A spectator’s guide to spectating

Your first visit to a rugby match will probably come about because your child, perhaps playing in the under 11s, drags you along as he or she wants to watch the first IV in full flow. Wouldn’t we all like to see that. You will be worried that your tales of playing at the Stoop will be exposed as no more than kicking a tin can across the stands when you should have been cleaning them.

Don’t worry. Everyone plays their best rugby from the sidelines. This excludes touch-judges of course.

Your main concern will be not to make a fool of yourself by showing you have no idea of what is going to happen, and when you get there, what is going on. Do not worry. For spectators there are only two laws: do not stand so far into the pitch that there’s a player between you and the touch-line and secondly, never, but never, take your own beer to an away match.

Other than these two, easily understandable laws, you have a free hand.

I say free hand, but that is not quite correct. That would be too easy. There are all sorts of other, subtle nuances that are vital before you can fit in. For instance:

I was walking towards the club house one time along a narrow paved path that had just room for one person to pass, so about half the width of a prop (terms will be explained at the end of each blog). Coming towards me was another chap, also sticking to the path.

Either side of the path it was the normal rugby type of surface: thick, sticky mud. As we got close, and at a signal that neither of us would be able to explain, both of us took a step to the right and walked in the mud. As we passed one another we nodded slightly and then, after a couple of paces, both of us regained the path.

To any rugby fan or player, this goes without comment. Once you have been to a few matches you will know when you are accepted when you do the same sort of thing without thinking. Without thinking is the main way anyone does anything at a rugby match. This includes all spectators, players and officials.

Choosing your spot

Unlike other forms of football you do not have the problem of only being able to stand with supporters of your own side. Opposing fans do not oppose in rugby. They tend to mix. This can be confusing if you are unsure of which side your are supporting. This is something you should establish at an early stage. However, it is often not that simple.

My club is called The Blues. You might think this would give a clue as to what colour jerseys – note: jerseys, not tops or pullies – they will be wearing but you would be wrong. Despite all the team photographs showing the team dressed in various designs of kit, in all of which the dominant colour was, well you’ve guessed it.

However, it doesn’t matter all that much as there are different expectations of spectators in rugby than in any other sport.

Clapping is big. You will be surprised to find that most spectators, regardless of team affiliation, will applaud when a player does something rather special or, lower down the leagues, does something. It is best to follow suit. The reasons for this are often obscure and might amount to nothing more than the chap on the end trying to warm his hands and everyone just thought they had missed something.

You will see a player on the ground, possibly unconscious, suffering after a hard tackle. He will be brought round and then walked to the side lines (on the assumption that the coach still has replacements available with the necessary skills). The crowd, whichever side they are supporting, will applaud.

This is not to acknowledge how clever the opposing player was to nearly kill him. It is just to rub it in to the guy how wimpish he is not to continue playing after being knocked out or having his leg broken.

So there we have it: drink alcohol you bought at the bar, don’t get involved in the scrums and just do the same as everyone else. You’ll fit in with no problems.

More details to follow.