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Saracens CEO Edward Griffiths says Allianz Park won't disappoint but is not yet complete ahead of Exeter opener
Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths believes Allianz Park will “meet everybody’s expectations” but insists the Men in Black’s new home is not the finished article yet.
The 10,000-seater stadium officially throws open its doors for the first time on Saturday as Sarries host Exeter Chiefs in the Aviva Premiership.
The match is a sell-out and Griffiths, who has led the £24m project from its inception, insists the bumper stadium will not disappoint even though there’s still work to be done.
“I think we’ve developed a stadium that’s going to meet everybody’s expectations,” he said.
“It’s a process. I think it’s important for the club, it’s important for the spectators and it’s important for the players.
“Everyone associated with Saracens is looking forward to Saturday and it will be exciting to see how the stadium actually unfolds.”
Allianz Park has already hosted a Sarries match – when the Men in Black entertained Cardiff Blues in the LV=Cup last month – but the game was dubbed a ‘test event’ before this Saturday’s official unveiling.
Spectators were encouraged to give feedback after the Cardiff fixture and Griffiths says while the response was positive, there is still work to be done.
The club are targeting the crunch match in the Premiership title race against Harlequins on March 24 for when the ground will be completely finished.
“The response after Cardiff was very good, overwhelmingly positive,” Griffiths said.
“But there’s a lot that has been done – most building projects are like gas, they fill the available space so we’ll be busy right up until the match but at the moment I think we are on track to host a successful event on Saturday.
“There are some things we’ve moved around to improve safety – there are certain things that you can’t see until people are actually moving in and through the stand so Cardiff was useful but it’s still the same stadium and we’re just looking to improve different aspects of it for each match.
“We’re not in any sense suggesting it’s going to be the finished article on Saturday.
"It’ll be a big step forwards from Cardiff and then we’ll take another big step forward for the London Welsh game [March 3] and then hopefully we’ll be somewhere near where we want to be for the Harlequins game.”
Saracens have played their home matches this season at a variety of venues including Twickenham, Wembley and Vicarage Road but at these locations attendance – or atmosphere – has often been lacking.
Griffiths believes that will change at Allianz Park.
He said: “What we saw in the Cardiff game was that it’s a real rugby venue.
“There’s a great atmosphere around the place and I think the coach and the players are really looking forward to seeing, playing, and hearing what 10,000 people looks and feels like on a Saturday.”
The club have insisted throughout the building process that the stadium would be a “community hub”, available as a training facility for local sports teams as often as possible.
And while the stadium’s indoor training area does not open until next week, Griffiths says Allianz Park’s all-weather, artficial pitch is already being put to good use.
“Allianz Park is many things to many people,” he added.
“Of course it is a home for Saracens but it’s also a greatly enhanced facility for Shaftesbury Harriers Athletics Club, it’s for the school children or clubs that have been training there every day this week in the mornings, afternoons and evening.
“It is a genuine community sports hub so while it might sound a bit cliched to say it’s a stadium for everyone the reality is that’s exactly what it is – a venue for everyone.”
On the February 23 following their Sport-a-Thon event, in which they will be hosting a multitude of continuous sport within the grounds of their stadium, Saracens Rugby Club invite you to come and enjoy a party atmosphere at your new local sports stadium to watch England take on France in their crucial third match of this years 6 Nations Championship
With the longest match day bar open at the ground, what better way to get behind England and enjoy the big game than on the brand new giant screens at the newly refurbished Allianz Park.
Register at http://saracens6nations.eventbrite.co.uk for your free ticket.