The Welsh Rugby Union’s plan for an alcohol-free trial at Wales matches will take place in a section of the Principality Stadium where there are no bars.
The Union have announced the experiment of no booze in a designated area will be tried – in a section behind the posts in the oldest part of the stadium – at this year’s autumn internationals against Scotland, Australia, Tonga and South Africa.
The move comes after growing dissatisfaction from fans over disturbance and the worsening atmosphere inside the stadium, leading to a Dai Sport campaign for change.
Dai Sport welcomes the move by the WRU to try and address the problem, but fears the steps proposed do not go far enough.
The proposal of banning fans from taking alcohol to their seats will be tried in a limited section of the North Stand – the only stand in the stadium which does not have bars running in a concourse behind.
As an experiment it would seem to be aimed at a part of the ground where the issue of drinkers disturbing fans is least acute. At present, drinkers in the North Stand would have to visit the horseshoe sections at the junctions of the East and West Stands to buy alcohol and then walk back to their seats.
Drinkers in the well-stocked East, West and South Stands will still be free to get up and visit the bars as often as they like.
The experiment would appear to make perfect commercial sense for the WRU. Non-drinkers can be housed in the only part of the stadium that was not modernised in 1999, affectionately nicknamed ‘Glanmor’s Gap’ after former WRU treasurer and chairman Glanmor Griffiths.
But as a solution for those fans fed-up with having booze spilled over them in the rest of the stadium, or their view ruined by tray-carriers, it would appear to offer little change.
The Union’s plans for how many seats will be alcohol-free, or how the ban will be policed, have yet to be finalised.
It is to be hoped that the experiment will not be a one-off and that the stadium’s owners will also try other changes to judge how they affect the match-day experience.
Dai Sport’s campaign for change included a Twitter poll where 76% off fans backed the introduction of football-style rules that prohibit alcohol being taken to seats during the action.
Another trial might be to section off the drinkers, rather than the non-drinkers, so that those wishing to drink during the game would have the chance to buy tickets in the “drinking stand” as happens at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand, where Highlanders fans can enjoy cheap tickets and cheap booze in a section called The Zoo.
The WRU have also announced they are to make a 30% increase in disabled seating.
WRU chief executive Matyn Phillips said: “We have conducted extensive research with supporters over the course of our last seven home matches.
“We know that, for the vast majority, having a drink is an important part of the match-day experience.
“Equally we have also identified a customer group who would welcome an alcohol free zone and we are pleased to confirm that this will be trialled at each of the four matches this November..
“We will provide further details of the trial shortly, including more information about purchasing tickets for these seats.
“We are very proud of our stadium experience, but don’t want to be complacent.
“Having looked at the data and listened to fans we’re confident that offering more choice is the way forward and we are grateful to our many partners for their help and support in making this new initiative possible.
“We’re also delighted to announce an increase in disabled seating which is further evidence of the importance we place on having a broad offer for fans.”
Warren Gatland’s side will begin their final international season leading into the 2019 World Cup in Japan by hosting Scotland on Saturday 3rd November, with the Wallabies, Tonga and the Springboks set to follow on consecutive Saturdays in the month.
Scotland will be the first tier one northern hemisphere side to visit Cardiff for an autumn fixture since the first four-match series was played out in 2001 and the fixture will also contest the ‘Doddie Weir Cup’ – created in honour of, and to raise money for, the charity of the former Scotland and British & Irish Lions lock who is suffering from Motor Neurone Disease.
2018 UNDER ARMOUR SERIES (Kick-off times to be confirmed)
Wales v Scotland, Saturday 3rd November, £75, £65, £45, £35, £25, U16s £15
Wales v Australia, Saturday 10th November, £75, £65, £45, £35, £25, U16s £15
Wales v Tonga, Saturday 17th November, £35, £25, £20, £15, £10, U16s £10
Wales v South Africa, Saturday 24th November, £75, £65, £45, £35, £25, U16s £15