The Welsh Rugby Union will shut bars for half of each match in this year’s Guinness Six Nations Championship at Principality Stadium – as it trials a number of new measures to fine-tune a matchday experience famous the world over.

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The move comes as the WRU addresses reports of anti-social behaviour and associated complaints during the Autumn Nations Series games earlier this season.

A number of high-profile incidents, including two intrusions onto the pitch in consecutive matches, were accompanied by some reporting of poor behaviour in the 74,000 seater venue.

It is important to note that issues reported only concern the behaviour of a small minority of supporters in attendance, but the WRU has embraced the feedback and – also informed by an extensive customer survey taken after each game – acted to ensure its world-wide reputation for offering supporters the very best matchday experience continues to be upheld.

A series of measures, which include closing food & beverage outlets in all concourses after half-time in all three home matches against Scotland, France and then Italy, have been put in place on a trial basis for the 2022 Championship and will be subject to an ongoing review.

Pre-match messaging on all WRU channels and in-house stadium messages will emphasis responsible drinking, positive behaviour and consideration of others. Lower percentage alcohol draught beer will also be phased into bars on concourses, with official brewer Heineken International bringing in 4.1% ABV Amstel Bier to eventually replace the stronger Heineken (5%) product.

Stadium stewarding teams will be addressing poor behaviour with increased vigour, but the most important measure is a call to all supporters to take responsibility for their own actions.

WRU CEO Steve Phillips has called on supporters to show pride in Principality Stadium and the welcome it provides to visiting fans from around the globe – to show the hospitality, offer a warm Welsh welcome and help create the atmosphere Welsh rugby is famous for.

“We want our supporters to remain passionate and enthused and to continue to bring their best voices to the Principality Stadium – throughout the recent pandemic it is our supporters who we, and the Wales team, have missed most – but we also need them to behave responsibly and to encourage those around them to do the same,” said Phillips.

“We have taken a series of measures which are designed to change a direction of travel from some quarters which was detected at our Autumn Nations Series matches, but do so without negatively impacting the experience of a hardcore and hugely significant base of supporters who make the Principality Stadium experience what it is. ”

The WRU was the first Union to introduce a recognised Alcohol Free Zone (AFZ) in 2018 as it listened a vocal customer-base calling for a more family orientated experience.

The 4,200 capacity AFZ, a self-contained area in the North Stand, has been made a permanent fixture at Wales matches and is popular, but is not oversubscribed if matches don’t reach capacity.

This is one example of the balancing act the WRU must perform in order to satisfy all supporters attending Principality Stadium. Another example is the customer surveys completed by thousands of fans after each match in the Autumn Nations Series.

“We know from our customer surveys that our food and beverage offering is an important part of the enjoyment of international rugby for many supporters, for 10s of thousands of supporters in fact,” said Principality Stadium manager Mark Williams.

“But we have listened carefully to all customer feedback and conducted our own extensive surveys and we will be trialling a number of new measures which we hope will encourage improved behaviour from the recognised minority at matches who risk spoiling the experience for those around them.

“There is a balancing act at play here. A safe and positive experience for all fans is of primary importance, but we are also acutely aware that actions can have unintended consequences so will be watching closely.

“We have a global reputation for excellence in terms of our matchday experience at Principality Stadium and we are trialling these measures to both enhance and protect that reputation.

“We constantly review our customer offering and we will look carefully at the effects of these new measures and evolve our match day experience accordingly.

“It is incredibly important to us that supporters enjoy their visit to Principality Stadium and we will continue to do all that we can to ensure this is the case for all.”

The surveys tell the WRU that drinking socially at rugby matches is an important part of the event experience for many attendees. Everyone enjoys a beer and a bite to eat with family and friends during international weekends and long may that continue.

And it is not clear that/if there is a causal relationship between alcohol consumption and any poor behaviour at matches, with other factors like kick-off times to consider.

So the trial is expected to reveal more and could equally lead to more or less or different measures.

“Customers who filled out our surveys gave us an eight out of ten rating for their overall experience, which is a very high score in industry terms,” added Williams.

“This tells us we are doing a lot right, but we have had higher scores in the past and we, of course, would always look to improve in the future.

“There is evidence, some of which has commanded significant media coverage, that crowd behaviour at some matches has been a problem in some areas.

“We feel that there are improvements that can be made and we would like to do all we can to aid that process, but we do need supporters to help us out and work with us to achieve our aims.

“That means reporting poor behaviour to stewards and also looking in the mirror and making sure you are acting in a reasonable way from the perspective of those around you.

“Watching rugby at Principality Stadium should be one of the most enjoyable experiences you ever have, it is a once in a lifetime event for many and an annual pilgrimage for dedicated fans.

“The last thing we want to do is get in the way of people’s enjoyment, but we think these new measures will help ensure the greatest number of visitors have the very best time. Most importantly, they are entirely open to review so we will be listening to all feedback during the Six Nations and we will properly consider the evidence and react accordingly if necessary.”

Principality Stadium hospitality staff and stewards already operate the Challenge 21 system and will refuse service and/or entry to the ground to individuals who do not meet the required behavioural standards, including those who are intoxicated. This element of the stewarding role will be re-emphasised at upcoming matches, with South Wales Police also on hand, as they always are, to support should any issues arise.

A code of conduct for visitors to Principality Stadium will also be re-emphasised in direct communications via the WRU’s digital ticket app, with in-ground messaging designed to encourage positive behaviour.

“We were the first stadium to introduce an Alcohol Free Zone and we will continue to innovate as we seek to offer the very best experience possible to all visitors to Cardiff,” WRU CEO Steve Phillips.

“These measures are not radical, but they do seek to address an issue that has been recently recognised and it is my commitment to all Wales supporters that we will not stop, and we will continue to evolve, until this issue is eradicated.

“We have always boasted that we have the best supporters in the world game in Wales and we firmly believe that this remains the case.

“We recognise that these trial measures will be welcomed by some fans, others will feel that we’ve either gone too far or done too little; we recognise and acknowledge everyone’s point of view, but these measures are about getting the right balance for all our fans to ensure they enjoy a great stadium experience during the upcoming Six Nations

“So, the most significant measure we can take is a call to arms to Welsh supporters – to appeal to them to help us and to be a part of the solution while the eyes of the world our on our great nation.”

Whilst alcohol will not be served during the second half of the game, supporters will still be able to free drinking water stations throughout the stadium.