Cardiff’s Principality Stadium has permanently reduced its maximum capacity in order to increase its disabled access by up to 30 per cent, the Welsh Rugby Union has announced.

The stadium opened in 1999 and has had a maximum capacity of 74,500 ever since. This has now been reduced to 73,931 so the venue can better cater for disabled supporters.

Building work costing around £100,000 (€114,000/$129,000) has been carried out to create 46 new wheelchair bays, taking the total number to 214. It doubles the stadium’s offering for ambulant disabled access and provides up to 111 seats for additional carers.

The first event at the new capacity will be Saturday’s Six Nations clash between Wales and England. The match is the first event of the stadium’s 20th Anniversary year and is a sell-out.

Stadium manager Mark Williams said: “This is a huge fixture in the Principality Stadium’s sporting calendar, it’s the first game at our new capacity, but also the first time we will host England with our full search procedures in place.

“We are extremely proud of the safety and security measures we employ in Cardiff and we have spent the last two seasons hammering home the message to Wales’ fans that they need to ‘get in early’ to ensure they are in their seats in time for anthems and kick-off.

“But this will be the first time for many England supporters so, even though there may now be a few hundred fewer fans, it is vitally important that they get the message to arrive early and without unnecessary bags so they can be processed through search lines quickly.”

On the increased access for disabled supporters, Williams added: “Demand in this quarter has increased over the years and we have undertaken the work to increase wheelchair bays, ambulant disabled and carer seating to a level that surpasses current demand.

“In order to do so we have made significant up-front investment, but this will have a hugely positive effect on our long-term appeal to incoming event owners and to supporters from around the globe who visit the stadium on a regular basis.”

When the stadium was built, the legal requirement for disabled access allowed for 168 wheelchair bays to be included as part of design specifications. That requirement remains in place today but the WRU noted that a new venue of this size being built in the present day would require “many more”.

Principality Stadium opened on June 26, 1999 when Wales hosted South Africa in front of a part capacity as work continued on the North Stand.

The stadium has since gone on to host Rugby World Cup matches, FA Cup finals, Football League play-off matches and London 2012 Olympic fixtures.

Anthony Joshua’s recent World Championship boxing bout surpassed the 75,000-capacity mark, with music acts such as Ed Sheeran, One Direction, Madonna and U2 having also performed there over the years.

Image: Jeff Djevdet