Supporters at the Aviva Stadium during the November Tests. Bryan Keane/INPHO

IRFU in contact with government on crowd restrictions ahead of Six Nations

The union is hoping to see the 5,000 limit lifted in time for the clash with Wales next month.

THE IRFU SAYS it remains in contact with the Irish government ahead of the 2022 Six Nations amidst concerns that crowd restrictions could apply for the start of the championship.

The Irish union is currently “proceeding with our normal planning” for full houses at the 51,700-capacity Aviva Stadium.

Andy Farrell’s men kick off their campaign at home against Wales on Saturday 5 February.

Ireland also host Italy in Dublin on 27 February and Scotland are due to visit on 19 March.

Current Covid-19-related restrictions in Ireland mean that sporting events can only be attended by a maximum crowd of 5,000 fans, but that limit is set to be lifted on 30 January. It remains to be seen if the Irish government follows through on that initial timeline.

The IRFU and all other unions involved in the Six Nations are desperate to see crowd restrictions lifted in time for the championship.

As things stand, a limit of 5,000 fans is also in place in France, while Welsh rugby is currently being played behind closed doors. Scotland would be allowed a maximum of 500 people at home games under recent restrictions.

At present, Italy has a Covid pass system in place for outdoor sporting events, although England currently have no limits on crowd capacity.

The42 understands that the Six Nations is meeting with all six of the unions this week to gain more clarity on the situation within each country ahead of the championship.

It’s not believed that there has been any discussion about possibly postponing games at this point. 

The Six Nations is closely monitoring the situation in France, where the government has imposed tough restrictions on travel to and from the UK, as well as demanding that visiting sports teams are all double vaccinated.

Ireland are due to visit Paris on 12 February in the second round of the Six Nations.

80% of the income in Irish rugby is generated by the men’s senior national team, underlining that large crowds at Ireland’s home games are the lifeblood of the sport in this country. 

During the 2021 November Tests, the IRFU was able to welcome full attendances back to the Aviva Stadium for Ireland’s clashes with Japan, New Zealand, and Argentina.

Although the Japan and Argentina games were not sellouts, the All Blacks game was played in front of a raucous full house.

The IRFU had hoped the autumn series was the start of its efforts to recover from the financial damage caused by the pandemic but the restrictions imposed by the Irish government last month were another setback for rugby and all sports in the country.

The union reported a deficit of €35.7 million in 2020, with a further €10 million deficit in 2021.

In that light, the IRFU is now hoping to see the 5,000 crowd limit lifted in time for the Wales game in early February.

“The IRFU note the recent COVID stadium capacity restrictions which apply until the end of January 2022,” reads an IRFU statement issued to The42.

“As the Guinness Six Nations is due to begin on the first weekend in February, we will remain in contact with government and issue updates as and when more information is available.    

“For now, we are proceeding with our normal planning, as failure to do so would impact ticket distribution for the Guinness Six Nations. 

“If any of our home Guinness Six Nations fixtures are impacted by cancellation, postponement, or attendance restriction, our intention is that general ticketholders will be accommodated at rescheduled fixtures, or in the case of cancellation, or capacity restrictions, refunds will be processed back to the point of original purchase, for example, via the club or province the ticket was purchased from. 

“All other ticket stakeholders will be contacted in due course.

“The IRFU thank all our supporters for their understanding now, over the past two years, and going forward, as we all continue to adapt to this ever changing environment.”

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