FAN’S VIEW: ‘Spirit of rugby’ also applies to supporters
Bath Rugby supporter Glyn Edwards gives his take on events at The Rec...
Friday night’s home game against Gloucester should represent everything that is good about rugby – assuming a home win, of course!
Fierce local rivalry will be to the fore – both on and off of the field – in a fixture which is always anticipated with considerable relish along the M5/A46 corridor and beyond.
As an intensely physical sport, rugby truly embodies sporting combat – played out as it is with skill, strength and speed, alongside elements bordering on outright violence.
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Rugby’s self-justification – were it needed – has always been the respect that not only players and spectators have shared with their opposite numbers, but also the well-mannered way that they have behaved towards each other as members of their club.
The oft-quoted ;spirit of rugby’ encompassed both teams sharing an after-match drink, two sets of supporters who did not have to be fenced apart during the game and heavily policed outside of the ground, and traditional quiet respect for opposition place kickers – in some countries, at least.
At the recent London Irish match I was surprised – in case I had mis-heard – and somewhat distressed to hear Stephen Donald’s name being jeered instead of cheered by some sections of the crowd as the team was announced over the PA system.
Confirmation that I had not been mistaken came at the end of the first quarter, unfortunately, with the unedifying spectacle of the injured Stephen Donald being replaced by Tom Heathcote to the accompaniment of more jeering for the retiring New Zealander and excessive cheering for his embarrassed replacement.
I don’t remember ever feeling more uncomfortable as a Bath supporter – so goodness knows what the players and coaches thought about it. Nothing printable, I expect.
Some will no doubt respond that having paid their money, spectators are always entitled to give voice to their view of the performance of the team or a particular individual or, indeed, the general quality of the product that they have paid to watch.
If one considers spectators to be no more than mere customers of a performance and results business then that is a perfectly legitimate stance to take.
The term supporters, however, surely implies people who want their team to win, and who do everything within the culture and ethos of their club – and the sport itself – to encourage that outcome. Silence is surely sufficient evidence of disappointment.
Those who chose not to behave in such a way two weeks ago may feel perfectly entitled to have made their feelings known, but they should really ask the players – as well as themselves – if the team, or individuals, will ever play better for being booed.