Harlequins chief targets 5,000 attendance after successful test
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