Hard News by Russell Brown


Back to mediocrity

I'm not bitter about the fact that the year that some mates and I finally got together and buy some good Super 15 season tickets, the Blues began by falling apart. That key players have suffered season-ending injuries and that the remaining members of the team don't appear to have a clue how to win games. They they have led each of their home games this season at the 79th minute and still somehow contrived to lose. Well, not much.

You take your lumps as a fan. I'm more disappointed at the quality of the experience of attending at a match at Eden Park. Part of the justification for the public millions lavished on the park was that they would give Auckland a world-class venue for the years ahead.

The reality is that in the midst of the year's key professional tournament, Eden Park is hosting games without a clock or a scoreboard. Well, yes, there is some tiny, more-or-less-visible text giving the time and score in the top corner of the two big video screens. But that's part of the television picture. When did it become unnecessary for a major rugby ground to offer an actual clock and scoreboard for people who've paid to be there?

The ground announcements are little better. A ground announcer's key role is to keep the crowd up to date with what's happening during a match. Yet players came and went without announcement during Friday night's Blues and Hurricanes match. I think at least one try-scorer went unacknowledged.

We'd been puzzled at the Crusaders game when, with our season tickets slung in lanyards around our necks, we were directed away from the logical entrance in the back of the ASB stand, down to the turnstiles at the far end. There, the efficient systems that operated during Rugby World Cup matches had somehow become confused and confusing, yet with a far smaller crowd.

So on Friday, we just rocked up to the gate in the stand. There was a man there prepared to let us in -- but he couldn't. The bar code readers adopted as part of the World Cup upgrade couldn't read the bar codes on our tickets. An older gent appeared and had a bit more luck. It transpires that the transparent plastic coverings in which season tickets have been sold this season defeat the bar code readers. So you'll either have to remove your ticket from its lanyard entirely, or wait patiently through repeated attempts to get the reader to do its thing.

I won't make an issue of the fact that the rail link to the ground failed on Friday evening because someone's poor pet dog ran on the tracks -- for as long as we don't have a proper rail loop, those things are going to happen. Steven Joyce.

And the ground administrators can hardly be blamed for the way that Steve Walsh let the game's momentum drain away in a series of stoppages (sometimes with the clock still ticking). Fortunately, the young women sitting behind us filled the entertainment gap with a steady stream of commentary on the game, their boyfriends and whatever.

But the experience of a friend of mine on the same night illustrated the ease with which Eden Park has fallen back into mediocrity. Along with another mum, she took several small children to the match. She volunteered to get food, even granting the wish for hot dogs (it's not as if there are healthy options anyway). She waited and got her hot dogs, drinks and chips stacked high on an unmanageable tray which, inevitably, spilled all over the place on the way back.

And then, when she finally got back to the kids and and handed out the hot dogs, they were inedible. They were, in fact, frozen inside. The amateur-hour administration of our premium sports ground is really quite pervasive.

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