As you grow older you realise that relationships can deteriorate – even when there has been a strong emotional attachment. You and your great friend at school or college may now have little in common: he or she may have voted Brexit while you voted Remain, or vice-versa. Rather than argue it is time to move on.

More serious breakdowns can end in a messy divorce; others just draw to a close as contact decreases. How, therefore, should I manage my feelings for the Principality Stadium, which is drifting into a drink dependency accompanied by the well-observed alcoholic’s refusal to face reality?

My first visit took place as a schoolboy at the old Arms Park in 1959 where I saw Dewi Bebb score the winning try. I was a lousy player myself being small, slow, and short-sighted. Nevertheless, I developed an early passion for the game and was fortunate, as I moved into employment, to have the economic resources to purchase two debentures when they were available. Once the Millennium Stadium was built, I transferred my Arms Park seats to a prime position in the new venue and have many happy memories as a result. In my retirement years I have cheerfully travelled to Cardiff from North Norfolk, which is two-hundred-and-fifty miles away. It has, until recently, been well worth it. One enduring memory was talking to Bleddyn Williams and Jack Matthews as they entered the stadium together with scarcely the distance of a pop-pass between them.

Sadly, the last two occasions have been a disaster. This is nothing to do with the team’s performance. I can live with that. The behaviour of some in the crowd is a different matter. I am fed up with people not watching the game, getting up all the time to buy drinks, spilling them, and shortly afterwards going to use the toilet. The young man and his partner who are regular attenders in the adjoining debentures have on occasions contemplated moving as the gangway floor has become awash with beer.

Remonstration is pointless. At one of last season’s games, I ventured a gentle ‘why don’t you watch it in the pub’ to a middle-aged woman who passed along the row with a tray of beer and made me stand during an absorbing passage of play. My reward was for her husband to deliberately stamp on my foot as he passed by to purchase the next round. Worse was to come at this year’s game against France. A group of a dozen in front (who would have spent some £1300 in total on tickets) started drinking at kick-off, continued thereafter, and paid no attention to the game as they took it in turns to go backwards and forwards to the bar. As my elder son who was with me at the time put it: “Dad your tickets should say ‘restricted view’’’.

So, what is being done? Sadly, as a Cardiff supporter I know a lost cause when I see one. The Welsh Rugby Union will not acknowledge, let alone respond to, any letter of complaint. If they deigned to do so, they would probably offer a transfer to an alcohol free zone but I bought my premium tickets in good faith and am not prepared to settle for an inferior view. In short, I feel badly let down by one of the loves of my life who has put a desire for money at all costs above any other consideration. Somehow, I need to move on emotionally.

Martyn Sloman Block U29


  • Fri, 10/05/2024 - 16:00 reply

    I share Martyn's sentiments wholeheartedly - excessive drinking of alcohol at rugby internationals is undermining the enjoyment of the game for loyal, committed and knowledgable supporters. I have not attended the Principality Stadium for some time but have been a regular visitor to Twickenham for many years - having held debentures for over 15 years. I regret to observe that it seems the Principlality Stadium is following a pattern I have observed at Twickenham for some 10 years now.

    One personal experience stands out in my mind from about 8 years ago. England were playing Italy. My wife and I were in the East stand - middle tier in the middle of a row. I had been growing increasingly irritated for some years by supporters getting up to buy drinks and the subsequent inevitable visits to the urinals. This time I began to count!!! I and my wife had to stand up 45 times during the game to let others past - and this was not when play had stopped. Frequently it was when an exciting passage of play was developing. Then a guy, non-too-steady on his feet, was carrying 2 pints along the row behind us and poured beer down my wife's back.

    I recognise this was one isolated example - but was it? Anyone observing the crowd during a rugby international at Twickenham would see this disruptive and antisocial behaviour replicated all over the stadium. What saddens me is the decline in the understanding and enjoyment of grass-roots rugby fans of the game, and the waning of the good-hearted relationships between supporters of both teams - replaced by supporters there to drink and socialise with the game itself an unobserved backdrop.


    I recall Clive Woodward was writing about the Twickenham experience a year or two back and commented on the stadium becoming a huge beergarten with rugby incidental. He advocated stopping selling alcohol during the game and preventing supporters going to their seats until there was a break in play. Wimbledon Tennis does it!

    So I will support any campaign to control drinking during Rugby Internationals as I believe a minority of drunken so-called 'supporters' are spoiling the experience for genuine fans.

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