Capturing Cardiff’s Sporting Passion

Cardiff Blues and Cardiff City signed a deal to share the new 30,000-seater stadium at Leckwith. The stadium will be completed in time for the 2009-10 season and will be one of the largest in Cardiff and Wales, second only to the Millennium Stadium. This begs the question; is Cardiff a rugby or a football city?

I suspect English readers will be thinking, “Wales equals rugby. End of story.”

Rugby is synonymous with Wales, almost to the point of it being a religion. It is ingrained into the fabric of Welsh life and is part of its national identity.

cardiff-10Only 8,500 watched Wales play Bulgaria at football. When the rugby team played a friendly against Fiji, the Millennium Stadium was practically filled. The national sport seems obvious. What about the capital city?

Gwydion Griffiths, Press Officer for the Cardiff Blues, said: “To compare the two is like comparing apples and oranges.” One can still try…

Based on attendances,  football wins hands down.


cardiff-31Considering the Blues play in the top league and get an average of 8,500 and Cardiff City are in the second tier and get an average of 13000, tells a clear story. But South Wales boasts only Cardiff and Swansea for football, whereas there exists an array of rugby teams competing at a top level- Scarlets, Dragons, Blues, Ospreys, and even more in the Welsh Premiership. So rugby tends to be more localised than football.

cardiff-5But Cardiff Blues see more of their matches televised, mainly on S4C. In this roundabout way they actually get a bigger audience than Cardiff City.

Can this be taken representative of Cardiff? Probably not. So what I find intriguing is how a country traditionally seen as a rugby nation, has football at the heart of its capital.

Paul Abbandonato, Sports Editor for Media Wales, said: “Cardiff City fans can’t shake the stigma of hooliganism. The rugby team find it easier to attract corporate sponsorship. Big business backing makes rugby a big sport in Cardiff.”

In the last international matches for rugby and football, only two players were born and bred in Cardiff. They were both footballers.

(Location of Welsh Footballers)

(Location of Welsh Rugby Players)

Paul Corkrey, FSF secretary in Wales, said: “ Without a shadow of a doubt, it is very football oriented.

cardiff-6“The popularity of the Blues will decrease further by the new stadium. The Arms Park is in the city centre. To ask them to move a mile and a half away is pointless. It will be a novelty first of all because they have a spanky new stadium, but the location is too problematic. It’s like having a mansion in the middle of nowhere.”

cardiff-7He may have a point. Some Blues fans are outraged by the move. One said: “Whenever they play the video of the new stadium on the screen down the Arms Park, all you can here from Blues fans around you is, ‘it looks s***! It looks like something cheapy from Ikea. In Swansea they call it the lego stadium!”

But the Blues had no choice with the move. To develop the Arms Park was both financially and logistically impractical. Although the Blues play there, Cardiff Athletic Club actually own it. So the Blues do not actually have the right to develop the site.

Mr Griffiths said: “The Blues are a sporting brand for Cardiff so they need to seize upon this opportunity and move forward. It will bring great results.

“Many competitors in the Magners League have had successful ground shares, Ospreys and Munster being the obvious examples. In the Guinness Premiership, seven of the 12 teams have a ground sharing arrangement. We cannot be left behind.”

What do other locals think? Three men passionate for sport give me their view.

A media spokesman for Cardiff City said: “The Blues are more adverse to the move than we are. They are dreaming up reasons as to why it should not happen. Don’t attendances tell you anything? We both have our hard core supporters but Cardiff is a football city.

“It is a fallacy rugby is popular in Wales. The six nations is simply a drinking festival. The idea that it is the national sport is a joke. It’s laughable. The national sport is watching Manchester United play football on Sky. Rugby, both in Wales and Cardiff, is enjoyed by very few people.

“I’m not convinced Cardiff locals would even recognise Neil Jenkins, or any other rugby player.”

sports-manChris Ower (right), Rugby Development Officer for the Cardiff Blues, had a great deal to say about the matter which you can listen to here. Audio Interview

arms-park1Richard Hodges, Blues Community and Coach Development Manager believes football became more popular than rugby after Mark Hughes made the side successful. But the victory of Wales in the Six Nations brought rugby back to its reigning position. He said: “If the Blues and Ospreys played each other at the Millennium Stadium they would fill it. Cardiff will only be able to boast that once it reaches the Premiership.”

When it comes to international rugby, where women don their glittery cowboy hats and young kids crack out their hooters, there is no contest. Rugby is the sport of Wales, elicitng passion and patriotism in a way football could never challenge. But it seems a nation with a rich rugby history has a football focused capital city.


One Response to “Capturing Cardiff’s Sporting Passion”

  1. Andrew Cammish Says:

    I try to keep up-to-date with your musings and I’m glad as you are one of the better internet bloggers that I know. I particularly enjoyed this article on sport in Cardiff. Seeing the football club leave Ninian Park will be strange because it will remove the ‘charm’ of sharing a terraced stand with the home supporters! Always so welcoming to their English neighbours!

    I’m sure in time you’ll come to displace Messrs Robinson, Peston and Mardell but until then, keep up the good work!

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