Our game prides itself on the happy integration of rival supporters, but would one-club sections enhance the atmosphere on match day? Two ardent fans debate the issue
Face-off: Should there be sections for away fans in rugby?
YES, says the chair of Quins Supporters’ Association
One of the things I love about rugby is the rivalry and noise when you’re there. There is a lot of love between supporters but a lot of rivalry come game time, and I would never like to see that taken away.
The football thing is very different, home and away pubs, and that would be awful, but if 400 of us want to be together why not? It is people’s choice and we will continue to offer it. Some clubs are really accommodating and do try to help.
Everyone sitting together at Bristol for the 2021 Premiership semi-final was a Covid thing and the council had to approve it. We’d had no rugby for two years and people wanted to go. After that I tried to get allocations of tickets at away games. Some people like to sit together, they travel together; others want to do their own thing and mingle.
At London Irish last season, I booked 200 tickets and sold them in a day. I asked for 200 more and sold them in two days and ended up with two entire blocks, 1,000 people. London Irish said it made money for them and it might energise their fans into making more noise. Quins gave us 500 flags and Irish were happy. But everyone was mingling in the pub.
Clubs used to have reciprocal away arrangements but they disappeared a few years ago. We always try to get an allocation for our members but we’re not always successful.
When we went to Wasps, a 30,000-capacity stadium, they gave us 50 seats in five different blocks, which creates hardly any noise.
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NO, says the vice-chair of London Irish Supporters’ Club
The Harlequins thing was interesting but it wasn’t really rugby. There was a very different feel to that match and, in general, mixing the fans together is what we enjoy in rugby. Segregation is something for soccer.
If you start having separate areas for different groups of fans it will change the atmosphere. You would probably get to the point, like you have in football, where you have a boundary between the two groups, you’re not able to take your beers in. That would just change it.
All through the Championship season I went to loads of grounds where we were just standing and you could go where you wanted to. We didn’t group together in a bunch, we spread out naturally amongst local supporters.
In December I went to our match in Pau and there just two of us from London Irish in a stand of two or three thousand locals – and it was fantastic. We were treated like guests and that is what I’ve found everywhere, whether I’m in a small group or on my own. It’s been friendly, relaxed and enjoyable. All the tension is on the pitch and you learn a lot about each other.
At away matches we tend to book our own tickets. Some grounds will have a few areas they will suggest to us as visitors; we will get a group of ten or 20 but the rest will be dotted around the ground. At our last game at Leicester, I was surrounded by Tigers fans, was welcomed, it was friendly and I had a similar experience up at Newcastle.
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Face-off: Should there be sections for away fans in rugby? We want to know what YOU think. Email your views to rugbyworldletters@futurenet
This debate first appeared in the September 2022 issue of Rugby World