16 June 2020

Footy crowds set to return to Canberra stadiums in July

| Tim Gavel
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The Raiders will be eager to return to crowds in the ACT after playing in the desolate Campbelltown Stadium during COVID-19. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The Canberra Raiders have received the go-ahead from the ACT Government to play home games at Canberra Stadium from 3 July while the Brumbies have also been given clearance to play the Melbourne Rebels on 4 July.

The 25,011-seat Bruce stadium was shut down earlier in the year due to COVID-19 as the stadium was classed a nonessential business, but it had earlier been scheduled to reopen on 7 July.

Originally the Raiders were not scheduled to return to Canberra Stadium until 25 July for the game against South Sydney. In total, that would have meant the Raiders would have been able to play just five home games at Canberra Stadium.

But with the Brumbies cleared to play in Canberra, the Raiders applied to host St George/Illawarra on the preceding day.

The next step for the Raiders is an application to the NRL to have the Dragons game held in Canberra rather than at Campbelltown Stadium.

The NRL will now consult with the television broadcasters Fox Sports, given it is a 6 o’clock game on a Friday night, before giving the Raiders their permission.

There is optimism at the Raiders because Fox Sports has already committed to sending a broadcast team to Canberra for the Brumbies the following night, so the costs associated with bringing the crew to the Raiders game could be offset by broadcasting the two events.

It’s believed to be one of the factors in the NRL’s decision to designate just six grounds to be used up and until Round 10, coupled with the ability to implement biosecurity measures during COVID-19.

The Raiders have been forced to play their home games at Campbelltown since the re-start of the season, and in doing so have been the team that’s been forced to travel most. The Raiders played the Wests/Tigers on Saturday night and had to bus to Sydney and back on the day of the game.

This Sunday’s game against Manly at Campbelltown is designated as a Raiders home match. It could be the last in the current arrangement with the following game being an away against Parramatta at Bank West Stadium.

If the Raiders receive the clearance to return on 3 July, it means they will play up seven home games during the regular season before the finals.

But it’s still unclear how many spectators will be allowed into Canberra Stadium.

At a press conference last week, Chief Minister Andrew Barr indicated his support for re-opening the stadium.

“If it’s possible to be able to get some crowds in there in a way consistent with other regulations, we’d strive to achieve that, not just for the Brumbies, but for the Raiders, too. It’s not going to be 10,000 or 20,000 people there but it would be good to have some crowd in a very managed way, and we’ll work towards that.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has confirmed the state’s sporting venues will be allowed to operate with a quarter of the capacity occupied from 1 July. In New Zealand, where there are currently zero active COVID-19 cases, the Super Rugby campaign is going ahead with no crowd limits.

Live sport is back.

Original Article published by Tim Gavel on The RiotACT.

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