Red like the tram. Red like the jerseys of Wales. Red like the faces of the spectators tight as sardines at 17pm this Sunday, head to Groupama Stadium, usual enclosure of Olympique Lyonnais and theater of Australia - Wales (21 pm). At the exit of the metro station "Vaulx-en-Velin - La Soie", it is the jostling to access the tram T7, direction "OL Vallée". We are 4 hours before kick-off and many fans want to approach the stadium, as has been the case since the beginning of the Rugby World Cup, from Saint-Denis to Nice via Bordeaux or Nantes.
Lyon (Décines-Charpieu to be precise) is the last of the nine host cities of the 2023 World Cup to host a meeting. There will be five in total, including one France-Italy, on October 6. 58,000 people are expected for this Group C clash between Australia and Wales, including nearly 20,000 Welsh. Inaugurated in January 2016, a few months before the French football Euro, the OL stadium is located about 12 km walk from the city center of the capital of the Gauls, about twenty km by car and about forty minutes by public transport. Like the new stadiums built in Bordeaux or Nice, they went looking for more space outside the hypercenter.
Easier to build, less to access. During the first weekend of the World Cup, the Bordeaux stadium or the Marseille Velodrome were life-size tests in front of an Anglo-Saxon public culturally accustomed to wanting to enjoy the city before accessing the stands. After delays, slight for the most part, but not to be neglected, the organization rectified the shot from the second day of competition. Despite the distance from the city center, the Nice stadium has made every effort to welcome the Welsh, Japanese, English or Portuguese as soon as possible, up to 4 hours before kick-off.
"It was very poorly indicated"
For this first match in Lyon, the margin is less important. The forecourt around the stadium opened its doors at 18 p.m. on Sunday. But very few Welsh or Australians were already present. The reason? Public transport transporting fans from the heart of Lyon to the match venue did not start until 18 p.m. as well. If you wanted to access earlier, as was our case, you had to take the classic lines running on Sundays. Crowded, the T7 tram from Vaulx-en-Velin only ran at a frequency of one train every half hour. It's not much and it makes the fans moan.
Thousands in queues outside Stade de Lyon 40 minutes to kick off. An 'awful fan experience' say Welsh and Australian supporters - many now waiting an hour to get to their seats @ITVRugby pic.twitter.com/ONOUWKtyIi
— Gabriel Clarke (@gabrielclarke05) September 24, 2023
"Oh, he's an Englishman, fuck him out," jokes Jamie, a fan of the Red Dragons of Wales about a fan in the white England shirt. It is a heat to die for in this tram. But why aren't there more? In fact, there are more, many more. But from 18 p.m. only. From four locations: tram shuttles from Part-Dieu and Vaulx-en-Velin (for fans by public transport), bus shuttles from Meyzieu and Eurexpo (for relay car parks). A system used by TCL, a local operator, during the Rolling Stones concert in July 2022 and which has proven its worth. With a special fare of 5 euros round trip.
"It was very badly indicated," insists Hélène, an Ardèche woman accompanied by her band of friends. Already, I paid 5 euros and I have to be one of the only ones. It's the first time we've come to this stadium as we are used to Gerland for LOU. It was very hot in this tram. And there was no longer any possibility to buy a ticket to leave from Part-Dieu (Editor's note: the center of Lyon). We had to fall back on Vaulx-en-Velin. A path taken by a good part of the supporters who frequented the rugby village of Place Bellecour.
The result of these late departures from the city center is that half an hour before kick-off, despite the calm of the fans, huge queues had formed at the entrance of the forecourt and the majority of seats remained empty. At 20:55, a few minutes from the national anthems, Welsh and Australians had found their place. The last seats found takers several minutes after the start of the match.