Six Nations 2022: Welsh Rugby Union to serve weaker beer and shut bars early

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) will serve weaker beer and shut bars after half-time in Six Nations games to try to help curb anti-social behaviour at the Principality Stadium.

The moves are among a series of steps being taken following incidents of anti-social behaviour in the 2021 Autumn Nations series.

There were two pitch invasions and reports of drunkenness among the crowd.

Wales’ first home Six Nations match is against Scotland on 12 February.

After travelling to Dublin for the tournament opener this Saturday and visiting Twickenham on 26 February, Wales have home games against France (11 March) and Italy (19 March).

The autumn internationals made the headlines for the wrong reasons, with pitch invaders marring the games against New Zealand and South Africa.

In the crowd, a boy was given £20 after having beer spilled on him in the Fiji match while a young fan was vomited over while watching Australia, incidents which saw the Cardiff ground branded “the world’s biggest pub”.

After fan surveys following the autumn campaigns, the measures, include closing food and drink outlets in all concourses after half-time, have been put in place on a trial basis for the 2022 Six Nations and will be subject to an ongoing review.

Draught beer with a lower-alcohol percentage will be phased into bars on concourses, with official brewer Heineken International bringing in 4.1% ABV Amstel Bier to eventually replace the stronger Heineken (5%) product in all areas

Stadium bosses say they considered a total ban on alcohol but decided against that proposal.

While alcohol will not be served during the second halves of games, supporters will have access to free drinking water stations throughout the stadium.

"We want supporters to remain passionate and enthused and to continue to bring their best voices to the Principality Stadium but we also need them to behave responsibly and encourage those around them to do the same. We have measures which are designed to change a direction of travel from some quarters detected at our Autumn Nations Series matches without negatively impacting the experience of a hardcore and significant supporter base who make the Principality Stadium experience what it is. Some of the stories we heard were embarrassing. We're not being forced to do this, but we think it's the right thing to do. It wasn't a difficult decision at all. We're going to drop a bit of revenue, but it's the right thing to do.

WRU chief executive Steve Phillips

“These measures are not radical, but seek to address an issue recently recognised and it is my commitment to all Wales supporters we will not stop until this issue is eradicated.

“We have always boasted we have the best supporters in the world game in Wales and believe this remains the case.

“We recognise these trial measures will be welcomed by some fans, others will feel we’ve either gone too far or done too little.

“These measures are about getting the right balance for our fans to ensure they enjoy a great stadium experience during the upcoming Six Nations.”

The WRU introduced an alcohol-free zone in 2018, a self-contained area in the North Stand housing 4,200 people, which has since become a permanent facility.

In a statement, the governing body said surveys tell them “drinking socially at rugby matches is an important part of the event experience for many attendees”.

The statement also said “it is not clear if there is a causal relationship between alcohol consumption and any poor behaviour at matches”, with other factors like kick-off times to consider.

“There is evidence, some of which has commanded significant media coverage, crowd behaviour at some matches has been a problem in some areas,” said Principality Stadium manager Mark Williams.

“We know from our customer surveys our food and drink is an important part of the enjoyment of international rugby for many supporters.

“We have listened to customer feedback and conducted our own surveys and we will be trialling new measures which we hope will encourage improved behaviour from the recognised minority at matches who risk spoiling the experience for those around them.

“There is a balancing act at play here. A safe and positive experience for fans is of primary importance, but we are also aware actions can have unintended consequences so will be watching closely.

“It is important supporters enjoy their visit to Principality Stadium and we will continue to do what we can to ensure this is the case for all.”

Principality Stadium hospitality staff and stewards will refuse service and/or entry to the ground to individuals who do not meet behavioural standards, including those who are intoxicated.

This element of the stewarding role will be re-emphasised at upcoming matches, with South Wales Police on hand to offer support.

“We feel there are improvements to be made and would like to do what we can to aid that process, but we need supporters to help and work with us to achieve our aims,” added Williams.

“That means reporting poor behaviour to stewards and also looking in the mirror and making sure you are acting in a reasonable way.

“Watching rugby at Principality Stadium should be one of the most enjoyable experiences, a once-in-a-lifetime event for many and annual pilgrimage for dedicated fans.

“The last thing we want to do is get in the way of people’s enjoyment, but these new measures will help ensure the greatest number of visitors have the best time.

Original article published 02.02.2022 on the BBC News website

To view click here 

© The Fan Experience Company 2022