National Rugby League set to allow some Australian fans back

Associated Press

SYDNEY (AP) — Small groups of fans will be allowed to attend National Rugby League games at some venues from next weekend to keep sports in line with the relaxation of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in New South Wales state.

Gatherings of 50 or fewer will be allowed to watch games, but only in corporate suites, and only at the three venues in and around Sydney in Round 5, providing distancing rules that require people to stay 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart are observed. Seating in regular stands will remain closed to spectators.

It will keep the NRL in line with the easing of rules for restaurants and pubs in the state, where half of the league’s venues are located.

Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V’landys said a bid for a similar crowd return in Queensland and Victoria states will be put to those governments.

A July 1 target for more fans to return to stadiums in regular grandstand seating remains a target.

“We are going to be treated the same as the pubs and clubs,” V’landys told NRL.com on Friday. “We’re very pleased the (New South Wales) government has corrected the anomaly, because this was allowed in pubs, clubs and racecourses but not sports stadiums.

“It’s a good start and our next step once we’ve done that correctly is to try to convince government to allow us to have spectators in seated areas from July 1.”

The NRL was the first elite sports competition to return to action in Australia after the lockdown, which went into force in March when Australia and New Zealand closed borders.

The first two rounds of NRL matches were played in March — the first with crowds, the second without. After a break of more than two months, the third round was played last week and the fourth round continues this week in empty stadiums and with strict bio-security regulations in place to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

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