The Parc de Princes, home of Paris Saint-Germain, has a capacity of 48,712. I visited the ground to see Northern Ireland vs Wales, and despite the lack of interest in the match from a neutral perspective, the fans of both sides turned out in their thousands to support their teams. There was hardly an empty seat to be found in the place and, while there were probably more Wales supporters, the Northern Ireland fans created a great atmosphere throughout the match. The ‘Green and White Army’ sung throughout the game and, despite the fact that they were consigned to a defeat and sent home from the tournament, they showed nothing but love and respect for their players.
The Welsh fans started off the game fairly quietly, but once they scored their goal they were easily heard. The fans of both teams were a credit to their nations and there was very little friction between the two groups of fans, even though there was no segregation. The atmosphere more than made up for the lack of quality on the pitch, and it was refreshing to see two of the home nations be able to put aside their rivalries and enjoy their respective sides overachieving in the tournament.
The ground was very accessible by the Metro, and there were several stops which allowed fans access to the stadium. However, the walk from the station to the ground was poorly signposted and there was nobody on duty to point supporters in the right direction. This was also evident after the match, with it being difficult to find a way back to the Metro station amongst the crowds. This was an aspect of the stadium which was slightly disappointing, especially seeing as one would think that they would make sure the ground was perfectly organised ahead of a major tournament. When fans went into the ground, there were several security checks which slowed fans down, however, I do understand that there is not much anybody can do about that.
The interior of the ground was very nice, with a good view being had by all, even in my category 3 seat. In the Parc de Princes, as with many European grounds, the crowd was quite far away from the pitch, but that did not end up being a big problem as the seats were so far above ground level that the perpendicular distance from the pitch didn’t affect the view. The only other negative aspect of the inside of the stadium was that the way the tiers worked meant that, on two occasions, people in the lower tiers had drinks spilt in them by people in the upper tiers. However, the vast majority of the ground was brilliant and I was able to enjoy the game.
The refreshment and souvenir shops were very expensive, but that is to be expected when a major tournament is being played as the ground are always going to try and make the most of the commercial opportunities brought when such a huge number of tourists are attending a match. The stewards and ground staff acted brilliantly in my opinion towards the foreign fans. Almost all of them had some degree of english, which meant that they were able to get their instructions across to and help the Welsh and Northern Irish fans. When there was the threat of some trouble breaking out between fans, the stewards were quickly on the scene to ensure that the situation was not exacerbated, which was very useful as it meant that the match was less disrupted and nobody was caught up in any violence. It was encouraging how little trouble there was considering that the two countries are slight rivals and there was very little segregation.
The organisation was poor at times considering the magnitude of the event but the inside of the ground was great, and the view was amazing. I think it could be a case of the ground being far easier to find for French people who know the area, and that maybe it is foreign fans who may have been more disappointed by the organisation. Overall, I very much enjoyed the experience of going to the Parc de Princes and I would very much like to go back there.