendances is sincere, they might for a moment think about what fans want, because whatever their market research suggests (for instance, market research suggests Welsh fans like Friday night Six Nations games – I know of not one fan who agrees with that sentiment), the evidence on the ground is not backing it up.

Save crowds, sell for Saturdays.

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  1. Also, sporting historical identity has to be brought forward in this argument. I live in Cwmbran and would not watch the NEWPORT gwent dragons if my life depended on it.

    • That is certainly an issue as well, though I maintain that were the ‘original’ teams still playing, were they to be jerked around as much in terms of fixture dates, the crowds would still be driven away.

  2. Speaking as a Dragons season ticket holder and regular visitor to Rodney Parade, the atmosphere there is the best anywhere in Wales, even with the new stand, we don’t have a cavernous empty hollow sounding remote football stadium. We have a great rugby ground in the heart of the town. But, the marketing is piss poor, the name Newport is still in bold on the shirts, leading to understandable comments such as monasticdave’s above. It would be a struggle to find a minibus full of non-Newport residents there.

    On the other hand, We have had Sunday and Thursday night matches – the latter at 1945 ffs!! That is a joke. We are in a recession and Newport is not well served transport-wise, particularly from some of the northern valleys. Who can get to a game at 1900 on a Friday if you work in Bristol or Cardiff?
    How to sort this situation?

    1. Cardiff and Ospreys need to stick two fingers up at their football landlords and move back to proper city centre based rugby stadia.
    2. I agree with the above, Saturday matches, preferably in the non tv slot where English Premier matches are not televised, is the only alternative. Tough shit to tv. You cannot tell me that BBC and S4C, just wouldn’t show the games? Sky is only for HK matches anyway and we could live with those four matches being at daft times, though they’re often on Saturday.
    3. Drop any association with Newport, bar the location. We only shout Dragons on matchdays and most fans would correct you if you described the Dragons as Newport anyway. The actual Newport team isn’t badly supported anyway. Almost as well as the pointless football side!
    4. Get out into the community, advertise and get into the schools. The shit League side did this so well, before they moved to Wrexham. Put on some transport from outlying areas. Stop only taking playres from Crosskeys and Newport. Pontypool and Ebbw Vale need including somehow.
    5 Bridgend should go into the Blues area and Ponty should become a standalone development region, once RGC are established (WRU need to stop dragging feet), competing either in the English Championship or in the Magners.

    Not a magic bullet, but the status quo is not an option, particularly when you look at Ireland and their bumper crowds.

    • No I think there is plenty to commend in that analysis, inparticular regarding the Blues. I would never call myself (or see myself in the future being) a Blues fan, but in the old city centre stadium I would go and watch them play on a regular basis. With the new stadium, I have no inclination to go that far for the product on offer.

      I think the Dragons seem to suffer most in terms of fixture shambles, and have done for many seasons. They are my closest club, but trying to predict when a game will actually be played makes it very difficult indeed.

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