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Stadium Science: The Home Advantage

What makes a great stadium? What creates an atmosphere that truly provides that home advantage, that extra one percent for the team? Is it the stadium itself or the fans?
Poorly constructed stadiums, or rather stadiums that do not centre around functionality seem to be a hallmark of the era of professionalism. The Aviva stadium is, unfortunately, a prime example of this. Seats are further apart than in any other stadium in the country, and you can tell. I need not mention the fact that one end of the stadium is effectively incomplete. Furthermore, the success of the Irish rugby team and the relative luxury of the large corporate areas of the stadium have driven ticket prices through the roof.
This cocktail of a stadium with a focus on corporate luxury and laughably expensive tickets are attracting the wrong crowd. But anyone who has been to the RDS on more than one freezing Friday could tell you that the problem is not with the Dublin 4 faithful.
Not to point the finger, but the problem lies with the people who may not watch a club game from one end of the season to another; unless of course it coincided with some form of wining and dining. The problem is with the young, glamorous nevo-riche; who don’t remember when Irish rugby was a laughing stock at worst and sporadic excellence at best. People who are getting out of their seats three and four times during a game for pints. I’m by no means a pioneer myself, but if the match isn’t your number one priority you don’t belong at a rugby game. At least four of my friends, who are in no uncertain terms obsessed with rugby were unable to get tickets for the English game because of the price and accessibility. There is no question that real fans are being deprived of tickets to big games because of this. Do we want 55,000 of the richest fans in Ireland or 55,000 of the most interested fans at big games?
It’s easy to be loud when it’s a tense game and Ireland are winning. Flashback to the All Blacks match in November; the Aviva Stadium felt like it had been connected to a live wire. When the going is good, the going is good; fans should enjoy it. I don’t think anyone can argue with that. However, it’s when the going is bad that we as fans, and our stadium let us down.
February 2nd. Ireland has just suffered an embarrassing, unexpected defeat at the hands of Eddie Jones’ England. By the 70 minute mark, the Aviva stands had begun to empty. By the 80 minute mark over a third of the stadium had left their seats, it seemed. Knowing the characteristic humility(sarcasm) of the English fans, one can only assume they were not involved in the walkout. I don’t believe it was just the result that caused this walk out. The Fields of Athenry was seldom if ever heard for more than a few seconds. The Irish fans failed utterly in offering any impetuous into the game; a distressing feeling I’m sure. The ultimate question is who is to blame for this lack of atmosphere, lack of inspiration? The fans? The Stadium itself? Both?

 

 

By Matthew Dillon – Sports CoEditor

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