Crowds of up 10,000 people will be allowed into Australian sports stadiums from next month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday, as Covid-19 restrictions are further relaxed in the country, reported AFP.
The PM said changes would apply to events like sporting matches, concerts and festivals, though venues would only be able to seat 25 per cent of their capacity.
The announcement comes a day before New Zealand prepares to welcome back fans at its Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament, which kicks off on Saturday.
Morrison said it would only apply to stadiums with a capacity of 40,000 or under, ruling out the likes of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Adelaide Oval for now.
“We will be moving, as part of step 3, for events in stadia or other venues of that nature with a capacity of 40,000 or less to enable attendance at those events,” he told reporters.
All patrons must be ticketed and seated with social distancing rules in place, and attendance will be limited to 25 percent of the venue’s capacity.
“This is not something that’s happening straight away,” he added. “This is something that would be happening as part of step 3, where states and territories choose to move to that, and it will require a bit more work.”
For now, bigger grounds will not qualify, given the difficulties around social distancing in larger crowds, particularly on public transport getting to and from venues.
But it opens the door for fans to cheer on their teams at mid-tier arenas, which could include Canberra Stadium and AAMI Park in Melbourne, which are both due to host Super Rugby games from July 3.
Spectators have been barred from Australian sporting events since mid-March when competitions ground to a halt as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
But with Covid-19 now largely under control Down Under, rugby league and Australian Rules have resumed action, with cardboard cutouts in seats to make the grounds appear less empty and broadcasters piping in canned crowd noises.
While fans have so far been barred, just over 2,000 will be allowed in to watch a match between Adelaide’s fierce AFL rivals Port and the Crows on Saturday.
It will be the biggest sports crowd in the country since the shutdown.
Australia has recorded more than 7,000 coronavirus infections and 102 deaths.
The country’s cricket board earlier announced full schedule for summer that features a full tour of Indian men’s team as well as the women’s team touring early next year. The venues for the matches are already announced. There is still no clarity over the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup which is scheduled for October-November, Down Under.
It remains to be seen if this latest announcement has an impact on cricket resuming in the country as Morrison said allowing spectators in stadiums with more than 40,000 capacity will take some more time.
“When you’re up above 40,000, you’ve got more than 10,000 people going to a gathering, that has implications for the egress and access of and to those premises, public transport crushes, all those sorts of things,” he said.
“That will require much more significant work,” Morrison added
A report in ESPNCricinfo said that the PM’s announcement is a boost for hosting T20 World Cup as per schedule even though the current decision excludes the major venues. “At the moment the move only applies to grounds with a capacity below 40,000 so excludes the five major Test venues - MCG, SCG, Adelaide Oval, Gabba and Perth Stadium - but would cover some of the smaller grounds used for cricket, including Hobart, the WACA and Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast, and is another positive step as sport continues its comeback in Australia,” the report said.
(With AFP and PTI inputs)