The Ireland rugby team played out a hugely compelling test match against the reigning world champions tonight, and ultimately Ireland beat South Africa 19-16 just as supporters finished belting out the Fields of Athenry.
The atmosphere at the Aviva was pretty class, especially in the second half, though it was let down time and again by unnecessary intrusions of terribly bland pop music.
The IRFU promised this week they had plans to improve the atmosphere at the Aviva for Ireland rugby fans, and around the fourteenth minute of the match, they were revealed, when a Bruce Springsteen song blared from the stadium tannoy.
Springsteen has no rugby anthems, but the music got only worse. Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison. Happy by Pharrell Williams. I've Got A Feeling by Black Eyed Peas. It was like the songs were selected from a Spotify playlist called 'The World's Most Obvious Music'.
Worse still, the songs were only played for about five or six seconds as physios did their work or scrums got set. The music was pretty poor but it didn't even get the chance to inspire anyone.
The Aviva tannoy announcer also had a more prominent role, though it's hard to know what kind of impact this had.
Ireland rugby fans confused by music at the Aviva
Fans watching at home were not impressed.
The Aviva trying to force atmosphere with that music blaring at breaks #IREvSA
— Brian Moloney (@BaysideBrian) November 5, 2022
Someone at the Aviva picked up a copy of Now That's What I Call Music 41 in the bargain bin on their way into work
— Tom Douglas (@TomDouglas95) November 5, 2022
The Aviva really does play the worst music at the breaks, keeping the various Minions soundtracks in business #IREvSA
— Emma Kelly (@TooManyEmmas) November 5, 2022
IRFU chief commercial officer Padraig Power spoke to Gerry Thornley of the Irish Times this week about the need to improve the match day experience.
We’re all about everybody trying to find the best experience they can. It’s a really complex issue. We took some soundings after the Six Nations from a wide variety of patrons; supporters, ten-year ticket holders, club people and it was resoundingly inconclusive.
The idea behind the music came after a chorus of complaints during the Six Nations from Ireland rugby fans struggling to enjoy the game because of all the people getting up for pints. That policy would not be changed, and was again an annoyance for fans inside the stadium. A Balls.ie source at the Aviva spoke of the carnage in the aisles around the 37th minute as fans clamoured to beat the halftime pint rush.
The thing is, the atmosphere at the stadium seemed really good without any music, and grew as Ireland had a period of dominance in the third quarter. A large and vocal South African support certainly contributed to that. It didn't hurt that it was a compelling, absorbing match on a beautiful autumn's evening in Dublin 4.
But the random bursts of shopping mall classics undermined the mood the sold-out crowd created on its own. Even worse, it upheld some of the worst stereotypes about certain cohorts attending Ireland rugby internationals: that it's not an authentic following, but instead a creation of marketing and public relations.