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Call for a designated away fan area has whipped up fans on Twitter

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Harlequins’ Will Evans has called for the introduction of designated away fan areas at rugby stadiums to help improve the atmosphere at matches. The London club had its fans congregated in a particular section at last Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup match away to Racing 92 and the noise that was generated is something that the club’s back-rower wants to be repeated elsewhere.

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Creating a racket in a designated away fan area isn’t something new to Harlequins – Danny Care has often remarked about the atmosphere the club’s fans generated at the June 2021 Gallagher Premiership semi-final when Bristol allocated them a specific area during a limited capacity match that took place during the pandemic restrictions.

It was also famously said Harlequins’ decision to group Leinster fans together in a designated block was a key factor in the Irish province’s 2009 Heineken European Cup quarter-final ‘Bloodgate’ win at The Stoop.

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Evans wants the decibel levels at matches to be constantly raucous and he believes away sections at grounds are the way to go. Replying to a post-match video of Marcus Smith that Harlequins posted on their Twitter feed following last weekend’s Paris trip, Evans wrote: “Rugby stadiums NEED a designated away fan area that stays the same year on year.

“It’s impossible to create this level of atmosphere without it. Atmosphere = higher attendances/crazier games/better quality rugby. We can’t continue to hold the game back any longer.

“This bizarre myth that if people of the same club all sit together they will be violent or insightful is mind-numbing. It’s bordering on arrogance that we think we are the only sport where people can sit together and not be violent. Average attendances around the leagues are awful (even in Europe). It’s BAD to play in. Players want this. You will see a better product because of it. By all means, sit in the home end and chat with the locals, no problem. But it adds very little to the atmosphere inside the stadium.

“No one’s going to stop you from buying a ticket in the designated home section. Nor is anyone saying cordon or segregate anyone. But if fans want to add to the spectacle on the pitch by creating an atmosphere you can’t get by the current situation, why on earth stop that!?”

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Evans’ suggestion generated plenty of feedback both for and against the idea of a designated away fan area but perhaps the most insightful response in the current climate where rugby wants to grow came from fan Stephen Wall, who suggested that whatever the opinion more players need to speak up. “Fair play,” he wrote. “Need more current players stating their views in public.”

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D
Diarmid 9 hours ago
Players and referees must cut out worrying trend in rugby – Andy Goode

The guy had just beasted himself in a scrum and the blood hadn't yet returned to his head when he was pushed into a team mate. He took his weight off his left foot precisely at the moment he was shoved and dropped to the floor when seemingly trying to avoid stepping on Hyron Andrews’ foot. I don't think he was trying to milk a penalty, I think he was knackered but still switched on enough to avoid planting 120kgs on the dorsum of his second row’s foot. To effectively “police” such incidents with a (noble) view to eradicating play acting in rugby, yet more video would need to be reviewed in real time, which is not in the interest of the game as a sporting spectacle. I would far rather see Farrell penalised for interfering with the refereeing of the game. Perhaps he was right to be frustrated, he was much closer to the action than the only camera angle I've seen, however his vocal objection to Rodd’s falling over doesn't legitimately fall into the captain's role as the mouthpiece of his team - he should have kept his frustration to himself, that's one of the pillars of rugby union. I appreciate that he was within his rights to communicate with the referee as captain but he didn't do this, he moaned and attempted to sway the decision by directing his complaint to the player rather than the ref. Rugby needs to look closely at the message it wants to send to young players and amateur grassroots rugby. The best way to do this would be to apply the laws as they are written and edit them where the written laws no longer apply. If this means deleting laws such as ‘the put in to the scrum must be straight”, so be it. Likewise, if it is no longer necessary to respect the referee’s decision without questioning it or pre-emptively attempting to sway it (including by diving or by shouting and gesticulating) then this behaviour should be embraced (and commercialised). Otherwise any reference to respecting the referee should be deleted from the laws. You have to start somewhere to maintain the values of rugby and the best place to start would be giving a penalty and a warning against the offending player, followed by a yellow card the next time. People like Farrell would rapidly learn to keep quiet and let their skills do the talking.

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