GLASGOW Warriors co-captain Fraser Brown says he can understand fans’ frustration about there not being any Friday night games scheduled at Scotstoun during the first half of the 2021-22 United Rugby Championship season – but has urged supporters to understand the complexities of the situation and to get behind the team even if the timing of matches is inconvenient.
A key strand of the club’s marketing strategy since the earlies days of professionalism has been the idea of matches being on Friday nights, but when the schedule for the first 10 matches of the coming season for the rebranded league [previously known as the PRO14] was finally unveiled at the tail-end of last week, the only game in that slot for Warriors was their campaign opener away to Ulster on the 24th September.
Up to the end of January, the Warriors will play five home matches on a Saturday while the Scotstoun leg of the traditional 1872 Cup festive period double-header against Edinburgh will be on Monday 27th December.
This prompted a furious backlash from fans on social media, many of whom threatened to return their season pass. Supporters are frustrated that too many games will clash with traditional club matches, other with sports such as football, or with nonsporting activities.
Recognising the level of unrest, Glasgow Warriors managing director Al Kellock posted a statement on the club’s website.
“The choice you now face to be involved in the grassroots game throughout Glasgow, and the West, or to support Glasgow Warriors is not a decision we want you to have,” he said.
“You, our rugby clubs, and the communities you serve are the lifeblood of this club and we would not be where we are today without you.
“Since receiving the schedule on Wednesday we have been, and continue to be, in discussions with the United Rugby Championship to understand what can be done to address the challenges that arise from these timings. I can assure you we are working hard alongside the URC and will continue to do so in the coming weeks, to find resolutions.”
While it is highly unlikely that any of the 10 rounds of fixtures announced so far can be moved, Warriors are now under pressure to push hard for a return of Friday night rugby for the final eight rounds of matches.
However, the fact that Scotland’s teams don’t have a free-to-air broadcast partner means it is going to be an uphill battle because television money is king in modern professional rugby.
Asked for the players’ take-on the situation, Brown urged fans look at the bigger picture. “Look, there was a lot said over the weekend and it is a pretty complicated issue with the league,” said Brown.
“I know Al and guys at Murrayfield are talking about it just now, so I don’t know too much apart from what has been in the press.
“For us [players] it is nice to be back playing rugby, it is nice to have fans here in for the first time in 18 months. This time there will be a lot of Saturday afternoons so hopefully we will have a lot of families here which will be really good for us in terms of trying to grow the sport.
“There is nothing we can do about when the fixtures are at the start of the season but that could change for the last eight or nine fixtures of the season, so we’ll see.
“Friday night games are special in that they are just different as they are under lights, but I think a lot of the guys here prefer playing on a Saturday afternoon because it is more of a regular thing in terms of your pre-match routine.
“Personally, I am excited as we haven’t had fans here for 18 months. My wife and wee boy – who is a year and a half old – haven’t been able to see me play, so Saturday afternoon fixtures are great for them as they can pop along and support us for the first time ever.
“It is what it is. We are all just looking forward to the start of the season and to getting back to the stadium.”