Wales’ leading sports clubs unite in asking Government to allow fans to return

Wales’ major sporting bodies have written to the Welsh Government urging it to allow fans back into stadiums and prevent the “real risk of bankruptcy for our sports”.

The letter to Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford asks him to reconsider the stance during the Covid-19 pandemic that supporters will not be allowed to return to sport soon.

Some sports fans in England have been allowed to return to stadiums during the last week, with Tier 1 capacities set at a maximum of 4,000 and Tier 2 areas half of that.

But fans in Wales, like Tier 3 areas in England, are prohibited from attending sporting events, and representatives from cricket, football, horse racing and rugby union have united to call for change from the Welsh Government.

The 15 organisations who have signed the letter, written by Cardiff City chief executive Steve Borley, include the Football Association of Wales and Welsh Rugby Union.

The letter published on Cardiff’s website said: “Sport is a fundamental part of life in Wales. It puts our nation on the global stage and provides communities across Wales with a sense of belonging and identity.

“We form part of an an industry that employs thousands of people across the country, our contribution to the Welsh economy, employment and well-being is significant, but this is now at risk.

Coronavirus – Fri Oct 23, 2020
Coronavirus – Fri Oct 23, 2020

“We urge Welsh Government to reconsider its approach to the socially-distanced return of fans to our sports grounds by embracing the current Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) guidance known as ‘SGO2’ and withdraw the variant ‘SG02W’ which has been requested by Welsh Government.”

The letter says an in-person and virtual meeting was held at Cardiff City Stadium on November 30 to consider the socially-distanced return of fans to stadium.

It was attended by Welsh Government and representatives from WRU, FAW, the Welsh rugby regions, Glamorgan cricket, horse racing and Welsh professional football clubs.

“Taking a more cautious approach, the Welsh Government asked the SGSA to prepare a version of SG02 based on a social distance of two metres,” the letter adds.

“A draft (SG02W) has been received and circulated, but not published. We as a group of national governing bodies and senior clubs urge that this draft be withdrawn and that the Welsh Government also embrace the highly-regarded SG02 version and subsequently allow test events to be run using this guidance, with events taking place as soon as possible.

“We say this because while SG02 reduces expected attendances to between 25% and 35% of capacity depending on concourse densities and stadium layouts.

“The Welsh version would further reduce capacity to under 10%, a level which in effect closes our businesses to the public indefinitely.

“At the meeting, all sporting organisations were extremely disappointed by the lack of prior consultation and the entrenched position adopted by Welsh Government officials during the meeting left us full of concern.

“The situation is grave; the lack of a clear roadmap for the return of spectators in Wales poses the real risk of bankruptcy for our sports.”