Last weekend we were invited to attend a professional rugby match at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, home to the Premiership club, Wasps RFC. Our friends joined us too, making it a lovely social gathering of 5 adults and 4 children.
We travelled to Coventry in three cars. The Wasps’ website offered a selection of carparks, and we all chose one at a nearby primary school. On match days they loan their carpark and in return receive the parking payment.
The Arena was a short walk from the carpark – depending on how fast you walk it will take between 10-15 minutes. The car park attendants were helpful and gave us walking directions.
As you approach the Arena, you have a choice of crossing a busy main road via a footbridge, or via traffic lights (warning, the lights only give you a short time to get across!)
Tickets and Hospitality
We had tickets arranged for us, which we needed to collect from the Clubhouse. We arrived early, so had to wait for a member of staff to bring us our tickets and match programmes. While we waited we saw the arrival of some players …
… And some mascots …
Our tickets were all together, in the South Stand, which is located directly behind the posts.
Along with each ticket we received hospitality vouchers – for a drink in the Clubhouse, and then a drink and meal from any of the fast food outlets within the Arena. We all had a cold drink in the Clubhouse (beers, red wine, lemonade, cola), followed by a pie and coffee/hot chocolate before the match kicked off.
The match we went to see was a Heineken Champions Cup match against the French side Toulouse, so was rather important. I would estimate the stadium was about 60% full when the teams came out onto the field. As players ran out of the tunnel fireworks exploded and music played.
That set the crowd off, and a pair of drummers started drumming, encouraging the fans to shout “WASPS!” a lot. In fact, the drummers did a sterling job – whenever the atmosphere dropped/fans went quiet, they starting drumming again to get the fans behind their team!
I watch a fair amount of rugby – mainly international games (go Wales!) I’ve been lucky enough to watch some Six Nations games at the Millennium Stadium (and even the opening of the Rugby World Cup when it was held in Wales). So, I know a little about the game but this was my first ‘non-international match’ I had attended. The others in our group were a lot more knowledgeable about rugby than me however.
The first half went by very quickly. There were lots of handling errors by both teams, and it was looking to be a low-scoring game. At the half time whistle, after 40 minutes, Wasps were leading but by a really small margin (13 points to 11).
The second half was similar to the first, but Toulouse seemed to step up a gear and put pressure on Wasps, which eventually converted into points for them. The match ended 24 – 16 to Toulouse, who were the much better team on the day.
Overall, we really enjoyed our evening out. Of course, it was a shame that Wasps didn’t win, but we had no influence over that! It was the first rugby game my children had ever attended, and as they have recently started playing rugby at school it certainly gave them some performance tips! The fans were behind their team, right up until the last 5 minutes of the match, when I noticed lots of people making a dash for the exits (to beat the rush).
My only criticism lies not with the team, but with the Arena itself and how accessible it is. My brother has mobility/balance issues – he doesn’t need a wheelchair, but does use railings for support. Getting to his seat in the stands, where there are no handrails, required two people to help him. We noticed retired couples also having to support each other when stepping down to their seat rows. Hand rails really would make this task a lot easier. There was a separate wheelchair area, but neither my brother, or these elderly couples, qualified for that entrance/area. For a relatively new stadium, some handrails would certainly make the venue a lot more accessible. But that’s my only criticism of a really enjoyable evening out.
It was an experience we’d love to repeat again some-day soon!