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Early warning for Wales fans

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‘GATES open at 11.30am… get in early!’ – that’s the message coming from Principality Stadium ahead of Wales’ Under Armour Series second round clash with Georgia tomorrow, Saturday (November 18).

The first game of the series, against Australia last weekend, was also the first rugby match played at Wales’ national ground under newly enhanced security measures, brought in in April 2017.

The stadium has been operating a strict search policy for all visitors since that time and it has successfully hosted a string of major events – from the UEFA Champions League Final, World Heavyweight Title boxing (Joshua v Takam), back-to-back Coldplay concerts, Justin Bieber, Robbie Williams and the British Speedway Grand Prix – with hundreds of thousands of fans passing through turnstiles.

But, with rugby the staple diet at Principality Stadium, the first UA Series match brought new challenges as fans arrived at the ground en masse within 45 minutes of kick-off as they have been used to doing for rugby matches in the past.

“To allow for the increased security checks, we have doubled the amount of time that the stadium is open prior to kick-off from 90 minutes to three hours and broadcast this message as widely as possible,” said Principality Stadium manager Mark Williams.

“Despite these efforts, only 10% of ticket holders arrived at the stadium in the first hour-and-a-half of opening last weekend.

“As such, regrettably, the surge in arrivals later than we had advised slowed entry to the stadium, meaning some attendees missed the kick-off.”

Williams, who has run Principality Stadium – which is owned and operated by the Welsh Rugby Union – since September 2013 is determined to ensure supporters this weekend learn quickly from the experience.

Once again there will be additional entertainment around the concourses from the time of gates opening (11.30am) and early bird deals on food and beverages, for those supporters who get in early.

“One of the key things for fans to understand is that if you arrive early, the likelihood is that you will get in quicker and, conversely, the later you leave it the longer you may be in a queue and the greater the risk of you missing kick-off,” said the former lieutenant colonel in The Royal Welsh.

“Enhanced security has been in place at all events at Principality Stadium since April 2017. The sole intent is enhanced safety and security for fans attending the stadium, taking into account the current security climate and more specifically UK terror threat levels.”

Personal searches form only part of the comprehensive measures in place at the stadium, together with safety officers and South Wales Police, all entry points are continually monitored throughout the day.

South Wales Police stress there is no specific threat to Cardiff.  Principality Stadium routinely works very closely with the Police and the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit to deliver appropriate security measures for all major events.

11.11.17 Wales v Australia – Under Armour 2017 Series –
Players of Wales are welcomed by fans as they arrive at The Stadium

Key messages ahead of Wales v Georgia this Saturday:

–              Gates open at 11.30am

–              Roads close from 11.00am

–              The earlier you arrive the quicker you will get in/the later you arrive the longer it will take and the greater the risk of you missing kick-off

–              Principality Stadium Gates are open three hours early, instead of 90 minutes early, because of the extra security measures.  Please plan your trip to the stadium accordingly

–              Check your tickets and Gate details, remember access to the stadium is 360 degrees, not all gates face the city centre and some take longer to walk to than others

Williams added: “We strongly urge fans to assist us in maintaining a safe and secure stadium by getting in early and leaving large bags and umbrellas at home to avoid unnecessary delays and disappointment.”

To assist with match-day planning, Cardiff Council and local travel providers have published the necessary information for supporters to arrange travel plans to and from the venue in advance.

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Nigel Owens hosts virtual rugby quiz for Pembroke Panthers

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PEMBROKE Panthers RFC enjoyed a rugby return during lockdown after winning a competition which saw international referee Nigel Owens host their own virtual clubhouse quiz, thanks to Principality Building Society.

The women’s squad at the Pembroke club beat more than 1000 entries to win Principality’s Clubhouse Quiz competition. With many clubs affected by widespread flooding at the start of this year and now closed indefinitely due to coronavirus, the building society is continually looking for ways to support grassroots rugby clubs in Wales.

Pembroke Panther Lucy Neale, 30, entered her team with the hope of bringing the players together online. She said: “We’d usually see each other up to five times a week between training sessions, matches and socials, so it’s been a really strange time. I thought I’d enter the club thinking it would be a nice pick-me-up for us all, but never actually expected to win so it was an amazing surprise.”

The team were tested on their rugby knowledge by world cup referee Nigel Owens over video conferencing platform Zoom, where players won tickets to Welsh internationals at Principality Stadium, signed rugby shirts and balls, and tickets for a tour around Principality Stadium. The quiz included a guest appearance from former Welsh international Tom Shanklin.

Lucy continued: “It was such a memorable and special evening for us all. We’re usually quite a lively bunch but we behaved well for Nigel. We’re so thankful to Principality for putting on the quiz and allowing us to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience as a team.”

As sponsors of Principality Stadium and the National Youth Leagues for grassroots clubs in Wales, Principality has a strong relationship with the Welsh Rugby Union and knows how much rugby means to communities across the country. With matches on hold currently, the building society wanted to be able to bring the buzz of the clubhouse to the home.

Clubhouse Quiz host, Nigel Owens, said: “Principality’s Clubhouse Quiz was a fantastic way to bring one team closer together and Pembroke Panthers really showed off their rugby knowledge. Rugby plays such an important role in Welsh communities and I know they’ll be missing the action on the field right now, so it was lovely to have been part of this experience to bring this team together. Thankfully, I didn’t have to sin bin any of them either.”

Julie-Ann Haines, Chief Customer Officer at Principality Building Society, said: “Many rugby clubs across Wales have had a really difficult year, with flood damage to pitches and clubhouses now followed by coronavirus. This was our chance to recreate the camaraderie of the clubhouse for one team and we hope that it brought plenty of laughs and memorable moments for Pembroke Panthers at this challenging time.”

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Wales v Scotland postponed

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WALES’ Six Nations match at home to Scotland on Saturday has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The two other Six Nation fixtures had already been postponed and no date has been confirmed to complete the 2020 Championship.

The Welsh Rugby Union had insisted earlier on Friday the game would “go ahead as planned”.

A WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the National Assembly for Wales and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue.

“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries.

“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days.

“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”

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Domestic football at all levels in Wales suspended

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THE FOOTBALL Association of Wales has today (13 March) taken the decision to suspend domestic football at all levels in Wales with immediate effect until April 4 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The intention at this time will be to resume the football schedule depending on the medical advice and conditions from the relevant authorities at that time.

The FAW is fully aware of the impact this will have on the domestic game but the health and safety of all fans, players, volunteers and stakeholders are of paramount importance.

The FAW will continue to monitor this situation on a day-by-day basis and will continue to provide updates when appropriate.

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