The UK government has granted permission for the Super League rugby league competition to stage four fan pilot events on September 30.
Attendances of 1,000 will be permitted for Wigan Warriors vs St Helens, Castleford Tigers vs Hull FC, Huddersfield Giants vs Hull KR and Leeds Rhinos vs Catalans Dragons. Areas with high COVID-19 infection rates are not currently being considered for pilot events, meaning that no fans will be able to attend Salford Red Devils vs Warrington Wolves on the same date.
Attendances will be limited to home fans, with the respective clubs to provide more details of ticket arrangements in due course.
Robert Elstone, Super League executive chairman, said: “It is crucial that crowds are allowed back into Super League venues as soon as it is safe, so we welcome the government’s decision to include our matches on September 30 in the programme of pilot events.
“Matchday revenue is essential to the business models of our clubs and the introduction of up to 1,000 spectators will help us to form a better understanding of how and when we can introduce larger crowds. Pilot events have worked well in other sports and Super League venues are well-equipped to host their own.”
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston added: “We recognise that many RFL clubs are operating on very tight financial margins and the professional game is facing unprecedented pressure but we are doing all we can to help.
“On top of the recent £16m (€17.5m/$20.7m) emergency support we have provided to safeguard the immediate future of the sport, I am pleased that we are working closely with the RFL to run a number of capped, COVID-secure, and socially distanced pilots during the remainder of September. This will help us continue to build the evidence base to assess how fans can return in greater numbers, as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Yesterday (Wednesday), the English Football League (EFL) announced that 10 clubs have been selected to welcome up to 1,000 fans to home matches on Saturday.
Championship club Luton Town was among those selected but later stated it would not participate due to lack of preparation time. League One side Hull City and League Two outfit Morecambe were also selected but both have now announced that their matches will go ahead behind closed doors.
Hull said it had been planning on allowing around 600 fans to the KCOM Stadium for Saturday’s match against Crewe Alexandra, but the rising COVID-19 infection rate in the city has meant that Hull City Council Public Health has not granted the club approval.
Morecambe said it would be unable to welcome fans after final proposals were not sent to the Safety Advisory Group in time for approval.
The following matches are still set to ahead with up to 1,000 fans this Saturday:
Middlesbrough vs Derby County
Norwich City vs Preston North End
Blackpool v Swindon Town
Charlton Athletic v Doncaster Rovers
Shrewsbury Town v Northampton Town
Carlisle United v Southend United
Forest Green Rovers v Bradford City
The rising infection rate has also put paid to Lancashire Cricket’s planned pilot event tomorrow (Friday). Lancashire chief executive Daniel Gidney told the BBC’s Dan Roan: “We were hoping to have a pilot on Friday. I think the situation in Trafford has increased so I think it’s responsible and sensible that that pilot doesn’t go ahead.”
T20 Blast matches were among a number of fan pilot events announced by the government last month.
Image: Emerald Headingley Stadium