Scottish Daily Mail
++ Phased return for fans planned in New Year ++ SRU to meet with sports minister ++ Target of 25,000 crowds for Six Nations
SCOTTISH rugby chiefs have drawn up a three-step plan to allow fans back into BT Murrayfield from early in the New Year.
They have lodged their proposal with the Scottish Government and will meet with Sports Minister Joe FitzPatrick next week for discussions.
Provided Covid- 19 restrictions have eased, they want to see 5,000 fans in the 67,144- capacity stadium for the Pro14 derby match between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors on January 2.
That figure would rise to 10,000 for another league match, yet to be finalised, prior to the Six Nations which starts in the first week of February.
Provided these tests go well, they would then seek permission for 25,000 supporters to attend each of Scotland’s home Six Nations matches against Wales, Ireland and Italy.
Thanks to a series of cost- cutting measures, the SRU have managed to avoid compulsory redundancies among their 450 employees — 258 of whom are players — but have made it clear that could change if paying customers do not return soon.
Facing an £ 18million black hole if supporters are not back for the Six Nations games, that figure will rise to £30m should
the lockout remain for the whole of next year. SRU chiefs are confident they have everything in place for a safe return of fans after successfully staging a Scottish Government-backed trial in August when 700 supporters attended an Edinburgh v Glasgow match at Murrayfield. As the threat of Covid increased, however, there have been no further test events. Scottish Rugby’s chief operating officer Dominic McKay said: ‘We have drawn on expertise across Scottish Rugby to submit a great plan to Scottish Government to make the case to return crowds to outdoor events at BT Murrayfield. ‘The Government know how serious we are about getting fans safely back to matches through our constant dialogue with them. ‘Crowds are now returning in other parts of the UK and Europe and we have aligned our plan to the best medical, scientific and health and safety advice to make a sensible and safe case for fans to return on a gradual basis. We are ready and raring to go.’ SRU chief executive Mark Dodson says it is vital that fans are allowed back into stadia to boost finances, although he does not think the Six Nations will be moved from its traditional slot to allow more time for the pandemic to ease. ‘It is very difficult to try and move the Six Nations in a calendar that is already very full,’ said Dodson. ‘It is not easy to put it down somewhere else. You have got to understand that broadcasters have other things that they have paid for and have on their schedule. If you move it, maybe you clash with the Tour de France, Roland Garros or Wimbledon or cricket or the Euros. You may gain on gate receipts but you will lose on broadcasting. My instinct is that the Six Nations will stay where it is.’ SRU interim chairman John Jeffrey called on the rugby community to pull together and help the sport at such a crucial time. His comments came after clubs voted at their AGM on Thursday evening for more transparency in the SRU’s decision-making process involving senior executives such as Dodson. ‘Before we got into Covid, the accounts looked really good,’ said 1990 Grand Slam legend Jeffrey. ‘The union is in a good position on and off the pitch. I genuinely see we have a chance to regroup.’