Somebody needs to tell the Irish and Welsh Rugby Unions that there's a recession / recovery on. There must have been 10,000 empty seats at the Millennium Stadium for Australia this afternoon (£70, £65, £60, £40, £25 - no reduction for kids and all the cheap (?) ones sold) - and there's a fair bit of space at the strange-looking new Lansdowne Road aka "Insurance-company-formerly-known-as-Norwich-Union-now-with-bland-and-meaningless-name Stadium", where the IRU hiked ticket prices by 21%, then added insult to injury by only selling the tickets in packages of four - one for each of the autumn internationals - at 430 euros i.e. over £320.
After an outcry they agreed to sell them in packages of two, but still at the same overall price. Result - no sell out against the world champions in a 50,000 seater stadium, when Ireland regularly sold out 82,000 Croke Park.
Most odd-looking stadium. One stand (North, replacing the old open terrace?) seems to be almost entirely executive boxes - like the west stand at Gloucester. I bet the atmosphere there is terrific. Capacity at 50,000 is only 2,000 more than the old Lansdowne Road, although it's now all-seater. But as with Wembley, what's the point of spending all that dosh for something that's no bigger ?
The WRU have got many things wrong over the years. One massive thing they got right was paying 'only' £120m to increase capacity from 53,000 to 73,000 all-seated, plus snazzy sliding roof - one of the great stadia of Europe. I love the way you can arrive at Cardiff Central station and it's right there in front of you, at the heart of town - the historic Castle directly to the North and only "Chip Alley" between the ground and the shopping. Cardiff on a rugby Saturday is a great family day out - Techniquest for young kids in the morning, a quick look at the Castle, the game and an excellent shopping centre for those who don't like rugby.
I don't know what the ratio is these days between the gate receipts and the TV rights, but the Welsh and Irish unions need to make sure the grounds are full for big games - and if that means reducing prices, so be it. You're selling an image - a premium event - as well as a game when you sell to TV - and if the fans don't appear to want to see it live, why should the viewer ?
It's wrong that Wales only have junior tickets available for the less popular games. Those are your future adult followers. But in any event, people will be less likely to fork out £200-odd for an afternoon's family rugby for the next few years. Like everyone else, the Rugby Unions are going to have to 'drink water and walk slowly'.
* Note - none of the above applies to Twickenham, where the return of hefty City bonuses will doubtless ensure full car-parks come February.
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