So we can now confirm two record crowds in the Pro12 this week- BT Murrayfield is set to host the biggest Pro12 Final ever on May 28th, whilst the fourth instalment of the Welsh regional double header, Judgement Day will break the previous Guinness Pro12 record attendance, with over 65,000 tickets sold to this years event at the Principality Stadium this weekend. Fans are flocking from all over the world, as far as the UAE, Australia and New Zealand to see Cardiff Blues take on the Ospreys and Newport Gwent Dragons locking horns with Scarlets.
As many have highlighted, this is a big turn around from the second instalment where just 30,000 people attended. But how have the WRU turned things around and why is this year looking to be such a big success? The first thing has to be the price. It’s a tenner, for two games at the national stadium. For any rugby fan, that’s a pretty tasty deal. It also goes part of the way to explaining why tickets are being bought from so far afield. If you’re in Cardiff this weekend and you like your rugby, at ten pounds, how far wrong can you go for two games?
Another reason is the change in qualification for the Champions Cup and the over haul happening at NGD. Ospreys, Scarlets and Cardiff Blues are all battling it out to make the top six of the league in order to qualify for next year’s Champions Cup. As a further incentive, having never lost at Judgement Day, Ospreys will be keen to keep their record. However, with a winning streak up to four games, Cardiff Blues won’t make it easy for them.
There are also places in the Guinness Pro12 play-offs at place, meaning that every team has something to lose with the results. NGD, despite being out of the running for Champions Cup rugby and a play-off spot, still have a lot to play for. If they lose this weekend they will be onto their worst losing streak in the history of the league (9 games). At a time when they’re searching for new investors too, the pressure will be on to cause an upset and beat the Scarlets who have suffered from a drop in form at the wrong time in the season.
There is, of course an aspect to all of this that is perhaps, less rugby related. As has been highlighted on Twitter, with prices so low this event does of course attract the ‘part-time’ fans who tend to come along, sink too many beers, spill too many beers and spend half of their time trying to squeeze past for another trip to the bathroom. However, with any event of this size, it is inevitable. Any way you look at it, if more fans are coming through the turnstiles and the rugby is good, more of them are likely to support their regional side, which can only be good for Welsh Rugby and the Guinness Pro12 on the whole. We just have to hope that the teams deliver a day of fast, exciting rugby for the fans.
The final factors for me, are word-of-mouth and marketing. I’ve attended Judgement Day two times now and had a great day, experiencing some exciting rugby. The first year we were two. The next we were six. This year we are six- five who have never watched the regions play and myself. I will be flying from Barcelona at 10 O’clock the night before just to make it.
It has been an enjoyable event each time around and it is an event people talk about now and want to go to. Maybe I’m looking into it too much, but being the Guinness Pro12 instead of the Rabodirect Pro12 helps too. Going from the Rabo Bank colours of orange and blue to black and gold just looks so much better and in my opinion, makes the whole league feel more legitimate and serious.
Looking ahead, with Jonathan Davies and Rhys Patchell arriving at Scarlets, Matthew Morgan to Cardiff Blues, potential new management at NGD and Ospreys vying to make the playoffs once more, I hope next year will provide another stellar event. First job though is to ensure that the 65,000 plus in attendance this weekend have a reason to come back.
You can see some highlights for the event, here.
If you haven’t already, you can buy tickets here.
The Scribbler, 28th April, 2016