Rugby World Cup: Chaos at French stadiums

Henry

The French authorities have already come under fire at the Rugby World Cup after some fans had problems getting into stadiums.

With the Paris Olympics less than a year away, World Cup organizers had questions about access to the stadiums in Marseille and Bordeaux.

Thousands of spectators missed the start of the Pool D clash between England and Argentina in Marseille on Saturday due to crowding outside the stadium.

A source close to the organizers said the problem arose because a large number of fans arrived at only one of the two designated entrances to the Stade VĂ©lodrome shortly before the match.

Former England rugby player Brian Moore described the scenes outside the stadium as “chaotic”.

Organizers acted quickly and World Rugby said on Sunday there would be more volunteers to welcome fans to the stadium. More public transport announcements and information on how, when and where to access the VĂ©lodrome will also be made available.

Yet the problems were not confined to Marseille.

In Bordeaux, scores of Ireland fans missed the start of their team’s 82-8 win over Romania on Saturday due to problems accessing public transport to the stadium outside the city.

One tram full of fans broke down and was delayed for 15 minutes.

According to the local TBM transport operator, some passengers on another tram pulled the emergency stop lever and also blocked the next two trams. Passengers were obliged to walk to the stadium.

TBM insisted that its services ensured that more than 20,000 travellers, which is 50% of the stadium capacity, did reach their destinations.

According to the operator, it is “normal that the trams are full for this type of event”.

Meanwhile, French prosecutors launched an investigation after an Irish fan claimed she was raped “by several perpetrators” after the match in Bordeaux on Saturday.

The tournament’s opening match between France and three-time World Cup champions New Zealand at the Stade de France on Friday was preceded by French President Emmanuel Macron, who was booed as he gave a welcome speech.

Another major embarrassment for organizers was the children’s choirs that sang national anthems before the matches.

The former Irish rugby player, Brian O’Driscoll, said several national anthems – including France’s La Marseillaise and Italy’s Fratelli d’Italia – had been mutilated.

South Africa’s captain, Siya Kolisi, was more relaxed about it and said his players sang loudly enough that the children’s choirs were not even heard.

The chaos at the stadium reminded fans of last year’s Champions League final fiasco.

In May last year, the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Paris was delayed by 37 minutes as fans struggled to get into the national stadium after police swarmed them into a cramped space walked in late.

Police then fired tear gas at thousands of Liverpool fans, who had tickets but were locked out of the stadium and were desperate to get in.