The games' atmosphere was excellent, but there were some hidden problems. Photo: Getty Images/Michael Steele
The confusion of the righteous Emile Zola's outrage at Bob Woodward's forensic journalism, the SportBusiness France reporter was about to create a bombshell that would shake the very foundations of the Rugby World Cup.
“You promised , isn’t it, nine different locally made sandwiches throughout the World Cup venues?” – the journalist said at a press conference with the tournament organizers on Wednesday. “Why then, at my last match, I only managed to get a hambone?”
The dark conspiracy was wide open. Or maybe not. He was told that sandwiches were available in different flavors at various kiosks throughout the stadium.
Sandwichgate will have to wait another day, but his question at least hints at the discrepancy between what organizers claim is the most successful World Cup ever, attracting a million fans and record TV viewing figures, and the overwhelming evidence showing that Many fans consider this tournament to be the worst to date.
Rugby fans are generally not complex creatures. They want to watch the game, they want to go home from the game, and they want a cold beer, although not necessarily in that order.
On this basis, France 2023 fails. Following England's near-disastrous first leg against Argentina in Marseille, which saw thousands of fans dangerously crushed and hundreds missing the kick-off, new reports have emerged that Wales and Ireland fans were unable to kick off despite large numbers turning up . time, even if Jacques Rivoal, chairman of the France 2023 organizing committee, claims that this does not apply to “99.9 percent” of supporters.
Getting home has become even more difficult, especially since the match kicks off at 21:00 in the stadiums outside the city, such as Lyon and Nice, which are served by one temperamental tram line. Hundreds of fans were stranded outside Lyon's Olympic Park, eight miles from the city centre, following Wales' 40-6 win over Australia on Sunday night.
Long lines and busy trains became common after games. Photo: AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
“Having been to many stadium games this was a real shit show,” wrote one fan who contacted Telegraph Sport. “They kept everyone from leaving, it was honestly the worst crowd control I've ever seen.” Even a less high-profile game such as the Uruguay v Namibia match in Lyon has sparked reports of overcrowded trams and poor stewards.
“There are a number of fans who have had some difficult experiences, but let's put this in context.” , said Alan Gilpin, chief executive of World Rugby. “One million fans have already passed through the turnstiles at this Rugby World Cup. Unfortunately, at any major event, no matter how much planning, testing and modeling you do, it is difficult to simulate the behavior of every fan.
“At this World Cup we are already seeing fans coming at a time when we didn’t think they would. Some are pleasantly early, which creates problems, some are late, which creates more problems.”
Then there is the problem of beer. A record 120,000 cups of beer were served at the Stade de France on Saturday following Ireland's victory over South Africa, although organizers privately admitted four times as many could easily have been sold.
There are reports of beer selling out or lines being so long that fans are simply giving up. Insiders say French stadiums don't have the beer infrastructure with pumps, kegs and refrigeration to meet demand, as if rugby fans' penchant for more than one pint of beer has come as an unexpected surprise.
That doesn't mean no one had a good time at the World Cup. You only need to be in the city center a few days before the match to witness the riot of color and camaraderie. As the re-recording of 1994's Zombie shows, rugby fans can easily entertain themselves.
“We don't want fans to have a hard time, so we'll keep working to get those parts right,” Gilpin said. ” I'd like to think what we're seeing now is that it's a small minority in a big tournament.
“The safety of the fans is the most important thing. While there have been reports that in some locations and cities security measures may have been more stringent than some fans expected, this is as it should be to ensure we provide the safest possible environment for fans.”
However, for all the statistics that the tournament organizers can spew out, the numbers cannot reflect how intrusive and mean-spirited this World Cup has been towards the fans. Overbearing police presence, confiscation of water bottles and extortionate prices for food and drinks; These are what Rivoal dismissively called “micro-issues” but they quickly add up when supporters pay thousands of pounds to keep an eye on their country. Combined with the rush to block any unauthorized content or clips on social media, and the mistreatment of journalists in mixed zones, it all adds up to a World Cup that looks far more corporate than caring.
Have you noticed? attended any Rugby World Cup games in France? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.