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2017 CORE Legacy



RWC 2015 Considers Sitting Fans in Nation Sections

Date: April 30, 2014

Author: Mick Cleary

Rugby World Cup 2015 organizers are mulling over the idea of segregating fans at the tournament next year. No more mix’n’mingle, no more rubbing shoulders with the opposition, no more jibes and taunts and banter.

In soccer, it has long been the norm to keep the hordes apart. Never the twain shall meet, unless it is in the High Court to face charges of mass mayhem. Only last week Ian Ritchie, the Rugby Football Union chief executive, was extolling the virtues of life on the Six Nations beat at Twickenham, where the English and Irish and Welsh sit side by side, with nary a copper in sight and no arrests on the charge sheet in years.

It is part of rugby’s landscape that the brutality is reserved for the field of play. And even there, when the final whistle sounds, the ferocity fades instantly. Then begins what the French term, la troisième mi-temps, ‘the third half’, as the winding-down process of, yes, more food, drink and song takes place.

So why, then, is there even the prospect of this long-standing ritual of civilised tribalism being changed? For the best of motives, although the reasoning will trigger debate.

What RWC 2015 is looking into is the grouping of fans so that they can make maximum noise in one homogenous block. They are concerned that various travel groups, or expats living here and legitimately purchasing tickets through their local clubs to support the Wallabies or the Springboks or whoever, will be scattered throughout the stadiums, isolated voices. They reason it might make more sense to congregate them all together to enhance noise levels. It would create a sense of solidarity, spark off rival chanting from the other grouped-together mob, and so the volume would be cranked up.

It is a worthy notion. But far better to let natural forces work their magic. Let them sort it out themselves. The best parties are those when new acquaintances are made, when unexpected conversations are sparked by chance encounter. Above all, though, rugby has something special in its current way of doing things. That 80,000 can come together, with passions running high, and not need to be herded into designated sections by an army of security goons in high-vis jackets, is something of which the sport can rightly be proud.

RWC 2015 is set to be a jamboree. Half a million tickets go on sale through clubs in May. The public sale starts in September. The idea of possible segregation is well intentioned. But it is wrong.

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