I should have mentioned this before really, but, having attracted a crowd of just over 2,000 for their last match at Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff Blues took the decision to switch their matches with Connacht and Ulster to their old home of Cardiff Arms Park and were rewarded with a couple of wins as well as an increase of 400% in attendance figures. Speaking as someone who has always enjoyed rugby and who watched hundreds of Cardiff RFC games down the years, it was good to watch last night’s 21-14 win over Ulster on the telly and see some entertaining play as the Blues attacked their favourite Westgate Street end in the second half.
The return to the Arms Park has to be seen as a success in playing and attendance terms for the club (in the short term at least) and it’s hard to see crowds sinking as low as they did for those last few matches at Cardiff City Stadium, but, in truth, the switch of venues says so much about the state of regional and club rugby in Wales at a time when the national side is prospering. It’s fairly obvious that the majority of Blues supporters are glad to be back playing in the City centre and I have to agree that the Arms Parks’ central location is a definite plus. However, speaking as someone who has been making the trek to the wilds of Sloper Road a couple of miles away to watch the City’s football team play for nearly fifty years, the way some of their long term support reacted to the move to Cardiff City Stadium does seem akin to chucking toys out of the pram.
Although I accept we are talking about a different side now, I still believe that the old Cardiff are the best club side in the world mentality which used to baffle me in the seventies and eighties when I came across it at games still exists. Apart from a brief spell in the mid eighties when they did have a really good team, I can’t remember any time when this claim had a grain of truth to it, but I suspect it related as much to off field as on field matters. However, one thing the move back to Cardiff Arms Park makes perfectly clear is that, no such claim can be made now – having to go back to their old stamping ground which was deemed as obsolete by those who said there was no alternative to ground sharing with the City is a humiliation for many at the Blues. The pathetic crowds they got at the new stadium while the City were playing in front of near full houses reflect very poorly on Blues’ administrators and supporters alike – an awful lot of people are having to eat humble pie now, but, as long as the City keep on getting what they are entitled to under the terms of the twenty year rental agreement, I see the probable return of the Blues to the Arms Park on a permanent basis as good news for the football club.