The chief executive of Ulster Rugby has stated that the province are hopeful of welcoming supporters back to the Kingspan Stadium before the end of 2020, outlining that they have a ‘clear plan’ in place to deal with social distancing guidelines. The four Irish provinces are set to return to play in the Pro14 in August, but as of yet it is unclear when supporters will be allowed to attend games.
In both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, social distancing guidelines remain at two metres, although there has been discussion about reducing the recommended distance to one metre.
Last week, the Irish government updated their Covid-19 roadmap and stated that up to 200 spectators will be allowed to attend outdoor events from June 29, with that number rising to 500 by late July.
And while there is still uncertainty about when crowds will be allowed to attend major sporting events, Ulster chief executive Jonny Petrie says the club have been working on a plan to safely allow spectators back into Kingspan Stadium before the end of the year.
“There’s a real importance in providing revenue generating rugby and getting people back through the doors but also giving people a social outlet as well,” Petrie told the BBC.
“If the social distancing restrictions are reduced to one metre, then we think we would have a clear plan where we would be able to get people back in through the doors but in reality I don’t know when that’s going to be.
“Our first match of the 2021 season in the Pro14 would likely be at the beginning of October effectively anyway.
“We’ve not been able to sell tickets for next season because we don’t know what a restricted capacity would be.”
However, it is unclear if Ulster would be capable of allowing all of their season ticket holders to attend games at Kingspan, which has a capacity of 18,000.
“We’ve got 9,000 or 10,000 season ticket holders so we need to see what the restrictions would be.
“So that’s something we would try and target to see if there is at least a restricted capacity we could get back into the stadium but we would have to see how things develop.”
Ulster are due to return to training on June 29 ahead of the Pro14’s return, and their playing squad and staff will be tested for coronavirus this week.
Munster and Leinster will return to training today having returned no positive results from coronavirus tests on 140 players and staff last Wednesday.
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