Sour Grapes from The Irish Times?

A Guinness Pro12 flag 16/5/2015
BT Murrayfield- The venue for this year’s Pro12 showdown

As I sit here eagerly awaiting my flights from Barcelona to Edinburgh tomorrow for the Guinness Pro12 final, I thought I’d call out, what I can only describe as sour grapes. I am of course, referring to Gerry Thornley’s article in ‘The Irish Times’ calling for the Pro12 final to get the venue it deserves. Because obviously the largest stadium and Scotland is dreadful compared to the 18,000 seater Ulster club ground in Belfast last year where Glasgow Warriors lifted Scotland’s maiden Pro12 trophy.

 “It would have generated an altogether bigger crowd and sense of occasion than next weekend’s final in Murrayfield” is what Thornley had to say about hosting the final in Ireland. It has already been confirmed that this year will be bigger than any final ever hosted in the leagues history, as the final leaves Irish shores for the first time Now, of course Ireland have never hosted the final in such a large stadium, so couldn’t reach such numbers, but why didn’t the make that a reality when we’ve had all Irish finals in the past? If it was possible to be so large, surely the Irish wouldn’t want to restrict the crowd to around the 20,000 mark by playing at club stadiums such as the RDS and would chose larger venues where possible?

In addition, with Glasgow Warriors topping the league last year, why weren’t there complaints of having to travel to Belfast? Despite selling the general sale out in April, on the day the stadium wasn’t even full, despite Munster, one of the best supported regions making the final. As a Glasgow Warriors fan, as much as Ravenhill is an excellent venue, it’s not really final material for me. (Attendance was 17,057, Capacity over 18,000)

kingspan-stadium-600
Ulster Rugby’s ‘Kingspan Stadium’ hosted the 2015 Guinness Pro12 Final

Then there’s the issue of price. Now I agree that some of the prices on accommodation have hit ridiculous levels for Edinburgh this weekend. Pro12 rugby did try and combat this by setting up deals with Clyde Travel to ensure there were places to stay for rugby fans. Unfortunately, the prices were a little bit too high for the budgets of some rugby fans, including myself. However, there are still, even today (27th May) coaches going from Ireland to Edinburgh and back over night for one-hundred and nine euros; the only other costs being food, drink and tickets, the standard.

Personally, I booked a month ago- flights from Barcelona were one-hundred and sixty euros and a bed for two nights set me back the hefty sum of thirty-two pounds. Absolutely shocking. Now I must admit, I am disappointed not to be watching Glasgow Warriors retain the title at the weekend, but with the prospect of Connacht being champions or seeing a master-class from some of Leinster’s seasoned players? Top that off with a parade from the Scotland 7s team who won the London leg of the 7s, The Aviva Premiership Final on the big screens and a record Pro12 final attendance in a fantastic stadium, I’m struggling to see how this isn’t a deserving venue and how it lacks a ‘”sense of occasion”.

Indeed, having booked a month ago the excitement has been gradually building day by day, and has now turned into minor panic as French air traffic control strikes threaten my flight being late or cancelled. Just to add a bit more excitement/adrenaline/potential disappointment.

Thinking back, perhaps the critics would’ve been happier last year if the Final was held in Scotstoun- after all, it can expand to 15,000 seats, would have been played at the home of the league toppers and would have been far superior to a final in a national stadium.

Of course having two Irish teams playing out a final in Scotland won’t draw such a big crowd as it might have in Ireland, but with criticism of the Pro12 constant, I personally feel like moving the final to a set destination works out best. If fans want to go, they have time to plan and make the final cheap, they have the opportunity to see a final in a world-class stadium. In the past with the offices, sponsors and final all coming from Ireland, the other nations have felt like an after thought and that is why on a grander scale, the final being outside of Ireland is a positive thing. It’s engaging fans outside of Ireland.

That’s about as much as I can say, I know that it’s not ideal with the Marathon on the same weekend, but in all honesty this is set to be one of the best finals yet, with a bumper crowd and some brilliant players battling it out in an international stadium. For those willing to look, there are options available now and there certainly were just a few weeks ago. See you all for the big event at BT Murrayfield tomorrow.

You can see more about why this year’s final is set to be so much bigger than ever before, here.

P.S Connacht abu.

The Scribbler, May 27th, 2016

Twitter: @RugbyScribbler

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