For Martyn and Emma Jones, this should have been a month to remember, with their seven-year-old son Tomos attending his first Wales autumn international campaign.
But, instead, they have been left with a bitter taste in their mouths because of the drunken, foul-mouthed and anti-social behaviour they encountered at the Principality Stadium.
Debenture holder Martyn, a fan of some 40 years who has been to more than 300 Wales games, took his son to the first three matches against New Zealand, South Africa and Fiji.
He was uncomfortable with some of the things Tomos had to hear and experience in those games, but things came to a head during Saturday’s clash with Australia.
Martyn was in one part of the ground with clients while Tomos was with his mother in another section.
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Mum Emma, who herself has been attending Wales matches for more than 20 years, takes up the story.
“The behaviour of many people around us was appalling,” she tells WalesOnline.
“I felt there was an underlying tension as a few groups were arguing about trivial matters which accumulated with the most foul-mouthed five-minute rant I have ever heard in a match.
“Add to that, you had the spilling of drinks, people falling over, someone so intoxicated they were sleeping in the row.
“Some women were so drunk they were up and down at least 10 times in the first half alone.
“My toilet visit at the end of the match was like a nightclub at 2am with vomit all over the toilet and cubicle.
“Not the nicest experience for anyone, let alone a young child.
“The WRU called the behaviour of the man who vomited over the little boy at the game an isolated incident, but it certainly wasn’t from our experience.
“It really upset me on Saturday to think that Tomos had to be exposed to such awful and inconsiderate behaviour.
“He’s a little boy who absolutely loves his rugby and he should be allowed to enjoy the experience just like everyone else.
“In the four games this autumn, he has witnessed drunken behaviour, foul language, vomiting, constant disruption and confrontation.
“Sadly the genuine rugby supporter is being totally discarded for those who turn up to the odd game and have absolutely no respect for those around them. I’d much rather a football crowd now.”
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Martyn, a chartered surveyor from Sketty, Swansea, feels the time has come for the WRU to take action.
“Saturday was my 314th game watching Wales live over the past 40 years,” he said.
“The behaviour now is the worst I can recall it in the stadium.
“There has been a definite deterioration and I am genuinely concerned.
“I just feel the behaviour of the last four weeks is as bad as it’s ever been.
“It used to be an enjoyable day out, but I just feel the atmosphere has changed.
“I think people see it as a licence just to get absolutely smashed.
“We haven’t got the rugby fan of 20, 30 years ago.
“You go to away grounds and, obviously people are drinking, but you are not seeing this drunkenness and threat of violence.
“You don’t see it in the Stade de France. When you go to Twickenham, people obviously drink in the car park, but they are not coming in absolutely blotto.
“You don’t have the volume of drunk people which we are attracting because of the central location in Cardiff.
“When the WRU are saying they have three checks of people coming in to check if they are drunk, I can tell you as a paying punter that is absolute rubbish.
“You can’t blame the stewards because they don’t want to get involved in any physical confrontation.
“They are too scared to intervene when there is some big bloke causing problems.”
Reflecting on this autumn campaign, Martyn said: “For the first three games, I was with my son and I felt uncomfortable with some of things he was having to hear and experience.
“On Saturday, I took clients of mine to the match. All six of us love our rugby and we are there to watch the game.
“We had to get up in our row 25 times during the match to let people through for drinks and to go to the toilet.
“I walked out of that ground and we should have been ecstatic with the win, but the six of us were all flat.
“Then I met up with my wife and asked her how it went and she said the behaviour was absolutely disgusting around her.
“She said the people either side of her were all drunk coming in and that there was a guy behind her and my son who was just constantly using the ‘f word’.
“Now I can swear with the best of them, but I never swear in front of children. I was just thinking ‘where is this going?'”
Martyn, a former player who now coaches Mumbles Under-8s, says he is deeply concerned and fears for the future.
“I was listening to the story about the six-year-old who was vomited on at the game and I got upset, thinking that could have been my son,” he said.
“It’s not just rugby, it’s society. We have this massive drinking culture.
“But the behaviour in the stadium is a major, major concern.
“I care massively about Welsh rugby and I am genuinely worried. We are on a slippery slope.
“When I speak to rugby people, a lot of them are saying ‘I’m not going because of the hassle’.
“I think we have got a danger that we are putting off a generation of fans coming through the turnstiles.
“I genuinely feel that something major is going to happen in that stadium. It only needs a spark to kick things off.
“I believe there was a bit of a confrontation near the press box during the South Africa match.
“A couple of games ago, a man fell on a couple from two rows behind. You could break somebody’s neck doing that.
“It’s safer now to take my son to watch Wales play football. You can go to the Cardiff City Stadium and there is no violence. The atmosphere and the support is totally different.
“In the football, you are not allowed to drink during the game, you can only drink in the concourse. If you are in a VIP box, you have got to shut the curtains so alcohol can’t be seen.
“I think the WRU are so desperate for the money, that’s why they don’t want to shut the bars.
“But they have got to do something.
“We are on the downward slide at the moment and the Union have to get their act together.
“I think the bars should be shut during the game.”
Contacted for a response, the WRU gave us the following statement.
“In excess of 275,000 fans have attended the Autumn Nations Series games and the vast majority of fans enjoy themselves in a responsible and considerate way,” a spokesperson said.
“We are very proud of this stadium; it’s regarded as one of the best by players and fans who come here from all over the world, and we implore anyone who visits this great stadium to enjoy themselves but do so responsibly and with respect for others.
“It is policy for our staff to intervene if people are visibly intoxicated – this happens in three main areas: the turnstiles where people can be denied entry, at the point of sale if they try and buy alcohol and in the stadium bowl.”
WRU chief executive Steve Phillips
(Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)
The WRU also pointed us in the direction of comments from chief executive Steve Phillips in the match programme for the Australia game.
He said: “Over a quarter of a million will have successfully and safely passed through Principality Stadium turnstiles by kick-off for the series climax against the Wallabies.
“That, amongst these, a small minority have attempted to spoil the party through a lack of respect for others is disappointing to what has been a hugely successful return of spectators to international rugby in Cardiff, after the hiatus of the pandemic.
“We recognise that we are talking to a small minority and that we have to thank the majority who attend events at Principality Stadium for helping to both create and preserve the reputation for excellence that we have today.
“We all, the tens of thousands of us at Principality Stadium today, have a collective responsibility to protect and enhance that reputation, under no circumstances, threaten it.
“There has always been a minority element in any crowd that may wish to flout convention but, if this is you, I implore you please to (a) not join us or (b) fight this self-serving urge.
“We will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour towards any of the many people who work on ‘match day’, to allow us all to enjoy the Principality Stadium spectacle. Please respect our staff. Enjoy a beverage with friends and family, but please drink responsibly.”
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