Munster fans have been openly critical of the province this season.
Later this year Munster will celebrate the tenth anniversary of their famous Heineken Cup triumph against Biarritz. Not only is that game remembered for Peter Stringer’s try, but for the the atmosphere in Millennium Stadium, and on O’Connell Street, where thousands of people watched the game on big screens.
During those heady days, it seemed as if the connection between the Munster team and it’s fans could never be broken.
Fast forward ten years and Munster are having to deal with declining attendances and a fan base that has become increasingly sceptical. While some will correctly argue that the recession impacted on the ability of fans to attend every fixture, to solely do so overlooks the apathy Munster have themselves fostered among supporters.
Not only have results not gone Munster’s way, but the performances on the pitch have not been at the required standard. The last two seasons alone have seen Munster not qualify for the knock out phase of the European Rugby Champions Cup and suffer an embarrassing defeat away to 14 man Stade Francais.
However the most troubling aspect of Munster’s recent slump has been the way in which the organisation has criticised the supporters.
As a result, fans were understandably slow to show interest in renewing their season tickets, with some already stating that they will not do so. Therefore the onus was on Munster to try and rebuild the relationship with fans.
Something that the organisation has begun to address, by revealing a lower supporters club membership fee, and most crucially of all, announcing that full supporters club members can bring with them two kids, free of charge, to each Pro 12 home game.
This step of course represents a start, and will encourage fans to join the supporters club in order to take advantage of the free children’s tickets.
If fans return to the terraces as a result of the offer, and performances improve under the direction of a new Director of Rugby, then Munster could find themselves in a different place come the tenth anniversary of the 2008 Heineken Cup season.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
Heineken Rugby Club celebrates and rewards real supporters who make the game what it is.