Dublin: 20°C Sunday 14 August 2022

Any attendance at Leinster game likely to be made up of players and their families

The government’s new ‘Living with Covid’ document allows for up to up to 200 spectators.

IT WAS NOTABLE how often Leinster’s players and staff mentioned the wider squad of 53 players who had contributed to their success after they beat Ulster to retain their Guinness Pro14 title last weekend.

There were multiple references to the players who had been unlucky not to make the matchday 23 for the decider, with many of them watching Leinster’s 27-5 win at home on TV rather than being there at the Aviva Stadium.

Post-match, Josh van der Flier also outlined how odd it was to win a trophy without family and close friends being present in person.

a-view-of-the-final There were no spectators at the Aviva Stadium for last weekend's Pro14 final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With that in mind, it seems likely that should there be access for a limited number of spectators to the stadium this weekend as Leinster take on Saracens in the Champions Cup quarter-finals, the wider squad and players’ families will be prioritised.

The announcement of the government’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan today revealed that 200 spectators will be permitted to attend games at venues that have the capacity to host crowds of 5,000 or more. 

The 51,700-capacity Aviva Stadium is clearly in that bracket, meaning there is likely to be scope for a very small crowd to watch Leinster’s game on Saturday in person. 

The42 understands that Leinster Rugby, along with the IRFU and the Aviva Stadium’s management, are currently looking at all options but their priority under the guidelines would be to ensure that additional players, staff, immediate family members, and close friends who missed out on access in recent weekends make up the 200 – if that is confirmed as the final number allowed in for the Saracens game. The number may be lower than 200 in Dublin.

While rugby supporters are obviously eager to get back into matches whenever it is possible to do so safely, it would be entirely understandable for Leinster to prioritise their own set-up first.

With the announcement having only been made today and some uncertainty remaining as Leinster and the Aviva Stadium await a further government update relating to the Saracens match, it might be the first step back in the right direction for Irish rugby.

So far, there have been no spectators at the Aviva Stadium for the first four weekends of rugby’s restart in this country.

Today’s announcement opens the door for potentially more than 200 people attending games down the line, with the ‘Living with Covid’ document outlining that “for large purpose-built event facilities (such as stadia), specific guidance will be developed with the relevant sectors to take account of size and different conditions for events such as large national and international sporting events.”

See Sport

Get closer to the stories that matter with exclusive analysis, insight and debate in The42 Membership

Become a Member

The IRFU reacted with a joint statement alongside the FAI and GAA outlining their plans to develop a roadmap for the safe return of spectators to their stadia.

The Irish sporting bodies have set up a working group to spearhead this project, with Martin Murphy, the stadium director of Aviva Stadium, chairing it.

Having supporters back in the stadium for Ireland’s series of autumn Tests in October, November, and December would be an obvious financial boost for the IRFU.

The joint statement says the new working group will be “engaging with government agencies on the considerations and parameters applying to the number of people permitted at outdoor public gatherings.”

The group will present its plan to the Sport Expert Group, which was set up by Sport Ireland. Murphy underlined that supporters are key to sport. 

“Sport plays a hugely important role in Irish society and by working together the FAI, GAA, and the IRFU will bring their collective expertise and learning to develop a roadmap for the safe return of spectators to the sports events they love and miss deeply,” said Murphy.

“The number one consideration for this group is to seek a series of protocols which would allow spectators back into sporting fixtures in a safe way, while complying fully with Government Health guidelines.

“Spectators are more than fans, they are an intrinsic part of any sporting occasion; they are the family and friends of the men and women who are representing their town, their county, their province or their country.

“They are part of the sporting culture of our nation which is so critically important to our overall wellbeing.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel