The Eels are yet to prove themselves against the top sides. Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images.
The Eels are yet to prove themselves against the top sides. Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images.

Revealed! Fans set for return to footy

NRL clubs will be allowed to have patrons in corporate boxes at matches in NSW stadiums from next weekend.

The state government ruling brings stadiums into line with the pubs and clubs, who can have up to 50 people per room at the ratio of one person per four square metres.

"We're very pleased the government have corrected the anomaly, because this was allowed in pubs, clubs and racecourses but not sports stadiums," ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys told AAP.

Fans could be back by round six.
Fans could be back by round six.

V'landys is lobbying State Government authorities to allow up to 500 fans into Bankwest Stadium for Saturday afternoon's match between Parramatta and Manly.

It would be the first time crowds have been permitted inside a rugby league stadium since round one of the competition in mid-March.

V'landys did harbour concerns over an "anomaly" allowing people back into racecourses, pubs and clubs - but not rugby league matches.

Government regulations have been eased to allow 50 punters into specified catering areas at racecourses. Around 300 owners and punters are expected back at Randwick on Saturday.

Pubs and clubs have been given approval allowing up to 50 patrons into designated areas - but the NRL remains on the banned list.

The NRL had originally planned to have crowds back in round six, to be played in mid-June.

V'landys will ask Government officials why fans cannot attend NRL games in catering areas or lounges.

The new Bankwest Stadium has several large corporate areas including the vast Cumberland Lounge, situated on the arena's western side.

Bankwest Stadium will also host Monday's clash between St George Illawarra and Canterbury.

Central Coast Stadium and Campbelltown Stadium, two other venues used in rugby league's restart, do not have the required lounge areas for fans to return.

V’landys hopes to have limited fans at matches by the end of the month. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.
V’landys hopes to have limited fans at matches by the end of the month. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.

The NRL hopes up to 500 people could be permitted to attend although dealing with fans arriving at ground entrances could be the ARLC's most challenging issue.

Bankwest Stadium is well advanced with planning for returning fans. There are proposed health checks at gates, a seating plan involving social distancing, guidelines around how fans will safely get to and from their seats and order food and drinks.

There will also be extensive cleaning of high-touch points, bars, kitchens and corporate spaces.

Drones are also being tested at the stadium in the hope they can be used to disinfect the seating between events with eco-friendly cleaning agents.

The AFL's GWS franchise will be told on Friday whether they are allowed up to 350 fans inside Giants Stadium for the club's first game back against North Melbourne on Sunday week.

V'landys looks as though he may have scuppered the AFL yet again.

If the Government reject rugby league crowds returning for this weekend, it would seem certain they'd be allowed back for round five.

A decision would need to be reached by Saturday morning, enough time for Parramatta, the home club, to select which members could attend.

One source close to the negotiations said: "There is an anomaly. People can return to clubs and pubs in designated areas and also attend the races in lounge areas but not the football."

It would be fitting that crowds are allowed back for one of rugby league's healthiest rivalries - Manly playing Parramatta.

Clubs privately reckon 500 noisy fans at games would still provide a lively atmosphere.

Provided he can pull it off, V'landys will have pushed rugby league ahead of all Australian sports once again.

It is understood a working group from NRL club officials has been formed to decide how seats would be allocated. There is a hope that crowds above 10,000 could be allowed back inside stadiums by round ten.

Originally published as Revealed! Fans set for return to footy