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Leinster switch grounds to beat pandemic restrictions on fans

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Ongoing stadium capacity restrictions in Ireland have resulted in PRO14 champions Leinster deciding to host next month’s pre-season clash with Gallagher Premiership champions Harlequins and their opening match in the revamped United Rugby Championship against the South African Bulls at the Aviva Stadium. The Irish province currently has more than 12,000 season ticket holders, but they would not all be all to attend these two games if they were staged at the RDS.


Unlike in England, where the Gallagher Premiership is readying itself for the return of capacity crowds to its stadiums when the new 2021/22 season begins in September, restrictions in the Republic of Ireland mean that only a percentage of stadiums can currently be filled. 

This Irish government regulation would have resulted in Leinster having to turn away a certain number of season ticket holders and stop them from attending. However, their decision to switch the respective September 10 and September 25 matches to the Aviva, where they will be able to accommodate 15,000 people in the 51,000 capacity ground, has given them a way around the problem. Leinster were only allowed to have 1,200 fans present in June at the RDS versus Dragons when they played in front of a home crowd for the first time since February 2020.

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What sacrifice means to the Black Ferns
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What sacrifice means to the Black Ferns

A Leinster statement explained: “Leinster have over 12,000 season ticket holders and with stadium capacity at the RDS Arena still a concern ahead of the start of the new season, Leinster have decided to give clarity to season ticket holders that they will be accommodated for the first home game of the United Rugby Championship at the Aviva Stadium with a 15,000 capacity to be confirmed in the coming weeks. 

“In addition, season ticket holders will be given an exclusive window to buy a pair of tickets for the Harlequins game, with a buy one, get one free offer in place for season ticket holders only in recognition of their support for the club over the last 20 months.”

Leinster CEO Mike Dawson added: “There has been a huge amount of progress over the last few months as the country starts to recover from the impact of Covid-19, but the reality is that we are still some way short of normality for a lot of industries, ours included. At this moment in time, with the current restrictions in place and likely to be in place for at least another month, we would be unable to accommodate the over 12,000 season ticket holders that have committed to us for the season ahead in the RDS Arena.


“Until we can guarantee their tickets, it is very difficult to commit to games at the RDS Arena and we hope by announcing this decision now it gives clarity to supporters who might have been concerned about their purchase with the season less than a month away. 

“It should be noted that it is very much our intention to return to the RDS Arena when we can accommodate all of our season ticket holders but right now, with Covid-19 restrictions still very much a feature of the immediate sporting landscape, we felt it was the right decision to take and crucially secures us much-needed revenue after a very challenging 20 months.

“Absolutely the decision is under review. This is very much for the two games announced but we are also open to extending that to other games because until the situation changes and we can accommodate 12,000 plus season ticket holders in a Covid-compliant manner at the RDS Arena, we have to be realistic and look at other options. For now, we have committed to playing our initial two games at the Aviva Stadium and over the coming weeks we will assess the situation further and issue advice accordingly.”




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