Wales Covid-19 restrictions: Capacity crowds could return for start of season

Wales fans
Fans have been allowed to return to sporting events in Wales in limited numbers since June

Welsh clubs could be allowed to host capacity crowds for the start of the new football season, the Welsh government has announced.

Most Covid rules in Wales - but not all - will be scrapped from Saturday, 7 August if coronavirus rates allow.

The English Football League season resumes on that weekend.

Some rules will be eased this Saturday allowing for six people to meet indoors and ice rinks to reopen, with social distancing outdoors no longer required.

The Welsh government allowed for crowds of up to 10,000 to be allowed back at sporting stadiums from Monday, 7 June, but those restrictions could be further eased in August.

Cardiff City say the announcement from the Welsh government means they will be able to welcome 8,000 supporters for pre-season friendlies with Southampton on 27 July and Newport County on 31 July.

The Bluebirds say "further updates will follow in the coming days in respect of permitted attendance numbers for competitive EFL fixtures".

Swansea City will also welcome back supporters in pre-season. Swansea say 8,200 supporters will be able to attend the pre-season friendly against Southampton at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, 31 July.

"This fixture is a transition for the safe return of supporters to the Liberty and will be undertaken in line with Safety Advisory Group guidelines with a view to heading towards a larger capacity at the beginning of the 2021-22 season," Swansea said on their website.

The news of restrictions potentially being lifted would also mean the possibility of full houses for Wales' autumn international rugby matches against New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Fiji in October and November.

Saturday's final summer Test against Argentina will again be capped at a maximum of 8,200 supporters to comply with social distancing rules.

The announcement will also mean a limit on capacity for the first three matchdays for Welsh Fire in new cricket competition, The Hundred.

Welsh Fire will play three home matches at Sophia Gardens on 27 July, 31 July and 6 August, with all three match days needing to adhere to social distancing rules.

The Football Association of Wales [FAW] said they were pleased with the announcement.

"The FAW welcomes the news that Wales will gradually move to alert level zero from 7 August," they said in a statement. "We will await further information from the Welsh Government prior to updating the FAW's Return To Play protocols."

The Welsh government says if it does move to alert level zero on 7 August, organisations will be responsible for assessing risk themselves.

"We are also publishing plans for a new alert level zero, which will have fewer legal restrictions but which will still need all of us to take steps to protect ourselves," a Welsh government statement said.

"If Wales moves to alert level zero on 7 August, all premises would be able to open and most - but not all - restrictions will be removed and replaced with the ongoing requirement for all organisations and businesses to carry out Covid risk assessments.

"These will determine what reasonable measures are needed to be put in place to keep workers and customers and visitors safe."

Outdoor events and gatherings will move to alert level zero from 17 July, allowing "more flexibility around physical distancing."

"We will remove the limits on the number of people who can gather outdoors," first minister Mark Drakeford said in a statement read in the Senedd.

"Outdoor premises and events will have more flexibility around physical distancing. This will be one of the mitigations to consider, but will not be an absolute requirement.

We are able to do this because the risk of transmission outdoors is much lower than indoors and because we need to take advantage of the summer period."