The NRL will have crowds return in small numbers from next week with the NSW Government allowing corporate boxes to reopen.
The state government told the NRL on Friday corporate boxes would fall into the same category as pubs and clubs pending the approval of a biosecurity plan.
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It means each corporate room will be able to have one person per four square metres from next weekend, with up to 50 people allowed per box.
Venues such as Bankwest Stadium have multiple boxes and lounges that can be split into different sections on top of their corporate boxes, meaning the number of attendees could be able to climb much higher.
The move will allow club sponsors to return to matches, with the ruling applied only to food and drink areas such as corporate suites.
The rules will only apply to NSW-based matches.
While the news has been welcomed by many rugby league fans, other members of the public have been left astounded by the decision.
Social media users are flabbergasted that the NSW government has given the green light for crowds to return to the NRL - albeit in a limited capacity - when they are blocking rallies planned in Sydney over the weekend.
Thousands are expected at protests in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart on Saturday to show solidarity with the movement and African American man George Floyd who died while being arrested in Minneapolis.
The Australian protests are also a show of support to the Aboriginal community to highlight high levels of indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody.
However, on Friday evening the NSW Supreme Court ruled against the Black Lives Matter protest going ahead in Sydney.
The decision came after anticipated numbers for the rally put the risk to public health in jeopardy with regard to the coronavirus crisis.
Needless to say, plenty of angry observers took to social media to criticise the NSW government for allowing NRL fans back at games from next weekend.
It sounds like it will be the same restrictions that pubs and restaurants have so a very small number of spectators allowed in but still massive step forward— Jenna Brooks (@JennaBrooks) June 5, 2020
Remember that Covid-19 only infects protesting crowds, not NRL fans. https://t.co/99YouLqYGa— Shaun IamAntifa (@parsect) June 5, 2020
"Fans will be allowed to attend NRL games in small groups from next week, after the league reached an agreement with the New South Wales Government."— Coalition Tea Lady (@ItsBouquet) June 5, 2020
As long as it's not to protest, "groups" of people congregating are fine in NSW!https://t.co/GR9t2gFdyE
Australia - where they’ll announce the reopening of stadiums for crowds to attend NRL games on the same day they are in court seeking to formally criminalise attendance of a peaceful protest. #blacklivesmatteraustralia https://t.co/gToakiQYz2— Amy Thunig (@AmyThunig) June 5, 2020
This shows the blatant white privilege racist mindset of the @GladysB Berejiklian LNP govt - protests to raise awareness of racism murders #GeorgeFloydprotest not allowed, NRL footy crowds allowed. Disgusting. #IndigenousLivesMatter #NSWpolice @nswpolice https://t.co/kKNytkQRHE— Gadzooks Archanan (@ERN_Malleyscrub) June 5, 2020
LIVE RIGHT NOW! WTF THIS IS CRAZY! Right now the NSW Police are making an application in the NSW Supreme Court for a prohibition for a public assembly to render a protest UNLAWFUL! #BREAKING @PatsKarvelas @ABCaustralia https://t.co/AMcS66sekX— Teela 🐨 (@teelareid) June 5, 2020
I’m confused. NRL crowds okay but protest not okay.— Ingrid Jessica (@ingridjweinberg) June 5, 2020
Decision follows similar move for pubs, clubs
ANZ Stadium, which has the biggest number of corporate boxes, is unlikely to be used as the NRL has locked in its stadia plan until round nine.
Even then, it would require clubs such as South Sydney and Canterbury to negotiate new deals to stage matches at the Olympic precinct.
Both clubs had already agreed to move out of ANZ Stadium this month under the state government's previous stadia plan that included renovating the venue.
It is understood the government's decision to redirect the money means both clubs are in discussions on a possible return.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys is still hopeful of club members then being able to return as part of capped crowds from July 1.
"We're very pleased the government have corrected the anomaly, because this was allowed in pubs, clubs and racecourses but not sports stadiums," V'landys told AAP.
The news comes as a big win for struggling clubs, who are doing their utmost to fulfil sponsorship deals through the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, the NRL and stadiums are continuing to map out their plans for a return to crowds.
Much work has already been done at Bankwest Stadium on traffic flow with the entry and exit points of the ground.
A ticketing system is planned to ensure fans are spaced out appropriately between seats.