Blue Skies and Bluebirds

Before yesterday I had never been to a football match. Neither had my 36 year old husband. Clearly The Boy hadn't either, unless he tootles off when he's supposed to be having his afternoon nap.

Therefore when I was invited to watch Cardiff City Football Club (the Bluebirds) against Barnsley by Netmums as part of the Family Football Festival, I jumped at the chance. While remaining sceptical that it wasn't my (ball) game, I was eager to shake off the opinion based on the reputation that football has had for many a year. That of a male-orientated, shouty, sweary sport. My friends and I had a rule in our 'going-out' days; we would always go into Cardiff on a rugby match night, but never on a football match night. Twelve or so years on, I was interested to know if football's reputation has changed or not.

We arrived at Cardiff City Stadium just over an hour before kick-off and already it was a hive of activity. Giving the magic password (the name of the Director of International Marketing), we were directed into the dedicated car-park. Parking at Cardiff City Stadium is extremely limited on match-days. The majority of spots are taken by staff and Season Ticket Holders with valid match-day parking permits. The remaining spots are allocated on a first-come first served basis on the day of the game. However, despite the fact that the stadium is opposite a retail park (parking is not advised there, the shops get cross for some strange reason), there are a variety of carparks within a five-ten minute walking distance. I am only too aware that we were given a reserved space and that normally we would walk in with the other families.

Cardiff City Football Club has been lucky to have a new stadium (opened in July 2009), moving from their original football ground literally across the road to a brand-spanking new stadium, shared with the Cardiff Blues. At the time, the stalwart fans of CCFC mourned the loss of Ninian Park Road stadium, but times change and it needed moderinising. And oh how it has been! The new stadium is clean, modern, fresh with great facilities for all.

When we first walked in to the stadium, we were greeted in reception by the previously mentioned Director of International Marketing with a goody-bag for The Boy. The chocolate was most welcome half way through the match!

We were taken through into the 'back-stage' area and were taken to be shown around the ground. It was only when we walked through some double-doors onto the pitch, and I glanced up at some eager teenagers wondering who I was, that I realised we'd been taken out through the tunnel!

Walking alongside the pitch, we were told how the entirety of the Grange end of the stadium was given over to the family section. Normally this would allow for six and a half thousand seats, on that day (as it was a Family Football Festival day) they had opened up more and were expecting eight thousand family seats filled. We were shown the various food outlets, the plentiful toilets (male, female, disabled, baby-changing) and then taken to the area aimed at families.

There we found a dedicated area for playing games on computer consoles, a magician who made fabulous balloon animals (he also made The Boy a football player), a football-skills game and…

…this is where we met Cardiff City's special guest. Having already tweeted with him we knew that he was going to be there, watching the match. I'd hoped that we'd have a chance to meet him, but was delighted to be actually introduced by the club.

Chatting with Alex (CBeebies) he explained to me that he supported the Bluebirds and often came to home matches, either with his niece (in her teens) or with his own children (who are under six). The main point that Alex was keen to stress is that what was in the stadium that day, was always there. Cardiff completely understand how important it is to make this a family-friendly sport, and cater for that. There are signs all over the stadium saying 'watch your language' or 'no swearing', and if any is heard, then one of the many polite and helpful attendants are on hand to have a word with the offender. CCFC also has a family-focus group that meets every three months to discuss ways forward with the club, and how they can make it more family-orientated and improve facilities.

We were left to enjoy the family entertainment prior to the match, and of course we checked out the clean and tidy facilities before finding our seats. I was expecting to be up in the Gods, and therefore was pleasantly surprised to find that we had seats in 'h' row, which was actually only four rows back from the pitch. Luckily, it was a beautiful sunny day, I suspect we'd be a bit damp mid-Winter. However, we had a perfect view of Cardiff's goalposts, which was just as well bearing in mind the outcome.

As to the match itself. I found that I had butterflies in my stomach waiting for kick-off, and with good reason. The first half was amazing, playing out right in front of our eyes. Three goals and an unfortunate head injury, left us ooh-ing and aah-ing, jumping to our feet and cheering along with everyone else. When one of our players (because they're mine now too) was fouled, The Boy looked on in interest while everyone urged for a subsequently-granted yellow card. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and my fears of The Boy being frightened by the noise were quashed when he clapped, cheered and laughed along with everyone else.

The second half was just as nail-biting as the first, although (as I soon found out) mostly conducted at the other end of the pitch. This obviously meant that The Boy had difficulty maintaining concentration, and luckily I had been told to take something to entertain him; cue a colouring pad, crayons or the iPod Touch.

We left just before the end of the match so didn't see what happened then. Although we were right by the stairwell and didn't have to worry about any heights, I knew that trying to get out of a football stadium car-park which is on the edge of a retail park at tea-time on a Saturday would be a nightmare. However, we really didn't want to leave, but The Boy was beginning to find it difficult to concentrate.

I am a convert! I never thought I'd say that about football, but I am. It was exciting, friendly, and the facilities in Cardiff are excellent. We will be going again, although I suspect we'll wait until The Boy is a little older.

There's a reason why Cardiff have this proudly displayed outside:

I am a member of the Netmums Parent Bloggers Network, a unique community of parent bloggers from around the UK who have been handpicked by the Netmums team from our database to review products and brands on their behalf. I am paid an expenses fee to cover my time but Netmums have no editorial control whatsoever about what I blog about. Being a member of the Netmums Blogging Network means that I can 'opt in' to try out products and brands and get my expenses covered but that I retain full editorial integrity.

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  1. Manchesterwelsh says

    Glad to see you had a good time – the only downside to living 'oop norf' is that I don't get to see the Bluebirds play. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that CCFC won the family friendly award, the club really seems to be working hard to dispel the rumours that football is no place for children.

    I have been inspired and will go and watch my adopted team (Manchester City) play as soon as I can. Not quite the bluebirds but there you go 🙂

  2. says

    What is it about retail parks and football stadia? I understand they don't want to choke their car park up with football fans cars but at the same time, a) they could charge and section off areas of the car park for football fans ensuring that shoppers got the prime spots closest to the stores and b) over the course of a year, it's probably no more than 1 hour per week that they are affected by football traffic. Huddersfield is the same – the Galpharm is right next to a retail park. We walked across it yesterday and it wasn't even half full, if even a quarter full. The same happens at Bolton when they are at home and at Preston, tho that retail park is further away and overall does get a lot busier than the one I saw yesterday.

    So glad you had a great time.

  3. Jenny Paulin says

    Wow! What a great day out and so much to see and do! You were like VIP's how cool 🙂 its great that Cardiff football ground are trying hard to make themselves family friendly, because that's how it was back in the day. Sadly football has a bad name for itself due to the yobbish behaviour of some hooligans, which has pushed families away. Good luck to Cardiff bluebirds I say and here's to you adn yours enjoying more footie matches. Oh and how lovely again that you met Alex xx

  4. says

    So thats who he was! Alex from Cbeebies! As Mads is still so young you will have to forgive me for not knowing who he is! Sounds like it was a great day, and how nice to have a football stadium that does seem to cater for families a little more. The only experience I have had of football matches, I have been a little intimidated, maybe I am just a wimp.


  5. KatieB says

    Wow! I had no idea there were actually family friendly football clubs! It's not something I ever would've considered but definitely will now, sure lil man would love it. So pleased you all enjoyed it, and the boy got to meet his idol (actually a little jealous too if truth be told!) xxx

  6. says

    Ah, I was looking forward to reading this blog after your comments on Twitter yesterday. What a lovely day you all had! Can't wait to take Bud to watch Bolton, at this rate we'll be playing Cardiff :-/

  7. Misslexywoo says

    I read all about this yesterday but couldn't comment off my bloody phone. I'm so glad you had a good time can't wait till addy is old enough to do this. Still really jealous though. My crush is green with envy!!

  8. says

    Sounds like you all had a wonderful day out!
    I've never been to a football match – and don't really feel like I'm missing out at all. I'm sure it depends on where you go and which teams are playing, though.
    How excited was The Boy to meet Alex?

  9. Notmyyearoff says

    It's so brilliant the ethos the stadium has. The paranoia about swearing / thuggery is exactly what would put me off going to a match. But it sounds so much fun; a proper family day! Love the footy faced pictures too 🙂

  10. says

    Fab review. I have been to many a football match and would never have envisaged taking my children due to the atmosphere I have encountered. But Cardiff sounds a fab family friendly club which sound set a standard for all other clubs!

  11. says

    That's a lovely post – but I'm far more interested in the Alex from cbeebies bit than the football. I'd be a bit star struck! Wouldn't know any footballers if I walked by them in the street.

  12. says

    What a great post. I have to say that I have never shared my OH's love of football – I have only been to one game and it was reasonably exciting just because I got caught up in the moment, but that's as far as it goes to me. I am somewhat worried the JW will grow up to share his Daddy's love of football as I also have the view of avoiding town on days when the football matches are on etc. I think if I knew that there was a family atmosphere like this then I would definitely be happy to go along for the experience of a family day out, and even to allow JW and Daddy to go to a match on their own. AND – I am incredibly jealous that you got to meet Alex! He and The Boy look like old pals! xx


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