Waaaaaaales Waaaaaaales Waaaaaaaales

November 17, 2008

Thanks to a rugby-mad younger brother, I had developed strong connections with rugby and shivering in the pouring rain while watching mud splattered schoolboys beat each other up on the pitch.

But at least I knew the basics. My friends and I booked the Wales v. Canada match on a whim, and while we were walking to the game, one of them asked if Johnny Wilkinson was playing…it is safe to say we weren’t your typical rugger fans.

We had left ticket collection to the last minute and queued for what seemed like hours. But our anticipation mounted at every shuffle forward, and by the time we reached the shop I was waving my credit card around wildly looking for 80 pound women’s-fit rugby shirts and anything emblazoned with a Welsh flag.

Our seats were on pitch level and we entered, beer-in-hand, bedazzled by the brilliantly bright lights. The bulging muscular men before me were suddenly the most attractive I had ever seen in my life. Beer-fuelled chants conveyed my heartfelt enthusiasm, I felt even more Welsh than the Welsh. Every time they scored or converted a try I jumping around like a maniac, an idiotic grin stretched from ear to ear.

Such is the intoxication of sport. No wonder my ex-boyfriend missed my birthday party because Arsenal were playing. At that instant I forgave all, my reaction to his non-appearance now seemed to me strangely hysterical and self-centred. How could I have been so insensitive?

By the end of the match I had clean forgotten my English heritage and felt I too would lay my life down for Wales. Just as the hulky yellow-shirted men had put their bodies on the line, my allegiance to the sport was, I felt, unwavering.

As we left the stadium and hit cold, drizzly reality, like an aphrodisiac wearing off my chants were delivered with less and less conviction (and misgivings about my former boyfriend came rushing back).

I started to think about the unfilled seats in the spectator stands, mirroring the problems that rugby is encountering in the current economic climate.

When I got home I read a blog by Delme Parfitt No Wonder Crowds Are Down who highlighted how members of the public are becoming increasingly choosy about how they spend money.

Numbers show many people are finding rugby matches too much of a financial stretch to the extent that Osprey boss Mike Cuddy announced in October his team wouldn’t be sustainable if current attendance levels continued.

The wider picture of this is worrying. Not only is sport an industry whose finances are the cogs setting the wheels in motion of so many things we take for granted. But in terms of the game itself, particularly during these dark financial times, those who do spend their money on rugby tickets want value for money; they want to be entertained. But what does this mean for players?

Sport is already an industry whose rules and practises are applied outside ‘normal’ boundaries. A case in Cardiff Magistrates Court last week dismissed a GBH charge because it was in the context of a football game. Another example: Gareth Jones, 28, a scrum half, was struck by Darren Ryan during a match at Cardiff Arms Park on April 20 and died in hospital two months later. The judge ruled it was a “tragic accident”. For good or for bad, people expect players to put their bodies on the line for their entertainment.

As warm-blooded females, my friends and I were deeply disappointed that Gavin Henson, pretty-boy and key Welsh player, was missing from the pitch. But his long-suffering Achilles tendon problem also saw him miss out on playing against South Africa a few weeks ago.

The decision not to play him in that match was left until the 11th hour, hoping something could be done to enable him to play, when of course he shouldn’t (and in the end, didn’t). At that time he hadn’t even been training fully and his recurring injury was triggered in a game the week before because he played too early.

Adverts like this Nike onei_love_rugby_2i_love_rugby mirror how we view this kind of behaviour in sport as heroic, rather than stupid.

Just like millions of other rugby fans, my friends and I were overawed at the examples of brutal strength displayed on the pitch. But although sportsmen and women accept risk as a condition of their employment, managers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their players, particularly as there are presently even greater pressures from fans to perform.

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2 Responses to “Waaaaaaales Waaaaaaales Waaaaaaaales”

  1. charlotte said

    this is such a girlie view of sport it awakens the desire in me to read a womans blog on sport or see articles added to the sports pages, it might even intice me to read those pages that I usually keep to start the fire

  2. Robin Red said

    super blog – maybe you should do one on womens rugby in cardiff. But seriously, if people are injured as a result of deliberate foul play the perpetrator should face the law – just as they do if they are doing anything else and break the law. Like driving – a tragic accident is just that unless someone is drunk or deliberately does something as a result of road rage and ends up breaking the law. so whats so different about sport ?

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