RFU defends HQ's reduced capacity

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

Beleaguered on all sides, the Rugby Football Union yesterday sought to resolve at least one of its manifold disputes by asserting that it was only through its good offices that Twickenham's capacity for the code- breaking Bath-Wigan match on 25 May would be as high as 37,500.

According to the RFU, until Friday the British Transport Police had ruled that the attendance at the 75,000-capacity stadium could be no more than 30,000 because of engineering work on the Waterloo-Reading railway line. Representatives of Bath, Wigan, the RFU and the transport and Metropolitan Police have a meeting today when the clubs will press their case for a further increase.

"The whole question of capping the gate has been a known problem for some time," Mike Humphreys, a RFU spokesman, said. "There will be trains on this line but only one an hour and the police are concerned about safety if there are mobs of people on the platform."

Bath say they have already sold 25,000 tickets and Wigan, unusually not in the Rugby League Challenge Cup final, say their supporters are regarding the trip to Twickenham as this year's replacement for Wembley, leading Richard Mawditt, the Bath chairman, to predict a crowd of at least 50,000. "This is going to be great occasion. Why spoil it with a half-empty stadium for whatever reason?" he said.

Mawditt suggested the restrictions would cost the participants between pounds 250,000 and pounds 500,000 - which may explain Wigan's reported threat to sue, though this was ridiculed by the RFU yesterday. "Wigan cannot sue the , because they have no agreement with the ," Humphreys said. "If they want to sue anyone, it's Bath."

Though the Rugby Football League's claim that there is an RFU plot to keep Wigan out lest the two codes become too entwined is fantasy, Bath are unmollified. Danny Sacco, their match co-ordinator, said: "Despite this ruling, we are still going to go ahead and try to fill the stadium."

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