NSW and Qld to work with NRL on crowds

The NSW and Queensland governments are open to working with the NRL on a return to crowds in July, but say it might be too soon to consider the plan.

ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys has indicated he would like to have some capped crowds back for matches by the start of July.

Under the plan, some members would be able to attend games, while still observing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

If possible, it would make rugby league one of the few sports in the world to be operating with spectators.

But the push for fans might not be easy.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned the return of crowds is not part of any plan the government is looking at.

“We’re not in that space yet,” she said.

“It’s up to organisations to consider their options but certainly we’re not in that space yet.”

Pushed further on whether she felt it was too soon, the premier said: “We’re working our way through the list, and that’s not on the list yet.”

NSW’s chief health officer Kerry Chant warned the concern would be the mingling of fans.

“I think it’s too soon to speculate,” she said.

“We’re very keen to work with all organisations on how to establish a COVID-safe environment.

“We don’t want mingling of groups that normally do not mingle.

“That is the reason we have limited the bookings to 10 (in restaurants), so you don’t have larger-scale interactions.

“We are vigilant and monitoring but, as the Premier said, we are considering every organisation’s need and are happy to work with them.”

V’landys has already managed to win over both state governments on the safe return of the sport for this Thursday’s resumption under strict biosecurity measures.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, at one stage, was one of the most-vocal critics, before relenting earlier this month.

She was more open on Monday to the ideas of capped crowds.

“In July, I think the road map says gatherings of 100 people,” she said.

“But they can submit a plan and, of course, we will take it each month as it comes.”

The NRL will keep a close watch on infection rates as the country continues to come out of lockdown as it pushes for crowds.

The league remains hopeful of being able to have bigger numbers at finals matches and the three-game State of Origin series at the end of the year, with venues yet to be confirmed.

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