Questions are being asked about an apparent lack of social distancing within the crowd in parts of the Sunshine Coast Stadium during today's NRL clash between the Melbourne Storm and Newcastle Knights.
Images of the eastern-side hill at the venue, showing it packed with spectators, generated widespread criticism for the lack of space between fans after being circulated on social media.
While Queensland has less strict lockdown laws compared to other states the crowds' apparent failure to social distance during the NRL Round 12 fixture has seen
Channel 9 reporter Danny Weidler tweeted that the NRL was reportedly investigating whether a breach may have occurred, requesting a report from stadium management and also from the Storm, who was hosting the game.
The Storm then released a statement advising that they had also requested of the crowd management at the Sunshine Coast Council-owned venue.
The statement advised “Melbourne Storm have requested Sunshine Coast Stadium review its crowd management practices and capacity before the home game against Canterbury this Saturday.”
The statement went on to advise “the stadium operates under a site specific COVIDSafe plan approved by Queensland Health and includes having Queensland Police in attendance.
“Today’s attendance of 5437 was inside the 50% capacity approved by Queensland Health for sporting events of this nature in Queensland.”
Australasian Leisure Management understands that the approved Queensland Health plan allowed for 6000 people to attend this afternoon’s game - less than half the venue-certified capacity.
Australasian Leisure Management has also been advised that five Queensland Health officials were on site monitoring the COVID compliance and no official concerns were raised with the venue manager.
With the hill at the Sunshine Coast Stadium having a capacity of 6500 people, Sunshine Coast Council advised that only 2830 fans (43.5% of its capacity) were seated there on Sunday afternoon.
A subsequent statement from the Council advised “Queensland Health issued Sunshine Coast Stadium an approved COVIDSafe plan for Melbourne Storm fixtures held at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
“While the COVIDSafe plan in place for the NRL match played on 17 July complied with requirements of the COVID Safe plan for the venue, in light of the developing situation, the Stadium made significant changes to the Melbourne Storm v Newcastle Knights game including event logistics and increased security, volunteers, police and staff.
“We do however acknowledge that there remains some issues with allowances for social distancing.
"As a precautionary measure, in consultation with QLD Heath and (the) NRL, the crowd numbers have been lowered and no further tickets will be put on sale for the Melbourne Storm v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs match on 8 August with the crowd capacity reduced to approximately 5,000 people who have already purchased tickets to the game.
“Any future Melbourne Storm ‘home’ games would need to be negotiated with the Storm, NRL and Queensland Health. “
The scenes came just hours after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Queensland Chief Health Office Jeannette Young implored people to socially distance as health officials respond to a cluster south of Brisbane.
It also follows the Victorian Government today introducing a Stage four lockdown in Melbourne.
Image: The crowd during the round 12 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Newcastle Knights. Courtesy of Twitter.
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