Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rugby Food

I took the opportunity to watch the Under-20 World Cup Rugby at Chichinobu-no-miya Stadium recently. This is a reasonable facility - it's not the best in the world, but neither is it the worst. Except for the catering arrangements, which are deplorable.

First, the beer. It's served warm, in paper cups. Now you would think that even ex-front row forwards would understand that beer looks better in clear containers (preferably glass, although I understand that this wouldn't work very well at a sports venue). Nope - chug-a-lug it in wax coated paper cups seems to be the Japan Rugby Union's approach. [Note: However, the beer is served cold in glasses in the JRFU's HQ next to the ground].

Second, other beverages. Modern sports events are all about attracting affluent fans hopefully from both genders. You want women at the ground, enjoying the game and the facilities - right? After all, this will encourage men to be interested as well ... and those women are the mothers of the next generation of players. The whole idea of entertainment seems to have escaped the operators of Chichinobu - not only the facilities for the fairer sex simply despicable, but there's no wine or other drinks available. OK, maybe some chuhai.

Now the food. Imagine the world's worst cheese burger, say a reject from the McDonalds' cooking school. Or a limp weiner on a bun that is neither hot nor remotely meaty to the taste. Pre-package these hours before the game ... and then serve them cold! As an alternative, offer Pocky.

For the love of all that's precious - get the ground operators out to some sports facilities in other countries. Sheesh, I'll pay for it if necessary! With a very large mallet, drive it into peoples' heads that the catering at an event (a four hour event on this occasion) is up to 49% of the experience. Encourage catering vans to compete with one another at the ground (think Lords). Offer training and financial rewards for crowd-pleasing vendors (think MCG). Do whatever is necessary, but please oh please bring some sanity and sensitivity to the table.

If only the little lords at the JRFU could understand that the game and the event is all about entertainment instead of a little nostaglia about boys-own adventures, drinking water out of a kettle, and a catering experience reminiscent of cold and wet days spent on the training field. Make the venue and the facilities competitive with other enterainment options.

Then the game would grow, and a Japanese bid for the World Cup might be more of a serious option for the IRB.