Harlequins chief tar­gets 5,000 at­ten­dance af­ter suc­cess­ful test

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport | Rugby Union - By Daniel Schofield deputy rugby cor­re­spon­dent at the Stoop

Lau­rie Dal­rym­ple, the Harlequins chief ex­ec­u­tive, be­lieves the Stoop could open its doors to 5,000 sup­port­ers af­ter ac­claim­ing the suc­cess of the first test event for the re­turn of fans to English rugby.

On Sat­ur­day, Harlequins hosted 2,700 sup­port­ers for their de­feat by Bath as part of a gov­ern­ment pi­lot scheme, which Dal­rym­ple says went with­out a hitch. “Off the pitch our ini­tial feed­back was ex­cel­lent,” he said. “We have had some feed­back al­ready from the coun­cil, the Depart­ment for Dig­i­tal, Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport, and se­nior safety ad­vi­sory group, all of whom are happy with the day. I have not heard any sup­porter nega­tiv­ity. All the hard work over the past nine to 10 days has paid div­i­dends.”

A range of safety mea­sures was in place, from so­cial dis­tanc­ing to stag­gered ar­rival and exit times. Harlequins hope to re­ceive the green light for sup­port­ers to be al­lowed back in for their fi­nal home game against Wasps.

With 2,700 sup­port­ers present, Dal­rym­ple be­lieves that the club would have at least bro­ken even. Get­ting more fans through the gates con­sis­tently would al­low Premier­ship clubs to take the first step to­wards re­turn­ing to prof­itabil­ity af­ter months of heavy fi­nan­cial losses. “It is ab­so­lutely key,” Dal­rym­ple said. “We have said on pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions that hav­ing sup­port­ers in the sta­di­ums is fun­da­men­tal to the fu­ture fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity of the clubs.

“For all of our fel­low clubs, it has to be done in a for­mat that is safe and se­cure. I think we demon­strated to­day that we can do that safely and se­curely. Hope­fully we get the chance to do it again. Per­haps we will get a chance to do it with a grad­ual up­lift in num­bers. It is ex­tremely im­por­tant to get sup­port­ers in the ground.

“We have to sit down with our com­pany and look at our mod­el­ling and we may need to look at ways we so­cially dis­tance in the sta­dium.

Wasps is 3½ weeks away. In this cur­rent cli­mate, we would be hope­ful of hav­ing demon­strated we can have an up­lift. We would be look­ing at around 4,500-5,000.”

Un­for­tu­nately, Harlequins could not de­liver on a per­for­mance for the oc­ca­sion as two su­perb fin­ishes by Eng­land winger Ruar­idh Mc­Connochie helped Bath to a bonus-point vic­tory.

For­wards El­liott Stooke and Lewis Boyce also crossed to leave Harlequins’ play-off hopes hang­ing by a thread in what for­mer Eng­land cap­tain Chris Rob­shaw later in­di­cated would be his fi­nal home game at the Stoop be­fore head­ing to the United States.

How­ever, Dal­rym­ple’s dis­ap­point­ment at the re­sult was tem­pered by what he hopes will be the re­turn of nor­mal­ity in the Premier­ship.

“I saw to­day as an op­por­tu­nity to present a re­ally pos­i­tive po­si­tion for Premier­ship Rugby, not just Harlequins,” he said. “I am ex­tremely pleased that it has gone so well. Rugby as a sport has the abil­ity to sen­si­bly con­gre­gate again and do it safely. Harlequins have been in that po­si­tion to­day, but I don’t see any rea­son why other clubs can’t do it.”

Bow­ing out: Chris Rob­shaw with his fam­ily af­ter his fi­nal Stoop game for Harlequins

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.