munster fans

By Alex Lowe 

WHO DECIDED the vibrant and unique buzz of a Test-match atmosphere – the excitement, the anticipation, the singing, the explosions of joy, the revelry – was no longer good enough?

Who decided the match experience had to be enhanced by bursts of inane music hijacking every event, with fans encouraged to dance like loons for the camera?

This is not the darts.

Who decided the instinctive outpouring of celebration at the scoring of a try, or the landing of a kick, was not good enough any more?

It’s worse still when the decision is delayed by a TMO referral and yet the referee’s confirmation, some minutes later, is still then greeted with an incongruous blast of Planet Funk.

This is not the darts.

Before you dismiss me as a traditionalist fuddy-duddy, I’m not at all. Far from it. I spent all last summer working at the Olympics, which changed the way sport should be presented forever. There is great merit in bolstering the ‘sporting experience’.

The Olympics were pitch perfect and I’m sure the 2015 World Cup will be similarly innovative. Music, lighting, theatrics – all add to the drama of the occasion. I like how the Millennium Stadium tunnel resembles a dragons’ lair as Wales emerge onto the pitch.

But rugby still has a great deal to learn. A clutch of pubescent girls dancing on the pitch, skin mottled blue by the cold, isn’t entertainment. It is almost cruel.

No one at Twickenham gets the chance to dissect the first 40 minutes before being bombarded by sponsored half-time interviews, corporate plugs and competitions. This isn’t entertainment, it’s annoying.

Saracens are an innovative club who understand the value of fans’ experiences. It’s key to the development of their new stadium. (I’m all for having a pizza delivered to my seat.) But even they overstepped the mark by drowning out Munster fans at a Heineken Cup match with repeated blasts of Stand Up For The Saracens.

It was a mistake, thankfully not since repeated, because on that day only a bastardised version of The Smiths seemed suitable: “Burn down the disco, hang the blessed DJ, because the music that they constantly play is ruining my rugby experience.”

This was published in the April 2013 edition of Rugby World. Click here to see what’s in the current issue.