Regional Structure Has Triggered a Shift in Fans' Loyalties Which Has Led to a Stronger Bond with the National Side; Analysis: 'Landscape of Supporter Allegiance Has Been Transformed'

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 26, 2008 | Go to article overview

Regional Structure Has Triggered a Shift in Fans' Loyalties Which Has Led to a Stronger Bond with the National Side; Analysis: 'Landscape of Supporter Allegiance Has Been Transformed'


Byline: Martin Shipton Chief Reporter

MOST Welsh rugby fans no longer enjoy watching their local rivals lose, a major study into Wales' switch to regional rugby has found.

In a paper due to be published by the University of Wales Press in the Contemporary Wales series, it is revealed that supporters of most teams in Wales are less likely than before the reorganisation to want other Welsh sides to be beaten.

The researchers, led by Dr Gareth Roderique-Davies, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Glamorgan, state: "Rugby has long been associated with Welsh identity in cultural and historical terms, helping to reconstruct a new comm on identity after the demise of the industrial era amongst the working class.

"The nature of this identification is also linked with boundaries, in terms of geographical location, historical ties and perceived rivalries with other teams.

"As such, the success of a local or the national team has a large impact on regional and national esteem.

"These rivalries, which have taken many years to develop, make for an exciting match atmosphere and also form a central part of Welsh culture in general.

"Consequently, supporters most look forward to games against traditional rivals and teams they particularly like to see beaten, rather than teams they like.

"In April 2003, it was agreed that a new structure consisting of five regional teams would best serve the future development of Welsh rugby.

"The teams comprised a union of six clubs to form three provinces, plus two other teams standing independently as regions in their own right.

"The implications of this were that clubs would no longer play top-flight rugby against each other or the leading teams of other nations.

"In a broad stroke, supporters were asked to re-align their loyalties from clubs which had been identified with for decades as the local representation of national pride to newly formed regions."

An initial survey was carried out during the 2002-03 season, the last before the new regions were established. A total of just more than 1,000 supporters from all nine premier league clubs - Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Ebbw Vale, Llanelli, Neath, Newport, Pontypridd and Swansea - responded to a questionnaire. The results showed:

Pontypridd was the team that supporters of other clubs wanted to see do well and was considered most like their own;

Cardiff was the team supporters of other clubs wanted to see beaten, and the team seen as most different from their own.

Following restructuring, a similar questionnaire was distributed for three successive years to the supporters of the new regional sides. …

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