Ulster’s Kingspan Stadium in Belfast was selected by the Pro12 organisers to host the 2015 final. Announcing the decision, John Feehan CEO of Pro12 Rugby said; “Belfast is an inspiring host city and the new Kingspan Stadium is a state-of-the-art venue for the Guinness Pro12 Final.” And he’s not wrong but the decision to name the venue of the final ahead of the game is one that bemuses me. It removes the advantage of finishing top of the table and earning a home final. Surely that should be the reward for a team clearly deserving of the title of champions? But I don’t see how they have any advantage now.
It does look like Ulster could very well be there for the final. But what happens next time when we have, for example, a Leinster v Munster final and the host venue selected is in Italy? I would imagine each of the participating countries would be given the opportunity to host it and that would make it extremely difficult for supporters to go to matches that are generally already hard to get tickets to. Times in Ireland still aren’t great for lots of people and to ask them to fork out even more money to support the team they love surely isn’t right. We deserve to see our team at home if they make it to a final! Bottom line is it simply isn’t fair to the table topping team or their supporters.
Here’s what the Guinness Pro12 organisers had to say on the matter:
“Our competition is truly unique. 12 Clubs, 4 Unions, 1 Trophy – we are delighted to be able to work with our partners to promote the variety of fantastic international destinations that the Guinness PRO12 has to offer.”
“We look forward to working with all our partners in staging a festival of rugby where fans from all four of our countries will enjoy a memorable Final and a great weekend in Belfast.”
Sounds like a good idea in theory, promoting venues, but I think I speak for quite a few people when I say that you would be hard pushed to fill said venues if the teams playing in the final are foreign to the hosting country’s club. Rugby is not just a sport for the “middle class” (at least not anymore) and I’m extremely frustrated about the decision.
As Gerry Thornley said in the Irish Times this week, “if organisers are going to meddle in tournaments, they could at least make their tournament better. Otherwise, they should leave well enough alone.”