Northampton have revealed a creative plan to overcome the likelihood that the remaining 2019/20 season Gallagher Premiership matches will be played behind closed doors. Conscious of the need to rekindle relationships with fans once the lockdown restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic are lifted, Saints CEO Mark Darbon has a novel idea to convert a 2,500-space car park at Franklin’s Gardens into a drive-in cinema.
There is ongoing speculation that Premier Rugby will eventually get the green light to stage the remaining 57 matches of the current season behind closed doors. However, rather than just have fans watch these games on their own at home on TV, Northampton are hoping to create some sort of a buzz around their matches by ramping up offerings to fans.
Speaking to the UK Telegraph, Darbon said: “We are dedicated to delivering an outstanding supporters’ experience at Saints. If we have to operate behind closed doors then we must remain committed to that principle. It’s an opportunity to show some imagination and be innovative to maintain the connection with our supporters, but also to give the players the right stage on which to perform.
“Clearly we would rather not play in empty stadia, and nothing is confirmed in the Premiership yet, but we have to be ready should it become a reality. We’re determined to come out of the challenges this situation presents with some ideas which will be useful when we get back to normality too.
“This is an idea that we’re currently exploring which we actually heard about when a Danish football club discussed it (FC Midtjylland). We have around 2,500 car parking spaces on-site at Franklin’s Gardens so we have the capability – we just need to do some more work on the interest levels from our supporters and whether we can do it safely and securely.
“We hosted an outdoor cinema on the pitch for two nights during the summer last year, so it would just be an adjusted version of that. The parking spaces are in quite close proximity to the stadium so if the supporters were to collectively toot their car horns to celebrate a home try, the players would definitely hear their support.”
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