Stadiums at 50 per cent capacity: NRL finals series set for huge crowd boost
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Stadiums at 50 per cent capacity: NRL finals series set for huge crowd boost

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The NRL is on the verge of a huge boost ahead of the October finals series with the NSW government considering softening its COVID-19 restrictions to allow 50 per cent capacity at major events from the start of next month.

The current threshold limits crowds to 25 per cent capacity with a maximum of 10,000, however that could be scrapped in the coming days with discussions being held about changing restrictions to double the number of fans in seated sections of stadiums. It would also see the number of people on hills and in corporate suites increase from one per four square metres to one per two square metres.

The mooted change could allow the Panthers to hold about 8000 fans for the opening week of the finals, with the club expected to knock back an opportunity to host 40,000 at ANZ Stadium for what is shaping as a western Sydney showdown against Parramatta.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian admitted changes were afoot at a press conference on Wednesday.

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"I just want to foreshadow the government will have something to say about that in the next few days," Berejiklian said.

"They [a ministerial task force, which includes treasurer Dominic Perrottet, deputy premier John Barilaro and tourism minister Stuart Ayres] have done some good work given the input from health on what we consider a safe way to host some of these events into the future. NSW is holding the line well. We are doing well and we want to keep it that way.

Panthers fans could be out in numbers come week one of the finals.

Panthers fans could be out in numbers come week one of the finals.Credit:Getty

"When it comes to major sporting events we are, through health input and also the great work by police, looking at how we can have some of those key events in a COVID-safe way to support the direction NSW is going. But also as a big thank you to the community for working with us to get us where we are today."

As reported by the Herald last month, the NRL has been trying to convince the government to increase capacity to 50,000 in time for the grand final on October 25.

While the government is unlikely to agree to 50,000 for October 1, there is still hope that if the infection rate remains low there may be another spike in crowd capacity by the time the decider at ANZ Stadium rolls around in six weeks' time.

The other major NSW rugby league event that will benefit from the foreshadowed increase is the State of Origin match scheduled to be played at ANZ Stadium on November 11.

Shifting Origin to the end of the season raised the prospect of increased crowds attending the games.

Shifting Origin to the end of the season raised the prospect of increased crowds attending the games.Credit:Quentin Jones

Origin I will be played in Adelaide for the first time when the series opens at the Adelaide Oval on November 4 in front of a reduced capacity crowd of 26,750. Game two in Sydney will at this stage be played in front of 40,000, while game three in Brisbane is restricted to 25,000 under current Queensland restrictions.

The Sunshine Coast-based Melbourne Storm will host a final in week one of the play-offs, with their match, likely against the Sydney Roosters, to be played at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane in front of the reduced maximum crowd of 25,000.

The Newcastle Knights would be able to host close to 17,000 at McDonald Jones Stadium if they finish in fifth or sixth and earn the right to a home final in week one, while Parramatta would also be able to fit a similar crowd at Bankwest Stadium should they earn the right to a home final in October.

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The other Sydney teams in line for potential home finals in week one include South Sydney and Cronulla. The Rabbitohs would be allowed to host 40,000 at ANZ Stadium, while the Sharks would be entitled to around 8000 at Kogarah.

Under NRL rules, clubs control the venues in week one however the governing body has control of stadium allocation from week two.

Another major sporting event that will benefit from the mooted changes is the $15 million Everest on October 17, which the Australian Turf Club now expects to attract more than 20,000.
The ATC has already sold out hospitality packages but may be able to increase numbers in its functions as well as now being able to sell general admission tickets to the public.

- with Chris Roots

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