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Opinion: Is it Right to Wear Neutral Colours to a Heineken Cup Final?

Opinion: Is it Right to Wear Neutral Colours to a Heineken Cup Final?
By Cian Tracey
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This Saturday Dublin hosts its third Heineken Cup final and its first since 2003. Two French teams competed for European rugby's most coveted trophy that day and ten years later we have a similar scenario.

Clermont Auvergne take on Toulon at the Aviva stadium, a first time final appearance for both clubs. Come seven o'clock Saturday evening the Heineken Cup will have a new name etched on the trophy for the first time since Leinster's success in 2009.

With plenty of fans snapping up final tickets when they first went on sale twelve months ago, there has been a whole host of people looking to off load theirs as their team has failed to reach the final. As is always the case there will be a large number of neutral fans in attendance - this year more than most perhaps.

Clermont fans will travel to Dublin in their noisy and colourful hoards as they did last December when they faced Leinster in the pool stages of the competition. While the number of Toulon supporters is expected to be significantly smaller. Nevertheless, it promises to be an exciting game and another great Heineken Cup occasion.

In the run up to Saturday's final, an interesting debate has cropped up - is right to wear another teams colours to a Heineken Cup final?

Personally, I don't have an issue with it. The Heineken Cup final is a massive occasion for European rugby and is a celebration of a competition that continues to grow in stature and popularity.


There is nothing quite like the buzz around the city on a Heineken Cup final day. Dublin has plenty of events organised for fans of both clubs but their invitation is rightfully extended to all rugby supporters, regardless of who you support.

One of the main things that separates rugby supporters from fans of other sports like soccer is the camaraderie and sportsmanship (I refuse to use that dreaded B word!) amongst different sets of supporters. Irregardless of the final result, you can be certain that supporters of both teams will be seen together, discussing and debating the final result over a drink.


Speaking from experience, there is never an edge to the atmosphere surrounding supporters on Heineken Cup final day. This Saturday will be the sixth final that I have attended. Not once have I come across supporters' rivalry spilling over the top. I have however come across supporters of a particular Irish team, take exception to fans of another (non-playing) Irish team for wearing their side's jersey to the final.


Is this right or does it go against the whole ethos of that special bond between rugby fans?

Personally, I think that there is something quite special about seeing supporters of teams from all over Europe coming together. It won't just be Irish province's jerseys that will be seen scattered around the Aviva Stadium on Saturday but also English, Scottish, Welsh and French - all coming together to celebrate the game they love so much.

When Dublin last hosted the all French Heineken Cup final there were 28,000 people inside Lansdowne Road. That number is expected to much higher this year and this will largely be down to the number of neutral fans filling the empty seats. An occasion as big as this, deserves a full house.


Clermont & Munster fans come together. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

There are of course times when supporters of teams not competing in the final can cause bitterness amongst those desperate for tickets to watch their team play on Europe's biggest stage. There have been several finals which have been an instant sell out and tickets have become like gold dust. Whether it is right for neutrals to be in attendance over supporters is anther matter entirely.

But the fact remains that the Heineken Cup final has become so big that fans will look to beat the inevitable rush for tickets almost a year in advance. For me, anyone that does so, has as much right as anyone to take their seat and in doing so can wear whatever jersey they chose to.


I don't buy the argument that by supporters wearing their teams colours to a Heineken Cup final, they are blatantly looking to rile those that are playing. If for instance you were to wear another team's jersey to Wembley on FA Cup final day, you are asking for trouble. This has never been the case in rugby and this is what makes that bond between supporters so unique. If rugby were to lose that, it would lose one of its main appeals.

If for example an Irish province was taking on an English club, would it be so wrong for neutrals from either country to wear their own colours? It is not a direct jibe at the opposition. If anything it displays your support for Irish or English rugby, whatever the case my be.

This weekend, Dublin will be be awash with French colour and flair. Don't be surprised to see plenty of other European jerseys mixing with both Clermont and Toulon fans. But rather than frown upon those who opt to show their colours, remember that this is what separates rugby from the rest. This is what makes the Heineken Cup so special.


Cian Tracey is a freelance sports journalist currently writing for The Irish Independent, Examiner, The Sun and Balls.ie.

Follow him on Twitter.

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