New stadium regulations for international matches could be the final nail in the coffin for Newlands Rugby Stadium.
A report in the media on Thursday highlighted new safety regulations that have been enforced by the International Rugby Board (IRB) for all stadiums looking to host international rugby games. According to the new regulations, a stadium may only host international fixtures if it qualified for a safety and grading certificate which will only be issued if all the criteria are met.
Some of the criteria included fire safety systems, detailed evacuation processes and plans in cases of emergency and strict security measures including the instillation of CCTV cameras.
SARU’s game operations manager, Steven Roos, said the cost of implementing the minimum safety and security requirements would simply be too high.
This is particularly bad news for two of South Africa’s famous stadiums, Mr. Price Kings Park in Durban and Newlands Rugby Stadium in Cape Town. While stadiums like Loftus (Pretoria), Ellis Park/Coca Cola Park (Johannesburg) and the Free State Stadium (Bloemfontein) all underwent extensive renovations and upgrades to comply with FIFA’s strict regulations when South Africa hosted the Soccer World Cup in 2010, the two coastal stadiums were untouched as it was decided to rather build two brand new stadiums namely the Moses Mabida Stadium in Durban, and Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town.
It has been well documented in both cases how the cities of Durban and Cape Town wanted the two rugby unions to move to the new modern stadiums but in both cases this has been met by stern resistance from the respective rugby unions, citing among other things the financial viability of such a move (WP Rugby owns Newlands Rugby Stadium).
While the mood in Durban seems to have settled on this issue, the battle between the City of Cape Town and WP Rugby Union only intensified reaching a climax in the recent Saracens debacle where a European Cup match was cancelled because the two parties could not come to terms on where the match would be hosted.
What complicates matters for the WP Rugby Union, who is largely viewed as the best supported union when it comes to crowd attendance, is that they last hosted a tier 1 nation (France) in a test in 2010 (during the Soccer World Cup) and before that 2009 when they hosted Australia. This year the Cape Town faithful can only expect Tri-Nations newcomers (now The Championship Trophy), Argentina.
Some of the biggest criticisms of Newlands Rugby Stadium is its poor location which makes access to it a nightmare, as-well as the deteriorating infrastructure at the stadium (concession stands and bathrooms) with its narrow and crowded access points and corridors which can easily take you up to 15 minutes to locate your seat (let alone evacuating thousands in minutes).
While SARU have submitted their concerns over the new regulations one has the feeling that should these be strictly enforced, it could well spell the end for the iconic stadium.