By Gareth Axenderrie
Thousands of fans have missed kick off in Wales’ two autumn internationals so far this month due to increased security around the Principality Stadium.
As 60,000 fans emptied the city centre’s pubs and funnelled into the Principality Stadium in anticipation of Wales kicking off their Autumn International campaign against Australia last Saturday, they were met with extraordinary queues.
Stadium management had advised fans to get to the venue early, in the light of a decision taken to search every individual fan for the first time ever. Upon arrival, supporters experienced full body checks, and large bags and umbrellas were omitted from entering with them.
Cardiff is no stranger to hosting major international sporting events, from Rugby World Cups, to Champions League Finals, to annual Six Nations and Autumn International matches. The city has always been regarded as extremely visitor-friendly for fans, with the national stadium located in the city centre, just a short stroll from its surplus bars and pubs.
These alterations to safety procedure risk tarnishing this fan-friendly reputation however.
As Dylan, a Cardiff University student, explained, the experience in the Australia match is not sustainable for fan satisfaction.
“The security was thorough, but it has to be organised better if it’s going to be repeated in the future.
“After queuing for around fifty minutes, we finally got into the stadium twenty-five minutes after kick off. Some guys queuing with us actually decided to go back and watch it in a pub.
If I had to queue for that long again, I would have to consider not bothering.”
There were also severe concerns about safety within the crowd as fans became impatient at the prospect of missing kick off.
One fan spoke of how he felt a ‘crush’ as fans jostled toward the security barrier. Such reports will be concerning to authorities whose whole intention is to make events like this as safe as they can be.
Following terror attacks in the UK earlier this year, security has been stepped up accordingly, however not to the stale seen at the Champions League Final in June where checkpoints and security fences were installed. There will however be concern that in backing-up thousands of members of the public into a single space, security operations are in fact creating further health, safety and security issues.
That said, officials have stayed resolute in the face of criticism, saying that measures are here to stay.