Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

How Rugby Is Breaking the Hold of Soccer

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

How Rugby Is Breaking the Hold of Soccer

Article excerpt

Byline: By Simon Rushworth

Newcastle Falcons are more popular than ever. Chief Sports Writer Simon Rushworth sampled the Kingston Park experience.

When Rob Andrew accepted Sir John Hall's invitation to join his ambitious Sporting Club both men allowed themselves to dream of the day Kingston Park would host world class rugby and attract crowds to match.

The Falcons' benefactor talked of 20,000-plus spectators combining their passion for football (of the round ball variety) with an appreciation for rugby and if that fanciful idyll is still some years away then the day is drawing closer.

Sir John may have lost patience with the slow burning popularity of his once adopted sport but Andrew was always in it for the long haul. And yesterday's Heineken Cup clash against 2003 finalists Perpignan capped a rewarding week for the former Barnard Castle pupil.

Four days previously proud Newcastle officials announced the club's first three attendances of the season were up a third on the opening three fixtures of the 2003/04 campaign.

Last season Kingston Park topped the league in terms of its overall increase in crowd figures and the North-East public's appetite for rugby shows no sign of waning. In attempting to explain the game's growing popularity ( with the shadow of St James's Park never far away ( it is easy to identify what attracts the region's sports fans to the fast-improving Falcons' experience.

Where there was once an unfinished stadium with temporary seating now stands an impressive monument to modern rugby.

If Kingston Park still suffers from an aesthetic imbalance then the evidence of an ever-increasing fan base should provide incentive enough for chairman Dave Thompson and his colleagues to press ahead with plans to put the finishing touches to the Falcons' developing home. …

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