Select season ticket holders and club members have been told they will be allowed at games across New South Wales from Friday night, but 48 hours from the highly anticipated return of crowds to the NRL, some feel much of the detail is still up in the air.
“The club is drip-feeding information as they get it, but it’s still not very clear exactly where everyone is going to be sitting or how many people are sitting together or how many are going to be in the stadium as a whole,” said Parramatta season ticket holder Mick Radojkovic.
He was emailed by the club, telling him he was allowed back at Parramatta Stadium for round eight against the Cowboys on Friday night.
“It’s probably the first time this many people have done this since COVID-19.”
He’s been a die-hard fan for 39 years and can’t wait to be back at the footy after the coronavirus shutdown, but has some trepidation.
“It is a bit nerve wracking and intimidating because we haven’t done it for so long, we’ve heard we can sit in groups of 10, maybe 20,” he said.
“I’m not sure if will be able to sit together, I sit with the active supporter pack — the Blue and Gold Barracks — we’ve been told that we are going to be going but I don’t actually have a specific entry ticket yet, so exactly how and what time we get there I am not sure.
“But hoping by Friday I will know what to do.”
From today, the New South Wales Government is relaxing crowd restrictions so that sporting venues of up to 40,000 can operate at a capacity of 25 per cent or less, to a maximum of 10,000 people.
Parramatta Stadium has a capacity of 30,000, so 7,500 fans will be permitted and for many fans a three-quarter empty stadium is a great option.
“I don’t think we will see full stadiums this year,” Mr Radojkovic said.
“I am pretty worried what we are seeing in Victoria is going to happen in NSW — and that going to the footy could be a very rare event, so I’ll take very chance I get.”
Adam Martin has been part of the blue and gold army for 11 years and travels the five hour round trip from Maitland for home games.
“It’s so great to be back — I didn’t think that it would be possible this year and it was so boring without footy during the COVID-19 lockdown,” he said.
He was among a select group of 500 people that were allowed to go to last weekend’s match against the Raiders, describing it as a game-day experience like no other.
“Temperature checks on the way in, three seats apart from people you didn’t travel with at all times. Going up for drinks, areas were marked up for where you line up and were allowed to go.
“I’m so used to going to a game and being able to talk to everyone.”
Those spectators received an email before the game stating “all attendees will have their ticket scanned on entry and must submit to and pass individual temperature checks to confirm a temperature of 37.4 or less and confirm to staff if they have any COVID-19 symptoms, whether they have come into contact with anyone who has been diagnosed or if they’ve been in quarantine in the past 14 days”.
He feels safe going to the game, even with his wife who is 33 weeks pregnant and hopes footy fans will use common sense and obey the rules.
“The biggest thing will be getting people out after the game and probably half-time as well, everyone wants to get a drink and go to the toilet, I haven’t heard … how that’ll be done yet,” he said.
“Last week I was told where I’d be sitting; you had to go on to Ticketek and select your row — I am usually a silver member, but got bronze last week, but I haven’t got it this week yet.”
A spokesman for the NRL says all venues must comply with the 25 per cent capacity — including on hill areas and one person per four square metres for indoor spaces like corporate boxes.
“Alternate rows will be used to ensure spacing and half of each row will be in use, groups will also be separated by two empty seats,” the spokesman said in a statement.
Venues are having to develop their own COVID-19 safety plans and implement those for games and given the guidelines, not all venues will be able to make that 25 per cent capacity.
Crowds will be hosted at three games in Parramatta this round as well as at Brookvale Oval and Central Coast stadium.