Bagpipe ban riles Scotland team at Rugby World Cup

Last Updated: Sat, Sep 24, 2011 21:30 hrs

The music has stirred Scottish hearts for centuries. Now the skirl of bagpipes may not be heard in stadiums at the Rugby World Cup, and the Scots are not happy.

Pressure is mounting on organizers to relax a ban on musical instruments at venues which has prevented bagpipes from being played at Scotland's matches.

An online poll conducted by New Zealand's state television network on Wednesday night attracted more than 16,000 responses, of which 71 percent called for the ban to be rescinded.

Scotland's Sports Minister Shona Robinson has written to organizers asking for bagpipes to be removed from the list of banned items. And opposition lawmakers in New Zealand are pressing for a rule change, saying the ban makes Kiwis look like "kiltjoys."

Scotland faces a match against Argentina on Sunday which could determine whether it reaches the Cup quarterfinals, but may have to play without the skirl of the pipes.

Many New Zealanders claim Scottish heritage, including All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who plays the bagpipes. That affinity with Scottish tradition has led to an outpouring of support for a relaxation of the bagpipes ban.

Tim Shadbolt, the mayor of the South Island city of Invercargill which hosted Scotland's first two World Cup matches, told Television New Zealand he believed the ban should be overturned.

"We here in Invercargill we are very proud of our Scottish heritage so we're coming out to bat for them," Shadbolt said. "It is not some gimmick, but a serious part of Scotland's culture."

Scottish National Party parliamentarian Jim Eadie told Scottish Television that the ban should be rescinded for cultural reasons.

"As the entire rugby world shows its respect for the traditions of the All Blacks and their haka (Maori challenge) at the start of every game, it's only fair Scottish fans can showcase Scotland with their bagpipes," he said.

"There are many disappointed fans that have traveled to the other side of the world with their bagpipes only to be told they can't use them in stadiums."

One such fan is Matthew Strachan, a doctor from Aberdeenshire, who traveled to New Zealand with his pipes only to be told they couldn't be played in World Cup stadiums.

"I've played the pipes in most of the UK stadiums and also in France during the last World Cup and they have always been gratefully received," Strachan said. "Why then after many sporting years have the World Cup organizers decided against having them in stadiums?"

Scotland assistant coach Duncan Hodge said on Wednesday the Scottish players are disappointed at the ban.

"I think the Scots would be a bit gutted if they were (banned)," Hodge said. "The guys would rather have bagpipes than not, put it that way.

"When you arrive at the ground and are warming up, you quite like to hear the sound of bagpipes. The Argentineans I'd imagine would have all kinds of support, so it would be nice to cancel that out with a few bagpipes."

Rugby World Cup spokesman Mike Jaspers said bagpipes were not specifically banned from stadiums but rules outlawed items such as drums and vuvuzelas which might spoil fans' enjoyment of games.

He said he was not aware of any cases where a fan carrying bagpipes had been refused entry to a Cup match.

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