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If we were in Europe like the Blues, had a new ground and a Lomu-like star, we'd be getting 60,000.

Byline: By PAUL ABBANDONATO Western Mail

Cardiff city chief Sam Hammam last night declared his Bluebirds were easily the No1 team in the Welsh capital and comparisons with Jonah Lomu's Cardiff Blues were wrong.

Hammam gave his verdict after reading a two-page article in yesterday's Western Mail highlighting this weekend's tug-of-war between the two teams over fans for crunch games which clash.

High-flying City take on Derby at Ninian Park on Saturday looking to cement their position in the Championship play-off places.

A mile up the road, rugby legend Lomu makes his Arms Park debut for the Blues in their own 3pm Heineken Cup kick-off against Calvisano.

The Blues are anticipating floating sports fans flocking to watch them as part of a 12,500 sell-out crowd - nearly three times their normal gate.

That could hit the Ninian attendance, even though the Bluebirds, fresh from their great win over Leeds, are in their highest League position for years.

City owner Hammam declared, 'The comparison between the two teams is unfair, and I will tell you why.

'You have to remember that the Blues have been established in the rugby top flight for many years, are playing in their European Cup and, in Lomu, have the biggest name in world rugby making his home debut for them.

'The analogy you need to draw would be if Cardiff City had been established as a Premiership club for many years, we were playing a big Champions League game - and we were giving a debut to, say, the Diego Maradona of his day.

'We wouldn't be enthusing about a gate of 12,000, would we? We would be talking 60,000 fans.

'That underlines the size of this club and what we can achieve. That's the comparison you need to make.'

Hammam went on, 'I do hate it when people try to split Welsh people, pitting one lot of fans against another. As I've said time and again, our enemies are across the border, not within.

'I want to support Welsh rugby and I want Welsh rugby to support us.

'But, having said that, if we do have a friendly rivalry, it is the whole of Welsh rugby, not a smallish entity like Cardiff Blues.

'If we get into the Premiership, we would take more money from one match than the Blues get from a whole season.

'That is a measure of the money that goes into football, including television, sponsorship and so on.

'It may take 15 years to reach the Premiership. But our real competition then will be the full national Welsh rugby side.

'If we are in our new stadium, playing Manchester United on a Saturday afternoon, then we will take on the Wales rugby team - even if they are playing New Zealand at home.'

Referring again to the comparison with the Blues, Hammam said, 'Whereas they have been established in the rugby top flight for years, we are just emerging from a traumatic period.

'To put this in context, if we were an established team in the top flight at a new ground, we would be getting gates of 30,000 - even in a bad season.

'So in a bad year, let alone a good one, we're talking about eight times the Blues' average gate and probably 50 times what they can get in terms of income.'

Asked about the anticipated Derby gate, Hammam said, 'The Western Mail is right in saying that, considering the position we were in last May, we couldn't have done more to bring in the crowds.

'We've not only been doing well on the pitch, but have changed things around off it, too.

'Results have been going well, we've got new cult figures for the fans to follow - Purse, Loovens, Koumas, Jerome, Ledley among them.

'I'm happy with that. What I'm not happy with is the position we were in last May.

'You always have to remember where we have come from, when you analyse these things.'
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 15, 2005
Words:661
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