‘Hypocrisy’ if 40,000 NRL fans can’t return
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro is pushing for a dramatic relaxing of crowd restrictions for NRL matches and the opening up of Sydney's ANZ Stadium for up to 40,000 fans as soon as round six.
Barilaro says he wants to see fans flocking back to the game following the sport's restart after the COVID-19 shutdown, starting with Thursday's clash between Manly and Brisbane in Gosford - with sufficient social distancing.
The federal government is considering "decreased capacity" for NRL games, according to deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth. And the NSW government has already ticked off on corporate boxes, for one person per four square metres up to 50 people, open from this weekend.
Discussions have begun about opening up the grandstands, with ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys aiming for a July 1 return for fans.
But Barilaro believes it wouldn't make sense preventing supporters attending NRL matches now when 20,000 protesters took part in the Black Lives Matter rally with minimal social distancing rules in Sydney on Saturday.
"In my mind, it's now clear we need some consistency with what is being approved," Barilaro told the The Daily Telegraph.
"Hypocrisy at its best … the NRL have already proved they have the right plans in place. So as far as I'm concerned the evidence is clear that we can open up these restrictions."
Suggesting just one or two empty seats are needed to ensure adequate social distancing, Barilaro believes venues like the 80,000-capacity ANZ Stadium should start being used up as soon as possible.
"I want to see stadiums opened to the fans this weekend," Barilaro said. "There is no longer any need to keep these lockdowns in place. We can have crowds back and still be abiding by some social-distancing rules. The evidence is there to support that."
Nationals leader Barilaro also said he wanted social-distancing restrictions lifted at grounds altogether by July 1.
"If we open everything now with these social-distancing measures and there are no more problems, then come July, open everything.
"This shouldn't be just about corporate boxes. We want people in the grandstands and people playing sport at grassroots level."
Originally published as 'Hypocrisy' if 40,000 NRL fans can't return