Leinster launches virtual stadium initiative, Warriors bring football to Sixways

Irish Pro14 rugby union team Leinster has teamed up with management and technology consulting firm BearingPoint to offer fans a virtual stadium experience.

The ‘Lineout4Leinster’ initiative will provide a select number of season ticket holders with the chance to log-in to the virtual stadium using Microsoft Teams. Fans will then be able to interact with one another and recreate the Aviva Stadium match-day experience.

The initiative has been launched as the Pro14 season resumes with matches behind closed doors in August. Leinster is also inviting fans to send short video messages or pictures in support of the team ahead of the game against Munster on August 22. The clips will then be shown during the team warm-up.

Leinster Rugby plays the majority of its home matches at RDS Arena, although some high-profile fixtures are held at Aviva Stadium (pictured).

Eric Conway, partner and country leader at BearingPoint, which serves as Leinster Rugby’s official innovation partner, said: “Thankfully Leinster Rugby will have all the options available to offer the best possible fan experience remotely and digitally. There are some home comforts in having technology and data direct to the living room and with a variety of planned innovations, the fans can still influence and interact with the players through the big-screen displays.”

Kevin Quinn, head of commercial and marketing at Leinster Rugby, added: “Nothing replicates being at a match and we very much welcome this initiative from BearingPoint. Enabling Leinster Rugby supporters to virtually #lineoutforleinster in Aviva Stadium on August 22 provides a unique and innovative way to help bring some of that match day magic to supporters’ homes and in return, make sure the players know that our support is there for them when they run out on the pitch in a few weeks’ time.”

In other news, English Premiership team Worcester Warriors will open its Sixways stadium up to football next season after its co-owners Colin Goldring and Jason Wittingham became joint majority owners of Worcester Raiders.

The Raiders, which play in the West Midlands Regional League Premier Division, will play home matches at the ground during the 2020-21 season, with Sixways’ artificial grass pitch having been certified by the English Football Association (FA).

Rugby fixtures will take precedence over Raiders matches but the move is designed to “significantly” increase the usage of Sixways’ facilities and the number of spectators that visit the stadium, which has a capacity of 12,000.

“Our vision has always been to make Sixways a multi-sport centre and to maximise the use of the excellent facilities we have here,” Whittingham said. “The COVID-19 lockdown has given us the chance to look at the business and our plans for the future. We have probably accelerated a few of our plans as a consequence including bringing Worcester Raiders to Sixways.

“They are a young and ambitious club with a progressive committee who are excited by the prospect of playing their home matches in a stadium of Championship football standard.

“We believe that Raiders are the right fit for what we are trying to achieve here. We want to strengthen our links with the local community and broaden our appeal and Raiders, who were formed as a youth team only 19 years ago, already have an excellent community programme. In addition to increasing the use of the stadium we also have the potential to increase overall attendance at Sixways over the season by more than a third.”

Raiders chairman Steve Harris said his vision for Worcester to one day have a Football League club is “one step closer” following the agreement with the Warriors.

Image: Aviva Stadium