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Ulster to welcome 600 fans for Friday's Pro14 opener in first for Irish rugby

The northern province are the first to welcome supporters back since Covid-19 struck.

ULSTER RUGBY HAVE confirmed that they will welcome 600 supporters to Kingspan Stadium on Friday night for the opening game of their 2020/21 Pro14 season against Benetton. 

It will be the first crowd at a professional rugby game on the island of Ireland since the sport’s restart last month.

Ulster say the “trial to reintroduce supporters and other valued members of the Ulster Rugby family follows a comprehensive consultation process with local government, Belfast City Council and the IRFU.”

kingspan-stadium Kingspan Stadium will welcome a small crowd on Friday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In total, there will be around 850 people in attendance at Kingspan Stadium for the Benetton game, when additional players and stadium staff are accounted for.

The trial will be of major interest to all in Irish rugby on both sides of the border given the financial issues currently being caused by the absence of crowds at games.

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Ulster say that all 600 tickets will be “available to #TogetherUlster Members only via an online ballot process.” 300 members will be randomly selected and granted the opportunity to purchase two tickets each.

Fans will later be asked to provide feedback on their experience at the stadium, helping Ulster to provide “a safe and enjoyable experience” in the months ahead.

“Following a number of very challenging months for us all, I’m encouraged that this weekend will mark the measured return of a limited number of spectators to Kingspan Stadium,” said Ulster Rugby CEO Jonny Petrie.

“It seems only fitting that the fans who chose to support us by buying a membership, during what is likely to be one of the most difficult times we will face as a club, will be able to join us in the stands as we kick-off the new Guinness Pro14 season at home.

“This event is the culmination of a considerable amount of planning and preparation from across Ulster Rugby – together with the IRFU, Belfast City Council and local government – to ensure this is a safe and managed return to the Friday night lights.

“We hope the upcoming match will be the solid foundation on which we can continue to build towards once again being able to all stand up together.”

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Murray Kinsella

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