ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys has returned serve at the Australian Medical Association after they labelled his plan for NRL crowds to return next month “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.
V'landys faced similar opposition to his unwavering will to restart the NRL season on May 28, which has proven to be vindicated.
The ARLC chairman has now accused the AMA of using "scaremongering" tactics in the debate about crowds returning to watch the sport, before they've even consulted the NRL over its plans.
“These medical experts didn’t even look at what our proposal was. They’re cliches with fear,” V'landys told Channel Nine's Today Show on Thursday morning.
“We have to do a risk analysis and we back up all our case with the data.
“We’re going to wait the next two weeks to see what he infection rate does with the relaxation of the distancing measures. We want to see what happens; is there going to be another spike, or if this very low infection rate continues.
“At the moment, it’s less than half a per cent and it’s been like that for nearly 40 days. When we stopped playing rugby league, it was 25.5 per cent.
“We’re not Italy, we’re not Spain, we’re not Britain. We’re Australia. We should do a risk analysis and if the risk is low to minimal, there’s no reason why we shouldn't have crowds. We’ve got to get back to some form of normality.
“The risk is absolutely minimal and if the risk is minimal, I can’t see any reason why we can't do it. We’ll be pushing our case with governments in the next two to three weeks once we have this data.”
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.
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.
"You have to base it on data, not emotional scaremongering cliches," he told 2GB on Thursday.
“That’s what they do, they bring up these cliches that put fear into people ... They’ve got no data to show.
“The infection rate is less than half a percent — how low do we need to get it?”