Stay Classy, WRU. . . You’ve Turned Our National Stadium Into The World’s Biggest Wetherspoons

Last Sunday’s Wales v Italy game was marked by more drink-related discontent inside the Principality Stadium. Graham Thomas says it’s time the WRU stopped being Cardiff’s worst pub landlord.

Michael Caine reckons the Sixties were ruined by drugs, an entire decade unreliably half-remembered by those who were actually there in the middle of all the action.

Those hazy fragments of recall have meant – says the 84-year-old actor, whose new film, My Generation is out this month – that most of it has to be entirely made up. “They’d start talking bollocks,” he says, “and keep going for hours, or else say nothing at all.”

Caine would, therefore, recognise the yawning gaps in the memories of many fans who attend Wales rugby internationals at the Principality Stadium. To paraphrase Max Boyce, they were there. But they only know that because of the ticket stub or blurred selfie that confirms their presence.

Of course, this has always been the case. Lost weekends have been the occasional habit of Six Nations-goers for decades. Old Max made an entire career out of rehashing them.

But the difference now is that the pub has migrated into the stadium – the gassy fartings, the sloppy spillages, the fetid decomposing food, the coarse language, chucked bottles and occasional flashes of temper and violence, it’s all now under the Principality Stadium roof, instead of spread through the drinking venues around the centre of Cardiff.

This is how it has been for Wales international games for a while, presumably the targeted outcome of the Welsh Rugby Union’s corporate strategy to maximize revenues – pre-match, post-match – it’s all been helpfully packaged up into one continual experience, the national stadium turned into the world’s biggest Wetherspoons.

Additional security measures this season have meant the WRU have issued strident demands that fans have to get inside earlier than ever before, where they’ll find staff at 17 stadium bars happy to take their money.

The consequence of turning the stadium into a giant rugby-themed bar has been marked.

The Principality Stadium. Pic: Getty Images.

The special atmosphere, that sense of shared anticipation as 70,000 people stare in the same direction, all hoping for the same thing to happen, has gone. In its place is a kind of low level pub drone, but not of a good pub – more of a crap pub – where the comings and goings of designated beer-carriers get in the way, where the shufflers and piss-seekers always seem to be in your field of vision.

Bad things tend to happen in pubs with a bad reputation – things like the head-butting of a steward at one of the November Tests and the vile verbal abuse directed at a disabled supporter and his family.

Or, what happened last Sunday during the Wales-Italy game, where a drunk invaded the press box and another – in a show of support, or irritation, it was hard to tell which – lobbed a pint which crashed into a desk, destroying two laptops and soaking people who always used to feel safe going about their job.

Don’t take this for a prudish crusade against alcohol. I like to lose the odd day myself, particularly once a year at Edgbaston, sat in the Eric Hollies stand, with a dozen mates, watching cricket interspersed by fancy dress parades down by the boundary.

But cricket’s rhythm is suited to match-long drinking in a way that rugby’s is not. Within eight hours of cricket, people have natural breaks where they can get a beer or visit the loo.

At a rugby international of just 80 minutes, where the best action can spring suddenly from nowhere, the row-shufflers are just annoying. In fact, the truly remarkable thing is that there is not more violence directed by those asked to shuffle sideways in their seat in order that some waddling bellend can carry his tray of Heineken past, at the very moment that Liam Williams gets the ball in his hands.

Hadleigh Parkes scores against Italy. Pic: Getty Images.

Comparisons to other sports may, though, hold the solution. The WRU have floated the half-baked idea of alcohol-free zones in the stadium, which, as a remedy to contain drunkenness sounds about as effective as declaring a pick-pocket free zone as a way of dealing with theft on Westgate Street.

Better to look at Premier League and Championship football, where drinking is allowed but only within the designated bar areas. This forces the drinker into a choice and poses a question; am I here to drink for 90 minutes or to watch the sport I’ve paid good money for?

The result on match day at the Liberty Stadium or at Cardiff City is that most of the bars are fairly empty when the action is taking place and no-one is allowed to fetch and carry beer to their seat.

If the WRU were to introduce the same policy, it would force drinkers to make the same call – drinking or watching  . . . but not both.

Sure, it might hit their bar profits but that might just be offset by the return of the missing thousands who have clearly had their fill. Last Sunday’s attendance of 65,242 was the third lowest for this fixture since Italy entered the championship and was 9,000 down on two years before.

The alternative is to keep swilling until we really are down to the dregs.


29 thoughts on “Stay Classy, WRU. . . You’ve Turned Our National Stadium Into The World’s Biggest Wetherspoons

  1. It’s true myself and friends stopped going a few years ago because we were constantly interrupted by drunken fans getting up to get drinks & go to the toilet it spoils the atmosphere the viewing & makes everyone on edge it needs to change before we’d go back I’m not prepared to pay the prices just to miss most of the game that true fans love but can’t enjoy

  2. I agree, it’s disrespectful to the players, relegating them to a covers band playing in the background of the’ real action’, instead of giving them the attention they deserve – totally ruins it for those of us who actually want to watch rugby.

  3. Completely agree it’s no longer a match it’s a place where non rugby fans turn up shouting for Shan Williams even though he retired yrs ago. The singing has gone replaced by awful entertainment which has no relevance to our game.

  4. Totally Agree, 2 minutes after kick off 4 People came past and interrupted our viewing. If they’d of had the decency to wait for a pause in play I’d have no problem, they did have time to get to the bar first. Not a single thought of those they disturb. I couldn’t help but voice my thanks to them. The four people in front weren’t even interested in the game , it was just a day out for them and proceeded to talk crap for the whole match. Surely the stewards should only allow access during pauses of play.

  5. look here butt…we duh like a beer before during and after the international innit? Then we duh go into to town throw up a bit, make a big mess, sing loudly and fall around upsetting boring people. You gorra make the best of it see. After all there’s only 5 rugby matches all year and only 2 or 3 of ’em are in Cardiff. The coppers can concentrate on treating footy supporters like animals whilst we behave like animals ….just high jinx innit.

  6. I was in lower Tier and was disgusted with the number of people walking up the aisle, between the 30 and 35th minute I counted 105 walking up/ down the aisle. The stewards were unwilling, unable to help, I did email the WRU and got a bland, Kurt reply….. It really did upsetting 4 of us trying to watch the game. Something has to be done…..

  7. I agree. Waste of time going there now for imternationals, and don’t even get me started on Judgement day!!!!

  8. Stopped going to Autumn Internationals for the very same reasons a few years back. I always used to say, “it’s not the Six Nations, different crowd” but now sadly the Six Nations crowds have become the same, in particular the non Sell Out games, where tickets are plentiful.

    Until two years ago, Judgement Day was a good day out but after last year, again with all that the article says happened last weekend, happened then, a crowd of us will not be going to that again either.

    Bars need to be closed 10 minutes before the ko. That way everyone can be in their seats and the for those not wanting their tenth pint before the game, do not have to be interrupted by the crowd who are prepared to miss the anthems and ko for another round.

    The WRU and stadium management need to listen to the true rugby loving fans and step up to fix these issues. I know at least a dozen or so people who never missed a Welsh game in Cardiff or away, who now just won’t go to Cardiff because of the rugby illiterate drunken crowd that attend the stadium these days.

  9. I will stick to club Rugby. I’ve lost all interest with the internationals for years now tbh. It’s full of dullness and vulgarity from drunks. I won’t be paying a penny to go to principality stadium unless booze is banned like in the foot ball matches. It’s Rugby and not a stag do or hen do or fancy dress parade. Do any these type of people follow a rugby team at club level week in and week out? Nope. They just bandwagon people who taint Rugby in Wales.

  10. Why not close the bars 15 mins before kick off and open them 15 mins after the game ends. People can wait in their seats . No drinks allowed to be taken to seats, before or during play.
    The mess left after a game is revolting. And I have had more than one coat ruined and a handbag soaked in spilled beer in my time.
    Its pathetic and ironic to see scores of plastic bottles of water being confiscated in checks outside the gates, then find broken , glass beer bottles on the terraces after the game, and hear of them being thrown in the crowd.
    The WRU are already overpricing tickets so make enough profit without turning the place into a sleasy ,vast, grubby bar.

  11. retired and living in cyprus.our daughters managed to get 4 tickets for the new zealand game and nothing will stop us from going.this is not going to be a cheap weekend but its new zealand.just before the kick off,a group of men arrived(10)two rows in front of us.they were drunk and fighting each other.this carried on for the rest of the game.more drink and more warnings from the stewards. 20 min before the end they were thrown out after threatening myself and a family next to me from bristol.our crime asking them to sit down.the welsh rufc offered us 4 tickets for the italy game they are not new zealand. rees.morris.

  12. I doubt that anyone would disagree with these comments or the solutions but look at the way we respond to being treated like cash cows – we just walk away. If everybody decided to stay and make a protest during the next game…say a hundred, maybe more people unfurled a banner that said “Close The Bars” or something even more pithy the WRU would do something pdq. Start a facebook group maybe, get support together, or are we all just having a bit of a moan?

  13. One thing I love about rugby is the fact that it isn’t football and the fact that we can have the choice to drink during the game or not. The reasons why there’s no drinking in football is because of the violence from one fan to another. I love having a few beers during the game with my mates and I think if they stopped allowing drinks during the game we probably would stay at a bar instead. It’s a shame that some people spoil things for others but you can’t really say there’s been a full blown riot can you. I think you’ll find that my opinion is propbobly shared by most looking at the takings behind the bars.
    Also because of security risked and early entry the bars would be over crowded if you couldn’t take your drinks to your seats

    1. Sorry Lee, I’m a debenture holders and have seen the majority of matches (probably 85%+) at the stadium. I can confirm that the behaviour’s getting worse. People pushing past you to get to the bar/toilet, often when one team or the other is 5m from the line rather than a break in play.

      At the Scotland game, there was a fight to our right with people ejected so “not a full blown riot”, but that’s still too much. Needs to be nipped in the bud

      I love a drink too and get my fill before and after, but the reason I’m in Cardiff is for the game and 80 minutes without a beer isn’t an issue. If it is for you, you should probably look at getting help…

  14. I have hardly missed a game in cardiff for fifty years but have had enough, fed up of people pushing past with their beer as I sing the anthem. I always drink before the game and late into the night, but never drink when the game is on. The bars should be closed 15 minutes before kick off, then maybe the crowd would start singing again for entertainment instead of chucking beer down their throats.

  15. Completely agree with most of the comments. I have stopped going to International matches because despite wanting to support Wales with all my heart I am not prepared to have beer sloshed over me and repeatedly having to stand to let people go by to get more alcohol. It ruins the game. The language is sometimes disgusting which it never used to be. The more alcohol they sell the more money they make but there comes a time when more supporters will say, like me, enough is enough. Why not have a drinking zone and stop drinks being taken into the seating area. You need to bring back the families and make it a great day out – just as it used to be.

  16. Totally agree I go to most of the home games and loved to take my grandchildren up until two years ago when there was abusive and vile language being thrown about. It was embarrassing, sadly it now seems to be the way the game is going, the tickets are getting out of price range for true fans leading to lots of Non Rugby treating is as a stag party day out. Its also losing its atmosphere, the singing is no longer rousing as it once was.

  17. Well written statement. I enjoy the odd beer while at the stadium, but choose to have one per half. If it’s a particularly exciting game, which has been in short supply over the past few years, I’d probably have none at all. But I would suggest that the biggest reason for poorer attendances has the the continued rise of ticket prices. Despite the rhetoric the WRU spouts, they’re making more than enough money and do not need to hit the fans in the pocket.

  18. Hip flask of Penderyn and you don’t fill your bladder, no spilling beer over everyone, don’t need to go to the bar and no paying over the odds for a pint of piss.

    And it keeps you warm.

    If only everybody did the same.

  19. Well said. I have responded to the questionnaires sent by the WRU and made the same comments as highlighted here. No problem at Parc Y Scarlets or Cardiff City’s stadium. The drunken behaviour is unacceptable and the WRU should be embarrassed at allowing this to persist. I will no longer attend the autumn internationals – first time for 20 years – and will be selective about future 6 nations games.

  20. Take the tickets back from general sale to the public and back into the sole hands of clubs. There would be far more genuine rugby fans at the games and it would support clubs attempts to retain their sponsors. A insignificant number of attendees now are only there to be seen being there; I’ve seen plenty spend the entire 80 mins taking selfies to prove it.

  21. I for one won’t be back paid £5.50 for a pint of lager before kick off and was only told then we can’t take it to the seat, while others were enjoying a pint lower down. Stick it with the chariot..

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