Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney is hopeful that the UK’s social distancing rule can be reduced from two metres to one to allow more fans to attend England matches at Twickenham later in the year.
England is due to face New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Australia on consecutive Saturdays in November. Current social distancing rules in the UK would theoretically allow Twickenham to welcome less than 10,000 fans into the 82,000-seat stadium.
The RFU is seeking clarity on whether the two-metre rule can be reduced to one, which could lead to 40,000 fans being allowed into the stadium.
“If you are using two metres, you are talking about a four-metre distanced safe space,” Sweeney said, according to The Guardian. “With one, it is one metre all round which has the effect of increasing capacity fourfold. If you use two metres in an 80,000-seater stadium and factor in traffic flow, such as someone wanting to use the toilet without going past someone and touching them, it reduces your capacity to between 9,000 and 9,500.
“I was surprised, not thinking it would be that low. With one metre, which is the World Health Organization’s guidance, you get close to 40,000, and we would like it to come down to that by the autumn. We would not increase the stadium capacity at the risk of safety, nor do anything contrary to government guidelines, but we want clarity on whether the two-metre rule is absolutely essential or is one metre possible.”
Sweeney said the RFU could lose around £3m (€3.4m/$3.8m) per game if the current two-metre guidelines remain in place.
The UK government gave the green light for sport to resume in England from last week but fans are not currently permitted to attend matches.
John Horan, president of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), has also been discussing how social-distancing rules will impact attendances at Dublin’s Croke Park.
On Friday, the GAA published its resumption plans, with club games scheduled to begin in late July and county fixtures due to return in mid-October.
It is hoped that a limited number of fans will be able to attend the inter-county matches and the use of Croke Park is at the forefront of the GAA’s plans. Croke Park, which has a capacity of 82,000, serves as the headquarters of the GAA and is used to host a number of Gaelic sports.
Horan said: “It’s something we’re very conscious of and something we’re looking at, particularly in the context of Croke Park, as to what would be the possibilities of having a crowd in Croke Park for a game, taking into account the social distancing measures that actually are in place at a particular time.
“So, no, we’re on top of that. It would be our hope to have attendances at games. It may mean we would use restricted venues for the inter-county Championships when they actually come back on board. It’s something we’re conscious of and we see it as desirable to actually have crowds at a game.
“Obviously, I don’t think they’ll ever be at the number of level they were at, they will be restricted, but that restriction will take into account all the health measures and guidance we’re given.”
In a live Facebook interview with his Dublin-based club Na Fianna, Horan later said that the GAA could “probably put 21,000 people into Croke Park safely”.
The stadium’s Hill 16 standing area would also need to add seating to ensure social distancing. If the social-distancing guidelines were reduced to one metre, Croke Park could potentially hold 42,000 fans.
In Denmark, Superliga football club FC Copenhagen has drawn up a plan that would allow 10,500 fans to attend matches at its Telia Parken stadium.
Discussions are currently being held on restrictions on social gatherings in Denmark, with one proposal outlining that up to 500 people can attend events.
With this in mind, FC Copenhagen has devised a plan that would effectively divide Telia Parken into 21 ‘halls’, which could each seat 500 fans. The total capacity of Telia Parken is 38,000 and the model proposed by FC Copenhagen would allow 10,500 fans to attend matches.
Each hall would have its own entrance, toilet facilities and food and drink stalls. A number of other measures would be put in place to minimise the risk of infection.
Lars Bo Jeppesen, director of Parken Sport & Entertainment, said: “With this plan, we follow the expected number rules and take the necessary precautions around our guests, from the time they come to the stadium.”
He added: “It will be a new way of going to football, but the Danes have shown that they can handle it nicely. We are constantly consulting with authorities and experts in the area, so we have the highest possible safety in mind. We have extensive experience to handle events and many guests, and we believe we can do it both safely and effectively.”
The 10,500 limit would mean that FC Copenhagen could not offer space for all season ticket holders. The club is working on the best possible way to distribute the tickets if the plan is given the green light.
English Premier League football club Wolverhampton Wanderers is giving fans the chance to have their face featured as part of a giant mosaic in the Sir Jack Hayward Stand at Molineux.
The mosaic will be in place for Wolves’ final four home matches of the season. The idea has been generated following a virtual meeting with the club’s match-day experience group last month.
Fans who wish to have their faces appear in the stand will be required to purchase a copy of the collector’s edition 2019-20 Premier League Restart Programme, which costs £7 for UK fans and £10 for overseas supporters. Supporters have until 4pm tomorrow (Tuesday) to make the purchase and upload an appropriate photo.
Over 80% of space on the fan mosaic went over the weekend. Don't miss tomorrow's deadline.
— Wolves (@Wolves) June 8, 2020
Harry Lomas, head of culinary at Wembley, has revealed the extent of Compassion London’s COVID-19 emergency response operation at the stadium.
Compassion London is a charity established to provide meals to those in need during the COVID-19 crisis, and last month it moved its emergency response operation to Wembley, where it has been using its catering facilities.
Compassion London comprises a group of professional chefs, food enthusiasts and volunteers. In a post on the FA website, Lomas has revealed how he received a call from the FA asking if he would be interested in helping run its kitchen. Since then, tens of thousands of meals have been made.
Lomas said: “The food that arrives at the back door is predominantly made up of donations from various suppliers and my job is to have a look at it when it arrives and try to assemble it into some sort of menu – a bit like Ready, Steady, Cook on a mammoth scale!”
A refrigerated wagon would collect the finished food each morning and distribute it around London to the NHS, vulnerable people and care homes.
“We had lawyers, solicitors, airline navigators, airline stewardesses, mums, dads, opticians, a plumber, a tree surgeon, an event coordinator, chefs, West Ham’s chef, a builder – so the whole place was made up with all sorts of people from different backgrounds to bring this team together.
“So it was really very much a team together and we made the menus simple and the professional guys really put the food together and then everybody else is involved in packing, labelling and distribution.”
Lomas said that over 150,000 meals will have been made by the time Compassion London has moved out of the stadium.
Image: Maxwell Hamilton