Frustrated spectators are demanding ticket refunds from England’s win over Wales after arriving at their seats to discover they would be part of an alcohol-free trial at Twickenham.
Telegraph Sport has learned of chaotic scenes said to have “ruined” the experience, with fans having to choose between throwing away beverages and consuming them quickly in order to watch the game.
One source has described a man “downing” four pints consecutively from a cardboard holder after being informed by a steward that the drinks could not be brought within view of the pitch in his area of the stadium. Guinness is sold for £7.50 a pint at matches.
It is thought that many were blindsided by the revelation that they would be sitting in a designated, alcohol-free zone. A source, who spent £117 on a ticket and a further £14.70 for two drinks prior to kick-off, before a steward explained the regulations in place, has claimed that they were at no stage told of the trial.
The only visible signage about the alcohol-free zone was at the steps towards the seats and then at the seats themselves, which read “alcohol-free seating area”. It was claimed, however, at this point spectators had already purchased drinks. No details of the trial, which imposed regulations on 627 seats, were outlined on the ticketing app, leading spectators to feel misled and frustrated, it was said.
‘This [trial] was a disaster’
Ironically, given that the trial was mooted as a way to ensure that fans would not be blocked by others visiting the toilet, confusion continued during the match. Stewards needed to enforce the zero-alcohol conditions by speaking to people who had reached their seats with drinks and at one stage are understood to have asked an entire row to leave.
A source who attended the match in a designated area explained that while they appreciated the desire for a no-alcohol zone, the implementation of the trial had been calamitous. “Due to lack of planning and to some extent lack of care for the fans attending, this was a disaster,” they said.
An article on the ‘debenture members’ section of the England Rugby website, dated January 24, says that alcohol-free measures will also take in England’s game against Ireland and outlines the affected seating areas in question: Lower tier L15 and L16 and upper tier U14 and U15.
However, there is also the reassurance that “when selecting seats within these areas ticket purchasers will clearly see that they are purchasing within an alcohol-free zone and will tick a box confirming that they have been made aware of the alcohol-free policy.” This does not seem to tally with the experience of those at Twickenham on Saturday and many tickets will have been bought before January 24 anyway.
An RFU spokesperson said: “We know the full match day experience is very important to fans, which is why we continue to evolve the wider Twickenham event day experiences before, during and after the game.
“Twickenham Stadium introduced alcohol-free areas for our two home Guinness Men’s Six Nations fixtures on a trial basis based on supporters’ feedback.
“When selecting seats within these areas ticket purchasers would have clearly seen that they are buying within an alcohol-free zone and have ticked a box confirming that they have been made aware of the alcohol-free policy.
“To understand the views of fans we conduct surveys after each game about their experience and encourage feedback from those sitting in these areas so that we can review ahead of the Ireland fixture. We will also be gaining feedback and insight from our own staff managing those areas on Saturday.”