Leading sports in Wales have written to the Welsh government warning that they face bankruptcy unless it allows fans back into grounds using the one-metre distancing rule adopted in England last week.
The heads of five sports wrote to the Welsh assembly’s first minister, Mark Drakeford, on Monday following a meeting with government officials last week when they were told that when fans are allowed back into grounds, the two-metre social distancing rule will apply.
That would mean that a 2,000 crowd in England would be little more than 500 in Wales because of the distancing requirements on concourses. The Welsh Rugby Union is hoping to have the Principality Stadium hosting at least one-third of its 74,500 capacity for the home Six Nations matches against Ireland and England in February 2021, fearing the financial consequences if far fewer than 24,000 are allowed in at a time when it has borrowed £20m to keep its four professional regions going.
“The Welsh government commissioned a version of the SG02 guidance, which plans for social distancing at sports grounds, from the Sport Grounds Safety Authority, seeking a distance of two metres,” said Dr Steve Frosdick, an independent stadium safety consultant who took part in last week’s meeting.
“When the draft arrived, the Welsh government must have thought it was something they had bought on the internet and they must have realised the implications: social distancing of two metres is simply not viable for elite stadium sports.
“The representatives at the meeting were flabbergasted at the intransigent attitude of the government’s representatives and a disproportionate aversion to public health risk. I urge them to withdraw their draft before it is published and to adopt the one-metre version for Wales.”
The letter has been signed by the chief executives of the Welsh Rugby Union, the Football Association of Wales, Glamorgan County Cricket Club, Wales’s three Football league clubs, the four rugby regions and officials from horse racing and ice hockey.
They point out that not only are they losing money, but their rivals in England are cashing in thanks to the relaxed distancing regulation being applied there.
England hosted 2,000 spectators for the Autumn Nations Cup final against France at Twickenham on Sunday. The Rugby Football Union is expected to announce on Tuesday the verdict of an independent disciplinary panel that has been considering the cases of 13 Barbarians players who were charged with breaches of Covid-19 protocols that forced the cancellation of the match against England six weeks ago.