New World Cup item is HERE.
Twickenham in south west London is famous as the home of English rugby. How’s that for an utterly fatuous introduction to an article? It’s pathetic. You live here, you know that already. Despite the opening inanity, what that ‘rugby fame thing’ actually means to you personally is something which carries a little more significance. Like it or not Twickenham is a rugby town – not exactly built around rugby perhaps, but certainly heavily influenced and affected by it. Whether you love rugby, can’t stand it or are totally indifferent to it, having up to 82,000 fans descend on Twickenham for big internationals isn’t something you can simply ignore.
The Autumn Internationals are upon us (two down, three to go) and you’ll be delighted / devastated to hear that it’s just three months until the 2015 RBS Six Nations begins again. And 2015 will be quite a year what with the ol’ Rugby World Cup malarkey taking place in England. Some huge games will put Twickenham under the global rugby spotlight like never before. [We’re not entirely sure what the global rugby spotlight is but it sounds pretty powerful.]
The tournament kicks off with England v Fiji at Twickenham on 18th September and over the following six weeks Twickenham will host ten matches through to the final on 31st October. That’s a lorra, lorra rugby. Add to that all the visiting fans staying locally and the South Africa and New Zealand teams being based nearby at St Mary’s University and the Lensbury Club and it should make for quite an event. El Brute have even announced that they are setting up a, wait for it, Rugby World Cup Scrutiny Panel, to help create a ‘Festival of Rugby‘ across the borough. We’re talking arts, music, sporty stuff and even a FanZone. The festival will run from May until the end of the tournament. Twickenham will be buzzing.
So far, so what? Twickenham isn’t just the home of England rugby, it’s also a real place, with real residents and real businesses. The RFU has the tricky task of managing ‘rugby plc’ complete with very large stadium whilst also trying to maintain good relations with the locals. It’s certainly not impossible but it does have its tensions. The RFU’s website says, “The relationship with Twickenham Community is of utmost importance to the RFU. We aim to ensure our impact on the local area is a positive one through a comprehensive community relations programme called Home Turf”. Initiatives under this banner include the Rugby Post newsletter, the ticket ballot for locals (good if you like rugby, of limited interest if you don’t), working with the Council and Police to reduce match day disruption and supporting a wide range of local community events, perhaps the biggest of which is the annual Strawberry Hill Music Day.
That all sounds good. But for many, living near a mahoosive great stadium is not without its downsides. The traffic, the road closures, the people pissing in the streets don’t help, and let’s not forget the smell of frying onions, the surfeit of brown brogues and the repeated singing of ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’. And then there are the concerts, the other events and, very recently, the possibility that Chelsea FC (off of doing football) could perhaps play their home matches at Twickenham while Stamford Bridge gets redeveloped. Nearly 1,500 people have signed an online petition opposing the whole concept. It’s fair to say it’s one idea that’s not got down at all well Twick-side.
The disruption is clear and for some businesses the rugby can have a direct impact on trade as local customers avoid venturing out on big match days. But whilst many might suffer from the disruption there are also some businesses in Twickenham for which rugby days are boom days. A few might even struggle to survive without them. Is the balance of events right? Will it ever be right?
Meanwhile there are those who ponder whether the RFU should have stumped up some cash for improving Twickenham station when it came out in support of Solum Regeneration’s masterplan. We’re not aware of any RFU financial contribution to the scheme – we could be wrong – and you could certainly argue against rugby revenues contributing to a third party’s property development project. But then there are those who might observe that it’s on rugby days that the station’s deficiencies are most apparent as it creaks under the weight of fans trying to get to or from the stadium. And speaking of getting to and from the stadium, there’s now also a petition running to try to persuade the RFU, TfL or someone to cough up for footbridges over the A316 near the stadium.
Here on twickerati it’s not all about bus lanes, bike lanes, the latest restaurant to open (then close again) and occasional ‘quite good’ photos of the river, we also like a bit of sport too. We think that despite some downsides rugby is good for the town and that 2015 will be a great opportunity to show Twickenham in a positive light. Who knows, even non-rugby fans might find themselves drawn into the spirit of a major sporting event come next September.
So, have you got World Cup fever yet? Is the RFU doing a good job at balancing the interests of the town with those of the game? Or, when you think of rugby in Twickenham, are you more inclined to think “Arrghh, F.U.”?