Welsh sports fans set for return to stadia

The Welsh Government has confirmed that fans will be able to return to outdoor sports stadia from today (Monday), with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) labelling the news as an “important ‘next step’” in rugby life returning to normal.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced Wales’ move into alert level one of COVID-19 restrictions, meaning that large outdoor activities can resume from today. The move to alert level one will be phased, with outdoor events opening first. Ministers will review the public health situation again, ahead of June 21, to determine whether indoor events can restart.

The Government said the two-stage approach will enable more people to be vaccinated – and complete their two-dose course – amid growing concerns about the spread of the delta variant of the virus across the UK.

The first phase of the move to alert level one means that larger outdoor organised gatherings and events, such as concerts, football matches and sporting activities, like organised running groups, can go ahead for up to 4,000 people standing and 10,000 people seated.

All organisers planning events and activities must undertake a full risk assessment and put in place measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including social distancing. The WRU is due to host Wales internationals at Principality Stadium (pictured) in Cardiff against Canada on July 3, followed by two Tests against Argentina on July 10 and 17.

The WRU said in a statement: “Once we have clarity on the protocols and procedures required under these latest guidelines we will publish detailed information regarding the ticketing process and attendance protocols for our forthcoming games shortly.

“The Welsh Rugby Union welcomes the latest announcement from Welsh Government as an important ‘next step’ in rugby life returning to normal. The WRU will meet with colleagues in Welsh Government and the national sporting group to get clarity on the specific impact this has on community rugby.”

Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales that the announcement could mean a capacity of 10,000 for the games at Principality Stadium. He said: “Just being clear though, that is the maximum number. Every venue will have to carry out a risk assessment and then fix the maximum number it can accommodate because sporting events vary enormously in size and scale.

“Just as in the pilot events and across the border at Wembley, the fact there is a maximum number does not mean that every venue will be able to reach that maximum. There will have to be an individual risk assessment for each venue.”

Glamorgan County Cricket Club today said it is working with key stakeholders on a phased approach to the return of spectators at its Sophia Gardens ground in Cardiff. Glamorgan said: “Given the short turnaround in timings from the Welsh Government’s announcement last Friday, we have submitted plans to welcome back 1,000 members and other priority ticket buyers to the home of Welsh cricket for our opening two Vitality Blast fixtures (10th & 13th June), and then working to our approved 2m capacity of 2,892 from 16th June.

“The proposals are subject to the approval of the Safety Advisory Group. This decision also follows a review of our Welsh Government pilot test event, held just last Thursday, and will offer us time to further test our health and safety procedures at the stadium before moving towards our maximum approved capacity.”

Sophia Gardens is also due to play host to a one-day international between England and Pakistan on July 8, with the Welsh Fire set to commence their inaugural campaign in The Hundred later that month.

The Irish Government last month confirmed a series of sporting events that will serve as tests for the return of fans to stadia. The 15 pilot events have been scheduled for between June 11 and July 10, with the biggest test being the final of the National Camogie League on June 20 at Croke Park, where 3,000 spectators will be allowed to attend.

The trial events in Gaelic football, soccer, rugby union, golf and athletics will pave the way for the wider return of fans to venues as the Government announced the easing of long-standing COVID-19 restrictions.

From June 7, 100 spectators will be able to attend matches at smaller venues, with the capacity rising to 200 at venues that can hold more than 5,000 fans. In Northern Ireland, 500 fans are currently allowed to attend matches.

Image: WRU