The famous Army versus Navy rugby match, which attracted a sell out 80,000 crowd to Twickenham, is under threat due to the behaviour of fans who according to critics treat it as a “drunken, al fresco fancy dress party.”
The Army beat the Navy 27-11 on Saturday in a match that had been moved to an earlier 2pm kick off following complaints about fans from local residents after the 2018 contest. The clash between the forces has been a regular fixture since 1907 and was only interrupted by the two World Wars.
However, the match is in serious danger of being moved from Twickenham following the latest incidents which have seen Richmond Council issue a strongly worded statement over the behaviour of fans in the area before and after the game. Residents expressed outrage at witnessing scenes of drunken behaviour, urination in gardens, fans passed out in the streets, attempted theft and, in one instance, a woman being hospitalised after being struck by a bottle thrown by fans in St Margarets.
Responding to the unacceptable behaviour, Leader of Richmond Council Cllr Gareth Roberts said: “Unfortunately, in spite of measures taken to mitigate the impact of the match on our residents, such as scheduling an earlier kick off time, there was no noticeable improvement in behaviour. Match attendees now see this event primarily as a drunken, al fresco fancy dress party with the rugby match itself being of secondary importance.
“The vast majority of our residents are proud to live in the home of Rugby. They are also proud of this borough’s long-standing connection to our armed forces. However, when they see their town being trashed by people attending the Army v Navy game they find their pride and good-will being put to the test.
“It is now time for the RFU and the Armed Forces to consider whether they want to allow this fixture to continue. We have long held the belief that, if it is to continue, then the fixture should be rotated among other stadia, and we will be putting that case to the RFU.
“We are now seeking an urgent meeting with the RFU and organisers of the fixture to seek reassurances that in future local residents will not experience another day of drunken, loutish behaviour which brings the RFU and our armed services personnel into disrepute. If those assurances are not satisfactorily forthcoming, it is time this fixture moved out of our borough.”
An RFU spokesperson said:”We took significant steps to improve this event including reduced licensing hours, earlier kick off and bar closures plus no games before the main match. While there have been some complaints received, behaviour at this year’s match was better than previous years. We will have a full debrief of this event with the police and the council as we do every year and will look at every complaint individually.”
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