This weekend sees the Six Nations rugby tournament resuming when loyal followers put on their tartans (if they’re Scottish) or pin on their leeks (if they’re Welsh) and prepare to follow their national teams. England, France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy will once again do battle having had last weekend off.
Despite the enormous capacities of the stadiums in which they play (Twickenham seats 82,000 so squeezes in 622 more fans than the French) and the undoubted fervent loyalty of the fans, the numbers prepared to travel to each game is dwindling; no doubt put off by a combination of high tickets prices (fancy seeing England play Ireland this weekend? Expect to pay £590 for one ticket from online ticket seller viagogo), increasingly expensive travel and – due to the demands of the game’s TV paymaster – increasingly erratic kick off times.
This weekend’s game between Wales and France kicks off at 8.05pm on a Friday evening in Cardiff so the French supporters have no chance of returning home later that night and must add a night’s accommodation in Cardiff to their outlay.
The game, then, is becoming increasingly lopsided, with ‘home advantage’ becoming a reality rather than just in the mind. Away teams can expect to run out and see (and hear from) far fewer supporters than their opposition who’ll struggle to hear the line out calls above the din of their crowd.
Of course, like everything else in life, its more about the quality rather than the quantity. The Welsh crowd in full voice can sound like one vast choir, while the Scots, dressed to a man in kilts (and very little else, whatever the weather) can look as fearsome as they probably did at Bannockburn. French fans quite often turn up with an assortment of musical instruments including drums and trumpets and, before ‘Health and Safety’ stepped in, often used to let loose a live cockerel onto the pitch just before kick off for good measure. The English national dress appears to be either a Barbour waxed jacket, or a St George-inspired crusader knight costume including fake sword and shield. (“Go figure”, as the Americans would say).
The Welsh can generally count on their fans to turn up. Their national team enjoys the highest average gate (74,000) whilst the Scottish – surprisingly given the grandeur of Edinburgh – trail last in the Home attendance stakes with 67,500.
The days when 104,000 squeezed in to watch Scotland play Wales (1st March 1975. The score? 12, 10 to Scotland) are sadly long gone. The game does, however, attracts record numbers of TV viewers (9.63 million saw last year’s tournament decider between England and France), so its future is clearly healthy and online. Or in the pub, or even on the go.
Accenture, the ‘Official Technology Partner for the 2012 – 2017 RBS 6 Nations Rugby Championships’ (No. We didn’t know they’d been appointed that either) created an ‘official Championship mobile app’ that ‘brings all the action from the Championship into fans’ pockets. Over the past four years users from over 150 countries have downloaded the app which has been updated more than 3.1 million times. They’re now working on a ‘wearable technology proof of concept’ that’s going to be a ‘virtual reality experience for fans through Oculus Rift’. The mind boggles.
Whether you’re watching the games live, at home or even in the shower, we hope your team does well.