Take a seat

Article in Hoops Scene (Issue 3 Rovers v Dundalk/Shelbourne March 2010)

When Shamrock Rovers finally got to play their first game in Tallaght just over a year ago, following a double decade long odyssey, there was rejoicing from Hoops fans, residents of Tallaght and the footballing community in general.  It was a great positive news story, an example of how sport can be an uplifting part of people’s lives and their community.  South Dublin County Council (SDCC) stepping in to finish the stadium to its “original” plans, and going all the way to the High Court to do so, meant so much to those who have an interest in football and to Rovers fans in particular.  2009 turned out to be an incredible season with some amazing games in Tallaght and Rovers challenging for the title.  Really the only thing missing was a league or cup trophy to parade around the stadium at the end of the season.  So what have some people got to complain about?  It seemed the only thing that vexed many, myself included, was the colour and arrangement of the seats in the stadium.

When the builders returned to the stadium in May 2008 under the management of the local authority, the stadium became a site of pilgrimage for Rovers fans.  Photo updates were posted on the official website and internet forums on a weekly, if not daily, basis.  The talk was of when would the infamous roof arrive?  Under previous club regimes, the builders were always a matter of “three to four weeks” away from returning to restart construction and the roof was always days away from being delivered from Continental Europe.  Now with South Dublin County Council as client on the stadium, the roof arrived in August 2009.  The roof looked just as depicted in the architectural sketches many fans saw for the first time at the Sidewalk Cafe in August 2000 at one of the information evenings for the stadium.  The roof has a striking form with curved roof cladding spanning between tapered precast concrete roof beams giving an unobstructed view of the playing surface that fans couldn’t wait to see football be played on.

The next question everybody was asking was what colour would the seats be?  The original sketches of the stadium showed the stand with green seats.  Maybe it would be a green and white arrangement.  During construction the odd sample seat of a variety of colours, including red, went in and then came out.  However nobody really believed there would be red seats in the stadium.  As autumn came the seats began to be fixed in greater numbers and everybody was in for a surprise.  Greens seats…check.  White seats…check.  Yellow seats…can we check this?  Red seats…ah now come on!  The central section of the stand has an arrangement with strips of green seats mixed with sections of white.  But the ends of the stands have “random” section of yellow, green, white and red seats.  People were trying to read patterns in the seats.  Would it be SRFC on the seats or maybe SDCC as municipal owners of the stadium?  The next question asked was did these colours represent some colour arrangement in the flag of Tallaght or maybe South Dublin County Council?  Confusion (and antipathy in some quarters) seemed to reign.

When asked, the County Architect pointed out correctly that the stadium was now a municipal facility, not a stadium owned by Shamrock Rovers.  So this seemed to be a reason not to have a seating arrangement of green and white.  It was almost a signal to the people of South Dublin that this was their stadium and, while Shamrock Rovers were a very welcome anchor tenant, it was a stadium not just for one community organisation.  Most Rovers fans could understand this viewpoint even if deep down they wanted a green or a white seat to sit in.  They probably would have accepted this position quite willingly if it wasn’t for the bizarre arrangement that was unfolding before their eyes like a game of Lego or Tetris unfolding in the real world.

The Council went on to explain that the reasoning for the arrangement is that it is common in European stadia to have “an assortment of colours across the stand.  This reduces the appearance of emptiness on television for events with a small attendance.  It also adds visual liveliness when the stadium is not in use.”  Having the mixture of seats is indeed a practice seen in a number of stadia around the globe but the arrangement in Tallaght was not the “visual liveliness” most were looking for or had seen elsewhere.

There are a number of stadia this author has been to that have used the effect of varying the seating colours from the usual single or two tone pattern with excellent results.  In Ireland, the magnificent redeveloped Thomond Park stadium, winner of the People’s Choice in last year’s Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland Awards, adopts a mixture of seating.  With predominantly red seats, there is a sprinkling of yellow and black seats.  With Lansdowne Road stadium in redevelopment, the FAI moved two international fixtures to the Thomond Park stadium in 2009 including a disappointing small crowd watching Ireland beat the 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa 1-0.  The 11,300 crowd in the stadium, which has a capacity of 25,600, certainly did seem larger on the night.

Ireland played in another stadium with a lively seating arrangement but the game is remembered for the penalty shoot out that saw Ireland eliminated from the 2002 World Cup by Spain.  That game was played in Suwon stadium in South Korea.  With the full house in the stadium that night most of those watching on the TV would have missed the mix of seating across the full range of the rainbow spectrum.

Another stadium which hosted games in a major football championship is the Estadio Jose Alvarde in Lisbon which is home to another team wearing a familiar home strip of green and white hoops, Sporting Lisbon.  Redeveloped for EURO 2004 the stadium has a capacity of 50,000.  Amusingly while the Lidl shop in Tallaght is across the road from our stadium, in Lisbon it is actually underneath the stands with part of the stadium home to the Lidl supermarket.  It certainly gives a different meaning to the club shop!   The night this author was at a game last December, we had a couple of guesses as to what the attendance was in the stadium but all were overestimates when we learned that just under 25,000 fans had watched Sporting lose 1-0 to União Leira.

With the World Cup in South Africa a mere 82 days away, it is worth highlighting the magnificent Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban that will host games such as Portugal v Brazil and one of the semi-finals.  With its architectural design taking inspiration from the South African flag, its seating arrangement appears to give the stadium a full appearance even if none of the 70,000 seats are filled.

Back in Tallaght some fans still annoyed with the seating insist on sitting on a green or white seat, whilst others only sit on a red or yellow one so that those seats cannot be seen by the TV cameras!  The ultimate plan for the stadium in Tallaght is for it to be completed with two additional stands facing each other behind each goal.  Securing funding for completing the stadium is a much higher priority that debating the arrangement of the seating.  Whatever your views on the seating, what we all can agree on is that the most visual lively arrangement is to have a full Tallaght stadium with fans decked out in green and white alongside a colourful SRFC Ultras display inspiring Shamrock Rovers to victory.

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  1. conor
    April 12, 2010 at 03:52

    The Councils reasoning for the arrangement the assortment of seat colours across the stands to reduce the appearance of emptiness on television is a bit of a joke seen that the stadium is sold out for every game

    • barrie
      October 21, 2016 at 23:32

      also, the idea doesn’t work when you have massive blocks of coloured seats. The assortment of colours in other stadia is much more random and scattered giving the appearance of randomly filled seats. I don’t beleive their reasoning

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