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Small groups of fans allowed back for Round 5 NRL games

The first batch of rugby league fans will be allowed to attend games again in round five after the NRL secured permission for spectators to return from the NSW Government.

Small NRL crowds, confined to corporate boxes, are set to be approved from next weekend as stadium guidelines are brought into line with current restrictions on pubs and restaurants.

The state government's ruling allows spectators to attend NRL games in catered areas at a ratio of one person every four square metres.

Up to 50 people will be permitted in one corporate box if strict distancing rules are met, though details on exactly how many fans can attend a game are yet to be finalised.

A venue such as Bankwest Stadium – which will host the Parramatta-Panthers local derby next Friday – has enough corporate facilities to host numerous groups of attendees, with the NRL to submit a biosecurity plan to the NSW government early next week.

The Warriors' journey through adversity

ARL Commission Chairman Peter V'landys told NRL.com that a bid for a similar crowd return in Queensland and Victoria will be put to those respective governments if spectators can be successfully managed in NSW next weekend.

A July 1 target for more fans to return to stadiums in regular grandstand seating remains on target according to the chairman.

"We are going to be treated the same as the pubs and clubs," V'landys told NRL.com.

"We're very pleased the government have corrected the anomaly, because this was allowed in pubs, clubs and racecourses but not sports stadiums.

"It's a good start and our next step once we've done that correctly is to try to convince government to allow us to have spectators in seated areas from July 1 or shortly afterwards.

We are going to be treated the same as the pubs and clubs

ARLC chairman Peter V'landys

"In the last seven days, there's been no community infection [in NSW] whatsoever.

"So if the infection rate continues at zero or close to it, then there's no reason why we couldn't start on July 1 to seat crowds with the proper biosecurity measures."

Speaking after his team's win over the Warriors on Friday night, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said he would welcome fans back with open arms.

"That's fantastic for any fans to come to the game. I actually enjoyed that there were more cardboard cut-outs today," he said.

"Any product growth in that sense would be awesome, there's a lot of supporters out there who are enjoying watching on TV but if we can get any few people to the ground, anything will help.

"Hopefully in the not too distant future we can get some crowds."

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Penrith winger Josh Mansour shared his coach's excitement.

"We play for the fans so it's good to see all the sacrifices the community has made is starting to pay off," he said.

"We 100 per cent miss them, the fans bring the atmosphere and sometimes when you're out there it's strange and has felt like a training run at times.

"Hopefully the gates can continue to open in the coming weeks and we can put on a show for them."

The return of spectators makes the NRL Australia's first professional code to welcome fans back to live fixtures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biosecurity measures set to be included in the NRL's brief to the Berejiklian government include thermal camera scans upon arrival for fans and each attendee having downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

Venues such as Bankwest Stadium have completed extensive plans around returning crowds safely, with entry and exit points for fans the biggest hurdle around social distancing.

Extra cleaning precautions around "high-touch areas" like bars, bathrooms and kitchens are also planned, as are measures for fans to order food and drinks from their seats.