The NSW government has announced new restrictions for the upcoming NRL finals series, with as many as 40,000 spectators allowed at matches.
Under the new rules announced by the NSW government on Thursday, the state’s major venues will be able to operate at up to 50 per cent capacity from next month.
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It means the NRL’s finals will be played in front of the biggest football crowds in Australia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
ANZ Stadium will be allowed 40,000 fans at matches, including any finals games, the October 25 grand final and State of Origin II.
The SCG can have crowds of up to 23,000, while Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta will be able to accommodate 15,000 spectators.
Fans will have to wear masks on entry to the stadium but can take them off once in their allocated seat.
As part of the protocols, spectators will sit in zones with different entry and exit areas, as well as hospitality and amenities for each zone to prevent spectators mingling.
Ultimately, it means crowds at ANZ Stadium will be the biggest in Australia since 86,174 crammed into the MCG for the women's Twenty20 World Cup final in March.
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“A large venue as long as it has seats and zones ... is able to be a controlled event,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday.
“And given it is outdoors it reduced a further risk.
“Out of everyone around the table I am probably the least likely to support anything like this unless I am sure and convinced it has been backed up by health advice.
“And it’s for that reason it has been.”
Suburban grounds such as Panthers Stadium in Penrith and McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle are still yet to be cleared and will remain at 25 per cent capacity.
However there is a hope that will change by week one of the finals, with Penrith expected to host Parramatta at home.
“We're hopeful we'll be able to get to those venues opening up to larger capacities,” Minister for investment and tourism Stuart Ayres said.
“All have hills, we want to be able to make sure we work through what it the most appropriate way to open up that venue.
“Optimistically I would like to say they will be open for the 1st October, but we won't be putting people at risk.”
Terrific work by the #NRL & the NSW Government. Goes to show how dominant a sport Rugby League is. This comes as other sports were forced to play grand finals in front of small to no crowds. 👏👏👏 https://t.co/qTNjr51s5t— Central Coast Warriors (@RL__Talk) September 17, 2020
Good to see NRL letting decent crowds in for the finals— Timmy Woodward (@TimWoodward_8) September 17, 2020
The increase comes as Suncorp Stadium is also expected to be able to hold crowds of 25,000, with Melbourne's home finals matches to be played at the Brisbane venue.
Canberra have doubled their capacity at GIO Stadium from 3000 to 6000 this weekend, but are likely to ask for a further increase for a home final.