The NRL will keep their eyes set on a return to unlimited crowds in August after stadiums were granted federal permission to open at quarter-capacity from July.
In the biggest step out of the coronavirus so far, Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed national-cabinet plans for crowds of up to 10,000 people in stadiums.
The move will allow crowds of between 5,000 to 7,500 at most NRL venues, while the fate of venues with more than 40,000 seats – such as ANZ Stadium, the SCG and Suncorp – is still to be determined.
Each state and territory government will determine when they will implement the new rules, but the NRL are confident they will have gates open in NSW from July 1.
The master plan marries up exactly with ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys’ original push for capped crowds from the beginning of next month.
And he is now confident that if virus numbers continue to remain low, crowds will be able to return in full in as little as seven weeks from now.
“I said capped crowds from July 1 and unrestricted from the start of August, so I think we’re going to get there,” V’landys told AAP.
“Everything we do we base it on the facts and data, not on people saying things they can’t back up with facts.
“(August) really depends on the data.
“You can analyse the infection rate, and in NSW for the past 15 days there hasn’t been one in the community.”
NRL heavyweights were on Friday evening meeting to plan out which grounds could be used from July 1, and whether all clubs could return to their traditional home.
The NRL and venues such as Bankwest Stadium have been working for months with the NSW Government on the planned reopening.
Under those plans, it’s believed groups who purchase tickets together will be able to sit together with appropriate distancing between them and other fans.
There will be strict protocols regarding the flow of people at the stadiums, with entrance and exit aisles, as well as restrictions around the purchasing of food and beverages.
Additional cleaning will be implemented before, during and after events on high-touch surfaces, while fans are also likely to have to pass through thermal monitoring on entry.
There remain challenges for the league and clubs on how to prioritise who gets in.
Suburban grounds could still possibly feature in the re-opening plans, although it is challenging for ticketing systems to ensure social distancing on hills as per the government’s regulations.
The cost of opening multiple venues will also be a factor, with entire parts of stadiums needing to be opened to enable spectators to spread out.
For instance, if ANZ Stadium is eventually reopened at 25 per cent capacity it would require the top tiers to be in operation, which brings significant extra cost.
“The team at the NRL are now reviewing our stadiums to see, if we do go July 1, which ones we should be using,” V’landys said.
“It costs you money to open up these venues, so we have to make it cost-effective. It’s the right thing to do.”
EACH GROUND’S APPROXIMATE 25 PER CENT CAPACITY
* Townsville Stadium: 6500
* Cbus Super Stadium: 6500
* McDonald Jones Stadium: 8000
* Lottoland: 4500
* Netstrata Jubilee Oval: 5000
* WIN Stadium: 5000
* Campbelltown Stadium: 5000
* Panthers Stadium: 5500
* Bankwest Stadium: 7000
* Leichhardt Oval: 5000
* GIO Stadium: 6500
* AAMI Park 7500
*ANZ, SCG and Suncorp Stadium: TBC.