No fans at sport in Wales ‘devastating for professional rugby’ says Dragons Chairman
The announcement by the Welsh Government that no fans will be allowed to attend sports games in Wales from Boxing Day onwards is “devastating for professional rugby and other sports” according to Dragons chairman David Buttress.
The new measures were announced at midnight as the Welsh Government attempts to slow the rise in Omicron cases without UK Government support for a furlough of staff. A £3m Spectator Sports Fund will be available to support clubs and sporting venues affected by the new measures.
But David Buttress said that “nobody should underestimate” the impact that the new restrictions will have on sports teams.
“It is devastating for professional rugby and sport,” he said. “We have done everything to support, comply, drive and support Covid community initiatives.
“I may not be thanked for being frank, but this is horrendous news for us. This is brutal news.”
Their opponents in the January 8 darby, the Scarlets, announced that fans would get their money back for any purchased tickets and that it was a “significant blow” to them.
Scarlets Chief Operating Officer Phil Morgan said: “This is hugely disappointing for us all – players, staff, supporters and commercial partners, who have shown incredible loyalty to us over the last 18 months.
“The festive derbies, particularly our home game against the Ospreys, are always fantastic occasions and we were expecting two of our biggest crowds of the season for the Ospreys and Dragons games.
“While this news will be another significant financial blow to the business, the health and safety of the Scarlets community will always be our utmost priority.
“We will continue to work closely with the Welsh Government and hopefully, when it is safe to do so, we can soon welcome our fans back into Parc y Scarlets.”
Wrexham AFC said that they were disappointed as their Boxing Day match would not be acessible to fans.
“This includes our home match against Solihull Moors, which is scheduled to take place at the Racecourse Ground on Boxing Day, and which spectators will not be permitted to attend,” a spokesperson said.
“We are disappointed that fans will be unable to attend our scheduled Boxing Day fixture at the Racecourse Ground, but we understand why the decision has been made.
“For any game that is played behind closed doors while these restrictions are in place, the Club will refund all moneys paid and will share more details regarding this in due course. This will apply to both season ticket holders and those who have bought tickets for the specific match(es).
“Please retain any tickets already purchased and continue to collect tickets in the normal way. We will communicate all further information, including the refund process in due course.”
The decision to move sporting events behind closed doors in Wales comes as some football clubs have already announced Christmas matches have been postponed because of cases of Covid-19 in their squads.
Cardiff City FC has postponed its Boxing Day match against Coventry City due to several cases of Covid-19 in its playing squad and staff. And League Two leaders Forest Green will not be playing Newport County.
Ospreys v Dragons on 26 December has also been called off.
The Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Sporting events over the Christmas period are one of the big highlights of the year. Unfortunately, the new omicron variant is a significant development in the pandemic and could cause a large number of infections.
“We need to do everything we can to protect people’s health and control the spread of this awful virus.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have followed scientific and public health advice to keep people safe. The advice is clear – we need to act now in response to the threat of omicron. We are giving people as much notice of these decisions as we can.
“Crowds will come back as soon as possible. We want everyone to be here to enjoy their favourite sports.”
The overall rate of coronavirus infections is rising in Wales and now stands at just under 550 cases per 100,000 people.
Dr Meng Khaw, National Director for Health Protection and Screening Services for Public Health Wales, said that “a rapid increase over the coming days and weeks is expected”.
61% of those people eligible for a vaccine have now been reached in Wales, while 18% of vaccination appointments across Wales were not kept over the weekend, according to the Welsh Government.
The First Minister last week warned of a gathering storm of omicron infections after the Christmas period as some strengthened measures were introduced from 27 December to protect lives and livelihoods.
The coronavirus regulations, including playing sports behind closed doors, will be reviewed regularly.
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