Sport Rugby

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Welsh Rugby Union to consider alcohol-free zone at Principality Stadium after elderly fan headbutted steward

Alex Bywater

Welsh Rugby Union bosses are considering the introduction of an alcohol-free zone at Principality Stadium in a bid to combat anti-social behaviour and excessive drinking at the iconic Cardiff venue.

Spectators regularly rising from their seats and heavy consumption of alcohol have long been common at international matches at what was previously the Millennium Stadium.

In Wales' 2017 autumn Tests, reports of abusive behaviour in the stands and fights on the streets outside the ground saw South Wales Police question the behaviour of supporters.

A perceived heavy drinking culture was raised as one issue, while an elderly fan headbutting a steward in front of the press box during Wales' defeat to New Zealand further pointed to the fact something should be done to stop such incidents.

Now, WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips has come up with one possible solution for matches in 2018 and beyond.

“We ran surveys in the autumn to ask people what the stadium experience was like for fans,” he said. “We asked what they enjoyed and what they didn't enjoy, and one good example was drinking which is clearly a hot topic.

“What we now understand is that for lots of people coming to a rugby international, they want to have a drink. That might be in a bar or in the ground.

“Equally, there’s a segment saying they like a different experience. That might be a non-alcoholic zone, something of that nature. They don’t want people standing up and sitting down, or they want to bring their children.”

The WRU are still collating the results of the survey undertaken during the autumn, but public feedback has shown them prohibiting the sale of alcohol in some sections of the ground would prove popular.

Such a move could be introduced for the 2018 autumn Tests, but not the Six Nations and would break fresh ground in northern hemisphere rugby.

“We got 2,500 responses in the autumn and we want to do the same in the Six Nations,” Phillips said.

“Our job is to deliver what the customers want. We will definitely want to try an alcohol-free zone next autumn.

“We can’t stop people drinking in the pubs before they come in, but we can say they can’t bring a drink to their seat. If you have been to Wimbledon, you will have seen people can’t get out of their seats until the end of the game, so we are going to try that in an area of the stadium.

“If we listen to what supporters say and give them what they want, we will succeed.”

Meanwhile, the WRU have also issued a hands-off warning to Northampton amid their interest in head coach Warren Gatland.

The underachieving Aviva Premiership side are looking for a new boss after sacking Jim Mallinder and Saints benefactor Keith Barwell has identified Gatland as a leading candidate.

Gatland is contracted to Wales until the end of the 2019 World Cup on a £450,000-a-year deal, and isn't going anywhere according to Phillips.

“Warren is going to get linked with all sorts of jobs because he’s one of the top coaches in the world, but I didn’t lose a beat over it, if I’m honest,” he said.

“I would like to believe Warren will be here for the World Cup.”

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