On Saturday afternoon, in a sunny Wembley Stadium 83,889 spectators witnessed Saracens vs Harlequins. The figure is a world record for a club fixture. Annually, the Aviva Premiership organise these festive occasions.
Fantastic promotion and exposure to rugby especially with the World Cup on England’s shore next year. The planning has been long in the pipeline. On the first matchday since 2004, the Twickenham double header with the four London team (Harlequins, London Irish, London Wasps and Saracens) participate in back-to-back matches- essentially two games for the price of one. In December since ’08, ex-‘Quins chief executive masterminded an event aptly titled ‘The Big Game’. In ’11 and’12 the home of rugby was filled to maximum capacity. On the 19th of April, Wasps host Gloucester at Twickenham, the desire is growing. Each event is classified as a family oriented day-out, with vast entertainment. Popular bands, junior kids playing at half-time and other carnival activities means the organisers attempt to cover all age groups. These marketing events harness massive crowds, come 2015 their aim is draw sell-outs to even the smaller rugby world cup venues such as Sandy Park in Exeter, by national and international fans.
When England faced Wales in this year’s Six Nations, the organising governing body RFU generated a patriotic atmosphere in and around the ground. St. George’s flags planted underneath every seat, the official national anthem singer Laura Wright wore an England jersey and the team walked from the car-park to pitch through the fans. All the above, for a long time, cultivated a sense of pride and enthusiasm to watch the national side compete. Even in the comfort of the sitting room the cries of the fans was heightened to another level.
Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) is beginning to recognize the financial benefits of staging these elaborate club matches. The Leinster versus Munster is seizing the opportunity to cash in. On Saturday the two rivalling neighbours battled in the Aviva Stadium. Prices for the event ranged from € 17.50 to € 90.00. Whether you have money to spare or looking to an inexpensive night, the organisers covered all grounds. These inviting prices would be rewarded with an exciting match between two provincial powerhouses.
These annual events draw in new fans into the game, it shows how the sport is ready to evolve with the times and realise new marketing schemes to give rugby a fresh lift. Maybe the dream of a country becoming involved in the world cup, in the same vain as the London Olympics in 2012, can be accomplished.
Though the tickets for next year are overpriced, to be a part of the experience will certainly be worth investing in. The feel-good spirit of the Olympics is the desire of the organisers. If they could muster just a fraction, it will certainly be a fantastic 6 weeks. Four years later, Japan is hosting. Travelling to the country is an arduous commitment, financially and physically. Across the Irish Sea to England is an opportunity not to be missed.
Dominic Evans, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image By ezioman (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.