The Welsh Government has been urged to follow the lead of UK ministers in allowing at least some spectators to attend outside sporting events, following claims that clubs are facing financial hardship due to the lack of any matchday revenue.
Since March paying spectators have been barred from attending sporting events in Wales as part of efforts to maintain social distancing.
But with Welsh Premier League and Wrexham’s National League fixtures having resumed play this season, concerns have been raised that clubs on this side of the border will be further hampered following a decision to allow up to 4,000 spectators to attend matches in much of England.
Domestically only the Cymru Premier and Welsh Premier Women’s League are playing competitively, with the Football Association of Wales is talks with Sport Wales about soon restarting the men’s second tier Cymru North and South league campaigns.
The UK Government’s decision means that up to 4,000 fans will be allowed at outdoor events in the lowest-risk areas when the four-week lockdown in England ends on December 2, up to 2,000 people in England’s “tier two” areas but none at all in “tier three.“
Yet in Wales, clubs are still awaiting the green light on the return of any spectators at all, with the Welsh Government confirming to the Local Democracy Reporting Service that they are still awaiting the exact details of the UK Government’s new guidelines.
It is understood that a meeting is set to take place involving Wales’ sporting governing bodies and Welsh Government ministers next week.
But according to one north Wales MP, a return of at least some supporters to Welsh grounds is needed both for the well-being of fans themselves a well as to helping to ease the huge financial pressures now faced by many clubs due to the lack of any real matchday income.
Liz Saville Roberts MP, describing the current situation as “unsustainable,” added: “The overriding message I’m hearing from doctors is the importance of being outside in the fresh air, both for mental health and people’s general well-being.
“We also know Covid-19 doesn’t spread as effectively in outdoor settings.
‘I sympathise with those frustrated that people have been able gather indoors in a pub to watch a match or sit in a restaurant, whilst very limiting restrictions are placed on clubs who have the means and measures in place to safely accommodate fans outside in the open air.’
‘The reality is that clubs need fans and for many involved with football, their local club is their life. It brings communities together and now more than ever, people need people, albeit with strictly enforced social distancing measures in place.”
The member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd added, “Having recently visited Bala Town FC, I can say with confidence that I felt safe at all times. The club has worked hard to make the ground Covid-secure. I even had my temperature taken before being allowed in, something that doesn’t happen in Parliament.
“It makes sense to allow fans to enjoy football outside in the open air. Welsh leagues have effective systems in place for testing and tracking, with the ticketing system allowing for easy tracing and isolating if necessary.
“All we need now is the Welsh government to make this happen.”
In response, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Our approach to easing restrictions is always in the context of the public health conditions here in Wales.
“We will wait to see the detail of the UK Government’s announcement.”