The NRL resumes on May 28 and wants fans allowed into games July 1.
That’s the aim for the ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys, who believes it is a real possibility that fans will be back in 2020.
“We’re on the moon,” V’landys told the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday. “We’re looking for Mars now.”
The NRL will be the first football code to re-launch in Australia on May 28, the date had long been seen as an ambitious goal but with restrictions lifting around the country we now look locked-in to Thursday’s resumption.
Teams will again play behind closed doors, as they did in round two of the NRL season. But their are hopes that fans will gain be allowed in stadiums before seasons end.
The NRL will watch the impact of the NSW Government’s decision to allow up to 50 people in restaurants and cafes from June 1 and, if there is no spike in the infection rate, the plan is to petition for crowds to return to NRL games in limited numbers by the following month.
“We based our return on analysis and information on infection rates and how the coronavirus really caused the damage it did,” V’landys said. “When you look at it, 60 per cent came from offshore and even today the four positives all came from overseas.
“You take the Ruby Princess out and that’s less risk again. So in real terms, if the infection rate stays as low as it does and nothing new is coming in from overseas, the risk is going to be pretty low. So why wouldn’t we have crowds? We’ll do that in the same fashion we did with the return of the game.
“The next test for us is once they relax the measures, we want to see in the next three weeks if the infection rate is altered in any fashion. If it hasn’t, we’ll be pushing very hard for crowds … capped crowds. We’re looking at July 1.”
V’landys is eager to bring sponsors and corporate guests back to the stadiums in an attempt to drive revenue, while the introduction of fans will help support clubs as well.
NRL clubs are already asking questions about whether they might be allowed to have people attend in venues’ corporate facilities by next week. It comes after the government announced an easing of restrictions on licensed clubs from June 1 that would potentially allow up to 500 people inside as long as they followed social distancing measures.
“Importantly, a club’s patron capacity may further increase beyond 50 patrons – in increments of 50, up to a maximum of 500 – in accordance with the number of restaurants and cafes inside the club,” Clubs NSW announced on Friday. “For example, a club with two restaurants and one cafe can admit up to 150 people at any one time, on the basis of one person per four square metres and on the condition that those eateries are open at all relevant times.”
V’landys said that the restructured the fixture with the thought of fans being able to attend games in mind.
“That’s why we pushed the grand final to October 25 and the State of Origin to November because we’re confident we’ll have crowds as long as the infection rate stays at the level it is now,” he said.
“But the next two to three weeks will be crucial in our analysis. We’ll start talking to governments in that regard. We need to justify our case taking into account the next two or three weeks.”
Games have been allocated stadiums up to round nine, all games after that are listed as TBA.