Crowds are seen on the hill at Sunshine Coast Stadium in round 12 of the NRL. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS

rugby league

Fans cut at Sunshine Coast NRL venue

2020-08-03 13:37:43

The capacity at Melbourne’s home ground on the Sunshine Coast will be reduced by 1000 after concerns were raised by the NRL and Storm about social distancing.

The parties were in contact with the Queensland government on Monday morning after vision of the stadium appeared to show the crowd packed on the hill for the Storm’s Sunday afternoon NRL win over Newcastle.

Under Queensland government rules, venues can be filled to 50 per cent capacity as they ease out of coronavirus restrictions.

Sunday’s crowd of 5437 fell well inside that mark – with the venue able to hold up to 12,500 – and it was claimed there were only 2830 people on the hill.

The Queensland government said the number of overall fans permitted would in future be reduced to 5,250.

Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young said there were five health officials at the ground to enforce social distancing but she said that a hill made it more difficult than a usual seated venue.

Dr Young said the situation would be reviewed as it would prove more difficult to contact-trace people who didn’t sit in allocated seating.

At NRL matches in NSW the restriction on the hill is one person per four square metres rather than a percentage of capacity, which is why Kogarah Oval looked empty in comparison to Sunshine Coast Stadium.

“We do need to go and review that because it is hard to maintain social distancing when you’re sitting on the ground,” Young said on Monday.

“I saw people trying to do that, they were on separate rugs for separate household groups but we just have to have another look at that.

“They followed the rule but looking at it, because it’s not a traditional seated stadium with proper seats, I think it’s a bit harder to maintain that distance.

“They’ll work through just how to make it a bit safer – that 50 per cent cap is better designed for where you’ve got formal seating.”

Sunshine Coast Stadium officials are set to present a revised COVID-safe plan to Queensland Health on Monday.

Among the proposals will be a reduction in the crowd allowed on the hill by about 40 per cent from the current limit of 3000.

The hill section could also be split into separate zones to keep fans apart.

“We did find that perhaps there was too much people on that hill for the game on Sunday and that’s probably the main issue we’re looking to address with Queensland Health,” Sunshine Coast Council community facilities manager Grantley Switzer told reporters.

“If we can get a significant reduction of numbers, I think that’ll satisfy all parties.”

The Storm are due to play again at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday when they face Canterbury.