Wraparound: Sarries state of affairs
11:59, 18 Dec 2012
The irony is that teams usually plan on quieting the home supporters.
Sitting in the south stand of the Vicarage Road stadium in Watford on Sunday, you were given a real sense of how unsure Saracens, a genuine Heineken Cup contender, is of itself.
Like an Alsatian staring into the mirror and seeing a Jack Russell looking back at him, the English side exhibited s warped small man syndrome. Off the pitch that is, because on it they just about deserved their win against Munster.
At first, it was slightly funny, then it became tedious, before going full circle to funny again. Each break in play, each turnover (for either team), the Saracens club decided their rallying song would be blared out over the stadium speakers.
“STAAAAAND UP (STAND UP!!) FOR THE SARACENNNNNS, STAAAAAND UP (STAND UP!!) FOR THE SARACENNNNS, STAND UP FOR THE SARACENS…”
The atmosphere around the ground could be understood in another way too, and this will explain why an away fan (not to mention a number of embarrassed home supporters) would take some issue.
“Loooooow lieeeeeee the fielddds of STAAAAAND UP (STAND UP!!) FOR THE SARACENNNNNS, STAAAAAND UP (STAND UP!!) FOR THE SARACENNNNS, STAND UP FOR THE SARACENS it’s so lonelllly ’round the fieeeelds of Athenry.”
Munster had just converted a penalty through Ronan O’Gara so let’s all STAAAAAND UP (STAND UP!!) FOR THE SARACENNNNNS, STAAAAAND UP (STAND UP!!) FOR THE SARACENNNNS, STAND UP FOR THE SARACENS.
Insecure and unsure of its own support, compared with what waltzed into town, Saracens showed us an inversion of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale. The English side tried to convince us they were cosy while standing there naked. Anyone who disagreed was to be shouted down with megaphones.
Admittedly, Saracens’ plan worked because the away fans were unable to give it the feel of a home game for Munster. The canned atmosphere was ludicrous but effective nonetheless. They won the game.
In truth though, their off-field tactic was merely an extension — or blackguarding — of what goes on elsewhere. The public announcer at each ground is far from objective. Just look at Ireland and Leinster games in the Aviva, the unreasonably loud tannoy bellows out the Irish side’s name and whispers that of the visitor during a score update. It’s to a very different scale but with traces of the same intent.
Saracens can deal with the embarrassment but you have to ask why they needed to do it. Yes, Munster have a fan base as vocal as it is loyal but so too do many clubs. Perhaps not to the same extent but at least enough to compete at home. Any successful club that treats its fans the right way should.
Then perhaps that’s the issue with Sarries, they don’t really have a home to foster that. Watford FC is where they play their home games, unless they’re not trying to take them to Wembley, South Africa on New York. Earlier in this season’s Heineken Cup, they hosted Racing Metro in Brussels. Ah yes Belgium, our home from home.
Remember how we all felt about the possibility of Ireland playing home soccer and rugby games outside the country before the GAA deleted Rule 42 to open up Croke Park. That is the reality for Saracens fans as their club looks to harness a worldwide audience, while neglecting the little guy who has always been there. Little wonder they struggle to drum up an authentic atmosphere. They’ve created the ideal conditions for disaffection.
The club moves to a new home ground in January, Allianz Park. They are to install a synthetic 4G pitch and this will also provide a wealth of opportunities for community too, according to Saracens CEO Edward Griffiths.
“The rugby side will be fantastic but, for me personally, the community opportunity is what gives me real excitement,” Griffiths says.
“This place will be open day after day. The training centre under the new stand will be used by Barnet schools. We are going to try out walking touch rugby for the over-70s and make this a community facility that provides something for everyone. We can do things that have a measurable impact on people’s lives beyond 16 days match days of the season.”
Griffiths has shown the club can also affect things when the team is on the field. Let’s hope it is in a manner more befitting a top European club once the move to their new home. Something worth standing up for.
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