News: Has sharing a ground with a football team ever worked?
April 4 2017
With a visit to the Ricoh coming up this weekend, followed by our "home" game at Stadium Milton Keynes, Editor Happywifehappylife looks at whether the ground sharing experiment is finally working...your thoughts are welcome
It seems quite a while now since the first rugby clubs began a ground-share scheme & us purists all cried "No it won't work" & how will the players know which lines on the pitch to play to?"
The first of these such grounds we visited was probably home of the Oirish at the cavernous Madejski in Reading which was actually built with ground sharing in mind with Reading FC forced to share with Richmond RFC from 1998 to 1999 before London Irish moved in. Luckily the day we first visited also coincided with St Patrick's weekend & the record for the number of pints of guinness drunk at the stadium was broken. The second time we went there the Oirish Wolfhound mascot escaped his master, ran across the pitch, did something that needed picking up & then disappeared into the stands
Did we enjoy that ground-sharing experience? No, but why? Maybe it was the fact that half of the seats appeared to be covered up with huge banners & it just didn't feel there was an atmosphere akin to the sport we knew & loved. Add to that the constant drumming & ear-splitting pa system & it just wasn't for us.
Next we can remember visiting Adams Park, which exisited at the end of a one-way industrial park that took 2 hours to exit the car park. Our memories of visiting there were of the happier type, maybe because we always seemed to grind out a result. Although essentially Wycombe Wanderers home, it had the more intimate feel of a proper rugby ground & you couldn't fault the enthusiasm of a growing loyal support - plus the beer was also pretty good. You always felt though the Wasps were looking for something more grand, despite willing to trade their tag of "London" the further they moved away from the capital
Eventually (& this weekend) Wasps moved to their new ground share of the Ricoh in Coventry. Intially the reaction from Coventry City fans was one ranging from disbelief to anger, with many suggesting that the move would not work. It didn't seem to be a matter of rugby versus football politics either, more the concerns over what would become of the Ricoh Arena pitch. Recent history now shows that Wasps are probably the major partner at that venue, despite what we think of the accountancy policies. The atmosphere is pretty good, although we purists have still some way to go to accept the drums & the "one song" chant of "Ogi Ogi Ogi" followed by courteous applause for the cheerleader.
Others that have tried have included Saffies at Watford FC. Don't even get us started on that one as the suitability of football grounds were brought clearly to the fore with the broken leg sustained by Bealer sliding into a totally inadequate in-goal area
Sale also tried & have since moved on. Perhaps the worst from a Saints perspective was London Welsh's use of the Kassam Stadium in Oxford. Who can forget us all parking on the verges of the industrial estate, only for those sneaky traffic wardens to appear once we were all inside & the whistle blew. Remember how many of us received tickets that day?
The latest premiership club to share is Bristol who moved from the Memorial Ground to Ashton (no relation) Gate. It's one we havent been to so can't comment, but they look to be heading for relegation this year, although with Lam & Brooooce could come straight back
So what do we draw from these ramblings? Is rugby better played at a large half-empty ground or is it a case of "a large shared home v capital investment / chasing the cash cow?"
It's difficult to say, but history tends to sway towards the argument that the small rugby-only fortresses work best, both in terms of atmosphere & intensity
At least now we have the assurance that the atmoshere generated by Fortress Gardens won't have to be lost in the caverns of Staium MK anytime soon...
Good read. I'm not entirely sure what you mean by asking if the sharing experience is "working". Rather depends on what you mean by working. If we were ground sharing would it be working if Saints were unbeatable at home ? Would it be NOT working if the pitch was being cut up, although that would probably impact on the football team more than the rugby one so Cobblers fans might say it wasn't working.
The main inherent difference between stadia for the two games is that invariably the football stadia tend to be bigger and much harder to fill for rugby matches. Examples include the Madkeski, Vicarage Road, Kassam, Ashton Gate, Ricoh, Stadium MK and in earlier times Loftus Road. Notably the one smaller example you mention is Adams Park which you say felt more intimate and more like a "proper" rugby ground.
So perhaps our perception is that we don't feel comfortable in large grounds when they are half empty. Saints have almost filled Stadium MK on a few occasions and the atmosphere was pretty good.
It would be interesting to read responses from football supporters whose teams ground share with a rugby team. I doubt many of them read this though !
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:04:05:13:13:09 by tedge.
So much comes down to the capacity being right for the event. Personally I have had some great times watching rugby matches in football stadiums but they have all been nearly full. That includes play offs at Reading, Coventry and Oxford, European in MK, Toulouse, Montpellier or club games at various locations.
I guess the one area it makes real sense is the cost of facilities can be shared.
For me the big negative about going to a football ground is they are not geared up for a rugby supporters. I think they're getting better but you'll never overcome the inherent issues that have roots back in the bad old days of football; such as segregation of fans, all seating, no alcohol (and therefore fewer / less capacity toilets in proportion to attendance if full)
Also, any ground that is only half full is going to be a poor atmosphere regardless of the type it is.
Sale won the prem while in their shared ground. I went there and it was the pits. I'd never seen crowd segregation before - and I'll never visit a ground that has that horror in place.
That Sale ground was torn to shreds and was like a mud bath, I presume because of the excessive usage. One old Sale fan attributed their prem win to the cr*p state of their ground and playing in north west weather on a Friday night!
Sarries and Wasps are now in their own grounds and have a permanent home to build around.
My take is it wasn't just that Vicarage Road and Adams Park were poor stadia but Sarries and Wasps didn't control the grounds or know if their long term future was there.
They now have long term foundations to build on and are thriving.
Without their own ground, Wasps could easily have disappeared if they had been relegated, whereas if a club like Saints, Quins or Tigers are relegated they club and ground are likely to survive and bounce back.
Fingers crossed clubs like Sale and Irish can find a permanent home they own or control for their long-term security.
Wasp in peace..Fine words gentlemen. We hope you have a pleasant trip to the Ricoh on Sunday but hoping that we can produce a better performance then we managed last week! Hoping that you will notice a few improvements to the atmosphere, some of which are contentious amongst supporters such as the drums and miked up chants, but at least attempts have been made to drum up more noise. Pun intended. I do believe the facilities for supporters are now very good inside the stadium. May the best side win. (My family roots are in Northants and I think Northampton versus Bath was one of the first matches I have ever went to see in about 1974? I was born in Bletchley and my parents still live there. We have tickets to Stadium MK and will be firmly supporting you on that day! )
Buzzboy Wasp in peace..Fine words gentlemen. We hope you have a pleasant trip to the Ricoh on Sunday but hoping that we can produce a better performance then we managed last week! Hoping that you will notice a few improvements to the atmosphere, some of which are contentious amongst supporters such as the drums and miked up chants, but at least attempts have been made to drum up more noise. Pun intended. I do believe the facilities for supporters are now very good inside the stadium. May the best side win. (My family roots are in Northants and I think Northampton versus Bath was one of the first matches I have ever went to see in about 1974? I was born in Bletchley and my parents still live there. We have tickets to Stadium MK and will be firmly supporting you on that day! )
Thank you for your kind words Sir & let's hope for a great game. Good to have you with us for Stad MK
Saint Swill Tedge - thanks for the reminder about Meadow Lane (Notts County FC). The filthiest weather in living memory.
I seem to recall driving sleet and Stevie Myler winning the game with an almost Full House (try, conversion and penalty) but my brain was numbed by the weather so I'm probably wrong.
Ground shares are problematic because of the inherent conflict over control of the facilities, so if they "work", it's despite those issues and waiting for a major conflict to arise. Size of the stadium is always an issue as well - if even Wasps have to have drums and amplified chants etc to try and create atmosphere, then what hope for their less successful brethren?
I think Wasps have always had a rather genteel crowd who are more inclined to clap then to shout and cheer. Not having a town or city base has perhaps lead to a disparate strands of supporters coming from many different areas and not encouraged a more fervent type of support. But it does not mean we are not passionate about our rugby!
The worst current ground share, from a Rugby point of view, has got to be Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.
Not for the ground itself but for the stewarding. Though it's not segregated for Rugby matches the stewards seem to operate as if it were a football match. Almost as soon as the final whistle goes the spectators are being herded out of the ground and there's nowhere open for away fans to get one last cup of coffee before getting on the coach for the long trip home.
On one occasion some Saints supporters were almost being herded out of the toilets post-match.
An interesting read - only made it to a couple of the others, along with many years at Vicarage.
While nice geographically for where I lived then, the size of stadium compared to usual Sarries' attendance at the time (c. 5500 on a reasonable day) plus the ambiguity of the relationship, plus not getting any of the non-ticket takings.
You can see why we prefer Allianz so much more!
Does anyone know what it is like at different levels, say, Championship Rugby to Championship/League 1 Football?
Stewarding, beer, segregation, toilets are all technical and organisational issues that can be sorted and fixed. Actual attendence versus capacity can't. Where that percentage falls below 70/80 % the buzz and atmosphere are inevitably compromised and no amount of cheerleading, announcer rabble rousing and seat covering can mend it.
7000 at London Irish felt sad and even at the Ricoh 12000, a great turn out, feels flat and lifeless. So to answer the guestion succinctly - no it doesn't work!
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