Except For Viewers In Scotland

There is a sketch from the Armando Iannucci Show which brilliantly sends up the experience of Scottish TV viewers. With the advent of digital television the differences in what viewers in Scotland are subjected to compared with those in the rest of the UK is not as stark as the 80s and 90s. However this writer still recalls being unable to enjoy the television premiere of Terminator 2: Judgement Day but cannot recall what the alternative programme was. It could well have been a failed Dougie Donnelly chat show.

The unique feeling that always accompanied the announcement “except for viewers in Scotland” returned at Murrayfield on Saturday. The pre-match entertainment and build up – once a spectacle brimming with fireworks, explosions, and flames shooting into the air – was reduced to something less entertaining than the highlights reel of Glen Michael’s Cartoon Cavalcade.

Grant Stott did a brilliant job with what little resources he was given. There was a pitch side quiz with a fan of each team which might work as entertainment on radio but not as a build up to one of the oldest sporting matches in the UK and the crowning moment on the Murrayfield calendar. After all the game only comes to Scotland every two years.

At half time we had a “kiss cam” and “flex cam” both borrowed from US sports but delivered here with all the pizzazz of a cabaret in a one star Alicante hotel. These were interspersed with footage of a pre-recorded interview with Mark Bennett and Gordon Reid which was barely audible. The SRU might as well have put up a repeat of Paul Coia’s Catchword.

The responsibility to build an atmosphere within a stadium cannot be left to the crowd alone – especially not the Murrayfield crowd, who self-generate as much atmosphere as a wet fart in a lift. The SRU overcame this in the past by delivering pre-match entertainment that went some way to warming the crowd up but this was absent on Saturday. Some may say the team’s performance is also partly to blame for the lack of an atmosphere but that is a two way street and there is no doubt teams can feed off the energy and passion of the crowd. For most of Saturday’s game “Swing Low” filled the air only to be met with a chorus of boos. If that’s the best response the Murrayfield crowd can muster then it’s no wonder the Scottish players weren’t firing on all cylinders.

There were pockets of resistance around the ground. One group near this writer gave Loch Lomond a good shot a couple of times but failed to make any impact on those around them. There is certainly a desire amongst fans to create a better atmosphere and following the game a Twitter account @murrayfieldsong was set up to try and return some fire to the Murrayfield crowd.

Plenty of column inches have been filled with the negative aspects of Saturday’s game (and atmosphere) and it’s very easy to criticise. With that in mind we’ve come up with three ways the SRU and the Murrayfield crowd can make the stadium a hostile environment where visiting teams fear to tread.

1. Pipers piping

This writer has a deep loathing of the “England Band” that follow the England Football team but they do serve a purpose in creating an atmosphere within the stadium. The stadium announcer is unable to play music or make announcements during play. However there is nothing to stop a group of fans with instruments from striking up during the match. The formation of an “unofficial” Scottish Rugby Pipe band that attends games both home and away (although some smuggling may be required) might help generate a party atmosphere even when things aren’t going our way on the pitch.

2. Bring back the razzamatazz

Although ridiculed when it was first introduced in the early 2000s the fire, explosions and canons that used to mark the start of matches at Murrayfield did help to stir the crowd up into something approaching a frenzy. It certainly beats Grant Stott carrying out a pitchside quiz with drunk fans. Half time shouldn’t be neglected either and there’s no reason why a band couldn’t be wheeled out onto the pitch to keep spirits up during the break. The likes of Runrig and the Proclaimers have graced Hampden during half time and there’s no reason why the same shouldn’t happen at Murrayfield.

The SRUs finances are supposedly in better health than the early 2000s when the standard of pre-match entertainment was much better. There’s no reason why some investment can’t be made into improving the match day experience for fans.

3. The sound of silence

Babies are soothed by the sound of white noise. Any parent who has invested in Ewan The Dream Sheep will testify to that. Generally, as human beings we find noise comforting and silence uncomfortable. Booing kickers doesn’t have the effect that fans think it has. Trying to make a kick in dead silence with 67,500 hostile eyes staring at you is terrifying. Trying to make the same kick surrounded by a wall of sound is much easier. The problem, historically, is not unique to Scotland or Murrayfield but other fans in other stadiums are now “respecting” kickers by remaining silent and it’s time Scottish rugby fans did the same.

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Born a Souter but brought up just south of the Border in Berwick where he played for Berwick RFC as a kid any any position where cover was needed.
Follow Cammy on twitter @CammyBlack

24 comments on “Except For Viewers In Scotland

  1. Andy N on

    Couldn’t agree more – the booing when England fans starting singing on Saturday was cringeworthy – the whole atmosphere infact was one I haven’t experienced before at Murrayfield. Maybe it was the weight of expectation following the RWC, I don’t know – but whatever, you could feel the tension in the air right from the off, and when England scored their first try it seemed the whole of Murrayfield shivered with the realisation that this was likely to once again be one of those days. Despite going in at halftime only a point behind, I think the whole crowd had a sense of foreboding. Did that transfer onto the pitch – who knows?

    Grant Stott and his pre match and halftime antics were dreadful – a complete embarrassment. Given the reaction of the crowd to ‘flex cam’ I’d hope it’s the last we’ll see of it – bring out a few teams of kids and let them have a quick game infront of a packed stadium – what en experience that would be for youngsters, maybe could be part of the prize for the pre Xmas conference games?

    • Cameron Black on

      Having kids playing on the pitch is a great idea! I remember my wee brother getting to step out onto the Murrayfield pitch before a game in the early 2000s/ late 90s and I think he still has a bag with the bits of grass he picked.

  2. Matto on

    I was away up in the lofty heights of South 2 and there were a group of Loch Lomond stalwarts in my vicinity too. I joined in to try and help it spread, but it was hard work. I felt the booing to Swing Low was out of desperation at the fact we don’t have an equally effective response, but I agree; even just chants of Scotland Scotland … would be preferable.

    Fireworks and music all good – Braveheart reenactments, not so good (not had them for a while though, thankfully).

  3. Ruairidh Campbell on

    I was also around the area of the south stand where a rendition of Loch Lomond started – the main problem though was that after repeating the chorus a couple of times, everyone quickly dies off. A shame that there wasn’t a bigger effort to get singing because I thought Flower of Scotland had actually been sung at a good volume. As for the silence at kicks, it is almost an embarrassment to compare Murrayfield to Dublin the next day when there was near silence, even when Priestland was looking to draw the two teams level. There was a bit of an improvement after the “respect the kicker” message went up on the screens, yet it was still not enough to stop a large number of fans disrespecting the kicker. I think the pitch does definitely need to be used in some way – like the idea of getting the kids on for a good game like they do at Edinburgh matches. Even the crossbar challenge they used to do offers some form of entertainment for the fans

  4. Caro on

    Needs to be something short and simple to drown out ‘Swing Low’. Doesn’t need to be Scottish! My one year-old grandson would have made a great attempt with ‘We will, we will rock you! How about blasting it out every time the scrum is set?!

  5. Martin on

    All good points – Might I also add that the announcer calling Stuart McInally “rambo” – nearly made me have an aneurysm. Why in a match that has prestige and gravitas should we resort to stupid parochial nicknames. Might seem small but I thought it was a microcosm of the amateur production and the general lack of class that pierced the air throughout.

    The lack of co-ordinated songbook to counter swing low but also to act as a positive catalyst for the players on the pitch is a concern – whats the point in having 60,000 + supporters in the ground if they can’t come together as one and provide a wall of noise to inspire our team and (without overplaying it) strike fear into our opponents.

  6. Kettle Head on

    I suggested Nancy Whisky on another article and I still think it’s ideal as a short sharp retort to something like Swing Low. All it is, is ‘ Whisky, ooohh Whisky, Nancy Whisky, Whisky oohhh. Repeat until we’ve drowned out the opposition. Look up the Corries version on You Tube for the proper tune.

  7. Phoenix on

    Good article. I also thought that it was unusual that there was no half time entertainment. Either a game for the minis or a cross bar challenge gives everyone something to cheer on as opposed to 15 mins to reflect on a poor half of rugby. I remember a few years ago (2006 maybe?), when the Thrills randomly played a half time performance which, whilst appreciated, could not help the atmosphere as Scotland were losing to Wales by about 25 points.

    Totally agree with you on the respect the kicker front. Much more intimidating to pull off a meaningful kick in absolute silence as opposed to a wall of noise. I had one absolute cretin behind me, who repeatedly screamed ‘I do not respect the kicker’ at the top of his lungs, alternated by ‘the referee is a tori’. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about such dipsticks.

    On the song front, as much as it is a cliché and whilst not personally that much of a fan, the song most likely to catch on is 500 miles. Whilst not necessary anything to do with rugby or Scotland, it could be adopted in the same way as the Welsh have adopted Delilah. I think it was on the other thread but if you could get opposing stands shouting the chorus back at each other, I think that would work quite well. Unfortunately, with the France game being on a Sunday, it may have to wait until the 2017 six nations in order to get the crowd to embrace it!

  8. John Mc on

    Why don’t we just let visiting England fans sing ‘Swing Low’ without booing, applaud them for doing so, then respond with something else (admittedly, I’m struggling to find an appropriate ‘something else’).
    Or we could go left field, on the basis that Swing Low is not actually an English song and has been sung in clubhouses all over the world for as long as I can remember, and actually join them in singing it! Why should England fans be allowed to hijack a beautiful African-American spiritual as their own? I can bet you that as soon as opposing supporters joined in, there would be some furrowed brows amongst their choristers, followed by a frantic crowd-sourced search for an alternative that is exclusively English. And in any case, let them sing without shouting them down. This is rugby after all, not war or football.
    And we have to stop the booing of oppo penalty kickers. It’s disrespectful and totally unnecessary, like the muppets who wave their arms behind the home goalie in a football match in a pathetic attempt to put off the visiting penalty taker.

  9. bulldog on

    We need to set a competition for an anthem , see what turns up. We have many wonderful musicians who are Scots and they are filled with imagination.

    I like the idea of an unofficial Scots band, good one.

    The ban of bagpipes in the RWC should have been challenged. For 300 years Scottish regiments went to war with the sound of the pipes, its our heritage, our culture and our right.

  10. Norma on

    Great article, Cammy. Hope you have sent a copy to the SRU. Look forward to listening to the pipes and 500 miles at the French game (maybe?)

  11. Caro on

    In support of 500 miles, it was sung with gusto by the crowd at the Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens at Ibrox, as was Sweet Caroline. (It helped to have the words on the screen! Check it out on You Tube.) There was a fantastic atmosphere that weekend at Ibrox, irrespective of which teams were playing.

  12. Don on

    Sad to say ‘stick your f**king chariot up your arse’ had a certain local success. Funkier than the one wheel on my wagon and I’m still rolling along.

  13. Pogues on

    Got to keep this tune thing going until genuine momentum starts around an idea. Try this one, go to you tube and check out Michael Marra (fine Scottish musician died last year approx. age 65) cover of Rabbie Burns tune “Green Grow The Rashes oh” Just do the chorus at Murrayfield and alter lyrics to “Green Grow The Rashes Oh, Green Grow The Rashes Oh, The Sweetest Hoors That Er I Spent, Were Spent At Murrayfield ya Know” Easy to remember and just repeat, Traditionalists might want to keep original chorus. Another good version is Eddie Reader in Haddington, also on you tube. Eddie Reader demonstrates the type of harmonies that those with a voice could be encouraged to bang out If not this lets carry on the journey to agree a tune. Get ten people on this site to agree, they meet up to take forward and bring on a snowball effect via social media. DONE. Nae mare swing low dominating oor patch!!!!!

    • Kettle Head on

      This is exactly what we should be aiming for. There must be tons of traditional Scottish songs with catchy choruses that we can use.

  14. Deflated on

    Good article which has given rise to similar discussion on the only sing when we’re winning thread. Must admit I didn’t even acknowledge the lack of half time activity as I was too busy talking with an English guy sat next to me. I’ve said it before, but I suggest we have to resort to a karaoke type nudge, before kick off and when the right tune comes along (whatever one it is, but I suggest it will be simple and repetitive) the majority will click in and start it during the game. Actually winning the odd game would help. Caught a little bit of the atmosphere at the recent Aussie sevens event and that seemed to be working well. Finally like to add that I absolutely abhor the booing during opposition kicks and make a point of applauding post kick……oh and also the nasty anti English rhetoric dished out by some, absolutely no need for it.

  15. pks on

    Agree that booing the kicker is daft (better to let them doubt themselves in silence – why can’t the tannoy bloke come on and simply tell everyone to shut it?); agreed that booing SLSC is proof of our lack of coordinated imagination; need to get one single easy to remember song and frankly 500 miles or Loch Lomond is the way to do. First time I had heard Loch Lomond being sung spontaneously at M’field – it will catch on…

    On a related point, when the English do sing SLSC, why do they proclaim the heavens and turn around to the Scottish supporters as if to goad them? Can they not simply sing it? Why be so boorish?

  16. Feepole on

    Good article. I’ve thought for a while that the SRU should distribute A4 size cards on every seat with ‘Respect the Kicker’ printed on them and encourage fans of both sides to hold them up during every kick. Would really only need to be done at a couple of games then I think the issue would go away. If the problem was happening at every ground you could just roll your eyes and mutter about the youth of today, but the fact that it is a specifically Scottish problem means we really need to sort it out, and now.

    • WestCountryTartanArmy on

      Really? Is this the best use of SRU funds/time/energy? Printing A4 sheets with ‘Respect the Kicker’? It’s not a big deal. I do think that if and when results improve as will the atmosphere and the negativity will decline. In turn, more home fans snapping up tickets before general sale for the away fans to get their hands on > better home atmosphere > better results. Events on the pitch need to kickstart this.

  17. Rob Murray on

    Great article… I was “lucky” enough to be there (with my English girlfriend) last Saturday. Thoroughly enjoyed the prematch beers – brilliant atmosphere with fans all intermingled and lots of good banter. One bloke from Newcastle said “this is what I love about this game, don’t get this in football”.

    Now to Murrayfield….. I enjoyed the prematch “show” every time I have been before, and actually missed the teams coming on the field due to the lack thereof! Anyway, for our only response to “Swing low” to be booing – though one old fellow two rows in front of me was giving the fingers to one particularly loud group of English fans – just saddens me to the core!

    Once the booing starts, where does it end? Hopefully greater minds will come up with some ideas, but I think as a group of fans we just have to remember “it’s not football”,and enjoy our pints, the banter and comradery with the other fans.

  18. Doug on

    Agree re kicker silence disagree on other points, think the majority of noise comes from kiddies in the schoolkid enclosures.

    Don’t spend money on fireworks and other sh!ite spend it on playing resources. As our Pro Teams haemorrhage talent lets not blow it on the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. The atmosphere at kick off was electric on Saturday and the team will get plenty backing if they stop losing all the time. Even taking the lead in a game will undoubtedly energise the crowd regardless of their heritage, schooling or otherwise.

  19. twowatches on

    surely pipers in the crowd is the answer? what’s more Scottish than that? that’ll get folk singing for sure. like you said a few folk making up an unofficial band – there must be loads of people up for this.

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