'It's absurd': Medical boss slams 'dangerous' NRL crowd plans

Australian Associated Press
·2-min read
Tony Bartone and Peter V'Landys, pictured here addressing the media.
Tony Bartone says Peter V'Landys' plans for crowds at NRL games in 'dangerous'. Image: AAP/Getty

The Australian Medical Association has lashed out at the NRL's wish to have crowds back by July, labelling it “absurd” and “dangerous”.

The NRL has outlined plans to have capped crowds back at NRL matches, with numbers dependent on the stadium size.

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Both the NSW and Queensland governments have said they are open to working with the league on a plan, but indicated it could be too soon to consider.

But Australia's chief association for doctors and medical practitioners said any plan to have crowds back at suburban grounds was a “huge” risk to public health amid the coronavirus.

“Put bluntly, this absurd and dangerous idea belongs in the sin bin,” AMA president Tony Bartone said in a statement.

“The NRL should be satisfied that it has its competition back in action, but it is unfair and unwise to put the health of the game's fans at risk.

“They must first monitor the health and safety of the players and officials who will be involved in the thick of the on-field action.

“Australians have done exceptionally well in flattening the COVID-19 curve, and we are not too far away from relaxing more restrictions.”

ANZ Stadium, pictured here without fans for a Bulldogs match in Round 2.
The NRL played without crowds until the season was suspended. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Medical association points out problems in Europe

The association highlighted the slow return to sport in Europe without crowds and praised the AFL for their cautious approach to wait for expert medical advice.

However, the NRL has said they will act only on the instruction of government and expert advice and is planning to submit its proposal to authorities.

They would also implement strict biosecurity measures around any return to crowds.

The limited number of fans would be scanned by a thermal camera on the entry to grounds and would need to have the government's COVID-Safe app downloaded.

Some matches would also be played in bigger venues, with ANZ Stadium's capacity far higher than that of a suburban ground.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys claims the idea is based on the suggestion that open-air spaces are safer than enclosed venues.

He has insisted any push for a return to capped crowds would depend on how Australia's case numbers perform as the country begins to re-open amid the pandemic.