FRASER BROWN has urged Glasgow Warriors fans to put aside their frustration at the absence of Friday night home matches during the first 10 rounds of the upcoming United Rugby Championship season in order to get behind the team.
A key strand of the club’s marketing strategy since the earliest days of professionalism has been the idea of supporters starting their weekend by watching a game at Scotstoun, but the only fixture in that slot for Warriors at the moment is their campaign opener away to Ulster on the 24th September.
Up to the end of January, Warriors will play five of their six home URC matches on a Saturday, while the Scotstoun leg of their 1872 Cup double-header against Edinburgh will be on Monday 27th December.
The fixture list was unveiled late last week, immediately prompting a social media backlash, with some fans threatening to give-up their season passes because Saturday games don’t fit into their established routines.
Recognising the level of unrest, Glasgow Warriors managing director Al Kellock posted a statement on the club’s website over the weekend.
“The choice you now face to be involved in the grassroots game throughout Glasgow, and the West, or to support Glasgow Warriors is not a decision we want you to have,” he said. “You, our rugby clubs, and the communities you serve are the lifeblood of this club and we would not be where we are today without you.
“Since receiving the schedule on Wednesday we have been, and continue to be, in discussions with the United Rugby Championship to understand what can be done to address the challenges that arise from these timings. I can assure you we are working hard alongside the URC and will continue to do so in the coming weeks, to find resolutions.”
While it is highly unlikely that the kick-off times for any of the 10 rounds of fixtures announced so far can be moved, Warriors are now under pressure to push hard for a return of Friday night rugby for the final eight rounds of matches. However, the fact that Scotland’s teams don’t have a free-to-air broadcast partner means it is going to be an uphill battle because television money is king in modern professional rugby.
Looking at the bigger picture
Asked for the his take-on the situation, Brown said that he hopes fans can look at the bigger picture.
“There was a lot said over the weekend and it is a pretty complicated issue with the league,” he said. “I know Al and guys at Murrayfield are talking about it just now, so I don’t know too much apart from what has been in the press.
“For us [players] it is nice to be back playing rugby, it is nice to have fans here in for the first time in 18 months. This time there will be a lot of Saturday afternoons so hopefully we will have a lot of families here which will be really good for us in terms of trying to grow the sport.
“There is nothing we can do about when the fixtures are at the start of the season but that could change for the last eight or nine fixtures of the season, so we’ll see.
“Friday night games are special in that they are just different as they are under lights, but I think a lot of the guys here prefer playing on a Saturday afternoon because it is more of a regular thing in terms of your pre-match routine,” he added.
“Personally, I am excited as we haven’t had fans here for 18 months. My wife and wee boy – who is a year-and-a-half – haven’t been able to see me play, so Saturday afternoon fixtures are great for them as they can pop along and support us for the first time ever.
“It is what it is. We are all just looking forward to the start of the season and to getting back to the stadium.”
Brown pointed out that fans will at least get one chance to see the team in that Friday slot, with Warriors hosting Newcastle Falcons in their first pre-season match this coming weekend – although he admitted that that game, and the following weekend’s trip to Worcester, will lack the intensity of a regular season fixture.
“They’re going to be about trying to blend some new systems on the pitch – some new players and new combinations we’ve got – and giving everyone meaningful game-time,” he said.
“It’s a long season and they are going to be very difficult competitions this season, both the league and in Europe. There are some brilliant teams that have come into the league this year – with the addition of the four South African sides – and it really is going to be a full squad effort. Almost every single person is going to have to play quite a big role.”
Good cop – bad cop
Brown will once again co-captain the side alongside Ryan Wilson, and he believes that continuity in on-field leadership can help the side continue the progress they started to make at the tail-end of last season after a disappointing start to the campaign.
“Ryan and I have two different personalities, which I think works pretty well,” he said. “I think we did a pretty good job last year in terms of trying to hold everything together. It was difficult because sometimes things were being thrown at us in the morning and then it was completely different in the afternoon. But our sole focus towards the end of the season and into this year was on the squad and the people we have here, players and staff, trying to make sure we all came together and enjoy what we do every day.
“There will be times when there needs to be a bit of good cop and bad cop and I think we do that pretty well together. We dovetail pretty well. There are things Ryan is really good and strong at and there are things that I am as well. We have both developed an awareness of what we are good at and what we need support with.
“Nothing is ever perfect. I don’t think our relationship will never be perfect. It’s something we are constantly learning about each other, learning how to do the job the best we can together. It’s going to be another exciting year learning and leading with each other and hopefully getting a bit more success on the pitch than we did last year.”
Asked who is the ‘good cop’, he replied: “Ryan is a very bubbly character. When we have new guys coming in Ryan is the guy who is front and centre, wanting to find out about them. He plays a brilliant role in pulling everyone together around here. He is a brilliant guy and it doesn’t matter whether it’s your first day or you have been here for 10 years. He is the same for everyone, his personality is infectious, and he breeds a lot of goodwill throughout the squad.
“He is a guy who can put his arm round anyone. We have loads of characters who can do that, but Ryan does it better than anyone I’ve seen.
“On the pitch it tends to be me who talks a bit more about standards and is a bit hard on people, but that’s probably just my natural grumpiness coming out.”