The NRL may consider postponing Sunday’s grand final in Brisbane if spectators are not allowed to attend the match should Queensland’s COVID-19 outbreak worsen.
- The NRL is looking at a range of contingency options for its grand final
- ARLC chairman Peter V’landys is “quietly confident” it will go ahead on Sunday
- V’landys says Friday will be crucial if the league needs to make a change to its plans
An option of postponing the premiership decider between Penrith and South Sydney is part of a range of contingency plans the NRL is considering.
The next 24 hours will be critical for the NRL, with league bosses wary of leaving it too late to make a call to either relocate the game or to play in Brisbane as planned.
It presents a logistical nightmare three days out from the grand final, with capacity for Sunday’s match at Lang Park already reduced to 75 per cent after six new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Queensland on Thursday.
“We’re in the hands of the Queensland government, naturally, and we’re confident in their ability,” Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys said.
“But we’ve got contingency plans for every scenario and we’ve just got to take each day as it comes and look at what’s going on and make the appropriate decisions
“At this stage, it’s all systems go for [Lang Park] on Sunday, with the capped crowd of 75 per cent and we’re being advised that that’s not going to change.
“We’re hoping the outbreak doesn’t get worse and we stay on course.”
Friday ‘crucial’ for NRL
With the threat of lockdown bearing down on south-east Queensland, the NRL could be forced to act fast on Friday.
Townsville remains on standby to hold the grand final should case numbers increase and force a last-minute shift, although it is also under stage-two restrictions.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has so far resisted a lockdown.
However, she acknowledged that should cases continue to rise there was a possibility the grand final could go ahead without fans no matter where it was played.
Those decisions will be made by government and Queensland Health over the next 24 hours and will be determined by case numbers.
“If there was to be no crowd, we’d have to look at the whole situation, so I really can’t say,” V’landys said.
“We have to look at our options in that regard [if there were no crowds]: Do we play it or do we postpone it?
“There are all these different options.
“We haven’t sat down as a commission with [chief executive] Andrew [Abdo] to finalise what we’re going to do but we have a number of contingencies to consider if worse comes to worse.
“[Friday] Is crucial to see what happens because we’re getting close, but we’re still quietly confident that we’ll go ahead on Sunday.”
An empty stadium would be a huge financial hit for the NRL after another expensive season of relocating the competition around COVID-19 outbreaks.
The NRL were forced to refund 25 per cent of ticketholders for the sold-out grand final after the capacity was slashed from 52,500 to 39,000 on Thursday morning due to the restrictions.
In a last-in, first-out policy, refunds will be issued to the 25 per cent of fans who most recently purchased their tickets in each allocation.