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NRL’s goal to have crowds in stadiums in July described as ‘absurd and dangerous’ by Australian Medical Association

NRL’s goal to have crowds in stadiums in July described as ‘absurd and dangerous’ by Australian Medical Association
May 26, 2020

The Australian Medical Association has called on the NRL to abandon its plans to reintroduce crowds to games as soon as 1st July, calling the League’s aim to allow limited number of fans into venues as "absurd and dangerous".

With the NRL to resume its competition in closed venues this weekend, becoming the first major Australian sporting league to resume competition following the Coronavirus shutdown, Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V’landys on Monday raised the idea of a limited number of fans being allowed back into stadiums by 1st July.

V’landys carefully stated that the NRL’s plan would respect government and expert health advice, and would be dependent on the continued decreased of case numbers of the Coronavirus.

However, Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Tony Bartone has today warned that July would be too soon to think about making a change.

In a statement, Bartone advised “put bluntly, this absurd and dangerous idea belongs in the sin bin.

"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.

"They must first monitor the health and safety of the players and officials who will be involved in the thick of the on-field action.

“Australians have done exceptionally well in flattening the COVID-19 curve, and we are not too far away from relaxing more restrictions.

“Now is not the time for sporting codes to be considering having crowds at games.

"They must wait until the medical experts advise that it is absolutely safe to do so — and that will not be as early as July.

"Decisions on the safety of holding mass gatherings should be made by medical experts in consultation with the National Cabinet, not by rugby league administrators.

“Of course, we all want to see sport return with fans in the stands barracking for their teams. We also want to see theatre, dance, live music, cinemas and other entertainments open to the public.

“But the public health must come first. Getting beyond the COVID-19 pandemic is bigger than rugby league - it is about the safety of all Australians.”

The AFL, which will recommence on 11th June, is also reportedly putting into place strategies to welcome back fans should crowds be allowed back for the second half of the revised season.

However, Bartone praised the AFL’s caution, adding “the AFL and other sporting codes are adopting the right approach, which is to wait for the expert medical advice before allowing crowds back to watch games. We have to be consistent in our public health messaging.”

Following V’landys comments, the NSW and Queensland Governments responded by saying it was too soon to consider any such plan, although they would be open to discussions at some stage in the future.

V'landys’ comments, made to the Sydney Morning Herald, saw him state “we want to see in the next three weeks if the infection rate is altered in any fashion. If it hasn't, we'll be pushing very hard for crowds … capped crowds. We're looking at July 1."

However, the NRL has said it will act only on the instruction of government and expert advice and is planning to submit its proposal to authorities.

The league would also implement strict biosecurity measures around any return to crowds.

Image: The Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville is ready for the restarting NRL season. Image courtesy of Cox Architecture.

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