SPC Tour of Ireland – Day 13

April 5, 2016

SPC Tour of Ireland and the UK -“ Day 13

Sport can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. It can be savoured and relished, like a fine wine by the open fireplace in a reclining leather chair. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, it can be raucously celebrated with club colours, passionate cheers (and jeers), a hot pie, cold drinks and the backslapping company of mates.

Today, the SPC touring party got a taste of each alternate experience with a visit to Wimbledon in the morning followed by a trip to a Championships League game at Reading in the evening.

First, Wimbledon -“ the home of tennis and the All England Lawn Tennis Club. It is home to arguably the most famous grass in the sporting world and a place that has, year after year, caused many Australians to wake up bleary-eyed after long nights in front of the tv cheering on the likes of Hewitt, Rafter, Cash and Newcombe.

We were fortunate to be able to tour this pristine facility, learn the history of its foundation and experience some backstage areas such as the players’ entrance and media centre which are normally off limits to the general public.

We toured the hallowed Centre Court and the Wimbledon Museum and witnessed first-hand the immense work invested in readying the facilities for the two weeks in late June known here simply as the Championships.

In keeping with their tradition and reputation, our hosts were sticklers for detail and protocol but were largely happy with the behavior of this large group of Aussies provided we stuck to one golden rule -“ DON’T TOUCH THE GRASS!

Upon completion of the tour the various smaller groups scattered around London for lunch and afternoon sightseeing before reconvening back at the hotel at 4.30pm to board buses to Reading.

A town about 60km south west of London, Reading was built on the back of its brewery and its biscuit factory and is today home to the 24,000-seat Madejski Stadium and its Reading Royals Football Club.

Reading has in previous years competed in the top-tier English Premier League but is now relegated one division below to the Championship League where it sits mid-table on the ladder.

Tonight it was playing a televised home match against Nottingham Forest and more than 15,600 people journeyed out on a brisk Tuesday night to enjoy the game.

Much thanks must go to the Reading Football Club who gave our touring party the full match-day experience including a guided tour around the playing surface pre-game and then great seats behind the goals.

Our boys, as has become their tradition, almost emptied the club’s merchandise store and presented a great sight as they formed their own little Reading cheer squad for the game.

It was all the better due to the fact that the home club came from 1-0 down at half time to score a great 2-1 win with all goals being scored at the end we were seated.

The atmosphere throughout the game was incredible and it was an experience our boys are sure to never forget.