Hallowed home of Welsh rugby up for auction in 3,000 bits

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The Independent Online
Cardiff Arms Park, the stadium that commands the affection of rugby enthusiasts where ever the oval ball is handled, comes under the hammer tomorrow - not as a job lot but in more than 3,000 separate items.

The auction has been called because demolition of the historic home of Welsh rugby will begin shortly to make way for a new pounds 100m stadium, due for completion by the time the 1999 Rugby World Cup kicks off.

Everything from the seats to the hair dryer in the visiting team's changing room is for sale. More than 80 turnstiles, the stretcher on which injured internationals have been carried off, the huge scoreboard and closed circuit television equipment jostle for attention with more prosaic fittings and fixtures like crockery and floor coverings. Bidding is expected to be particularly keen for the seat in the box once occupied by Diana, Princess of Wales.

The hallowed playing area is being sold in five-metre squares of turf - about 1,000 in total. The pitch trodden by such heroes as Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams and Phil Bennett will end up as mini-shrines in the gardens of enthusiasts.

The posts have been withdrawn from sale to become the centrepiece of the new stadium's Museum of Rugby. "They are too special - the most evocative items of all," said Peter Owens of the Welsh Rugby Union.

The sale is estimated to raise tens of thousands of pounds which will be devoted to developing the game in Wales, with particular emphasis on youth rugby.

The site, in the heart of Cardiff, began life as a cricket ground leased in the middle of the last century from the Marquis of Bute, one of Wales's wealthy coal barons. The first rugby international was played there in April 1884.

Today is its swan song, when Cardiff and Swansea clash in the final of the Swalec Cup, Wales's most coveted sporting trophy.