There are some debates which crop up every year. Should there be a winter break? Do we need goal line technology? How to we make the FA Cup magical? In Wales, the debate is – should we move football games when they clash with rugby?
There will be thousands of passionate football fans, who love their rugby just as much. Whereas there will be many fans who simply think of rugby as a game played by ‘egg-chasers’.
On the one hand, football games should be moved. Football is on the back page of the newspaper virtually all year round, so it can afford to take a back seat for a few weeks. Well, it’s not even take a back seat, but simply not be so stubborn, and alter the day of the game. I have always found Friday night games very enjoyable. It’s the end of the week, and the Swans have the opportunity get a head start on all other teams.
Fans should be the most important part of any club, so the Welsh clubs should realise there are many fans who love rugby almost as much as football. Okay, regional rugby does not get the crowds that football does – to attend both is very expensive. All Welsh rugby home games are on free-to-view television, and fans should have the chance to watch them, without having to make a difficult decision.
Shared stadiums are becoming more popular, as it makes financing the new complex more feasible. Therefore, if a rugby team and a football team can harmoniously share a stadium all season long, then surely two separate teams playing at separate stadiums can co-operate for a few weeks.
Wales is a unique case. We are only a country of three million people, and we constantly punch above our weight in most sports. If different sports do not have some flexibility, then the overall standard of play will deteriorate. We in Wales take for granted our fabulous Millennium Stadium, and to fill it for most international rugby games is quite frankly staggering. Let’s not put this proud fact at risk by pitting rugby and football against each other.
On the other hand, it can be argued that football is the main game in Britain and should have priority. Everyone knows Saturday, 3:00pm is football time. Yes, the Premiership messes around with kick-off times, but every weekend of the NPower League, there is football on a Saturday. In contrast, kick-off times for rugby matches vary every weekend. It almost as if the authorities are testing the fans, testing their loyalty.
No other region of Britain has this problem. The rugby season is the same time as football, and now the seasons overlap with cricket. There will always be clashes of big events, and if we re-arranged games for every double-booking, we would never play on a Saturday again! Wales should have special treatment just because we are at a disadvantage because of our size.
Swansea and Cardiff are doing very well at the moment, with both having realistic chances of promotion to the Premiership. Every game has a vital three points to fight over, and is more important than, say, the Autumn Internationals. The once special occasion, when Wales would take on the mighty All Blacks, has been diluted to an annual meeting. If we lose the game, there is always next year.
At the end of the day, common sense should prevail and football matches should be moved to a Friday. Even if some football fans are narrow-minded enough to consider their game the be-all-and-end-all, there are more fans who love their rugby just as much as football. One can often hear “Men of Harlech” and “Hymns and Arias” ringing around The Liberty, songs which are more connected with the oval-ball game.
We all want to see our stadiums full, and the best chance of this happening is if we have the fixtures on separate days.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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