Calls to emulate French crowd rules

The growing call for the safe re-introduction of limited attendances at Rugby League games received strong support from the south of France at the weekend.

A Covid-restricted crowd of 5,000 supporters was allowed into Stade Gilbert Brutus to watch the Catalans Dragons v Hull KR game in Perpignan on Friday night, leaving coaches Steve McNamara and Tony Smith asking why this cannot be allowed in the UK.

French government guidelines permit limited attendances at sports events and the Dragons exercise strict cleansing and segregation measures to ensure supporters’ safety.

Catalans coach McNamara said: “What the club is doing is very impressive and it is what the government in France is allowing us to do. Clearly there are major issues out there with the virus, but we are doing our very best to keep people safe.

“Over the past couple of weeks I can see Wakefield and Hull KR looking at what we are doing and asking why we can’t do it back in the UK.

“I think there’s going to be a bit of a push over there and hopefully so, for the sake of our game.”

Dragons officials have made no secret of the importance of supporters at games following excessive costs to the club for Covid-safe transport to games to the UK via a private jet.

A club source said: “It is absolutely essential that our sponsors and season-ticket holders are allowed in for financial reasons. We have made enormous efforts to ensure safety and segregation in the ground and it seems to be working very well.”

Social media reacted strongly to the sight of a single Robins fan sitting in the Puig Aubert stand at the Brutus.

Colin Riley, who lives in Portugal, was determined to watch his beloved Rovers team and coach Tony Smith approached the solitary supporter, at a safe isolation distance, before the match to thank him for his support.

“It was good to see him in the stand, even if it was only one supporter. We had a good chat and I wish we could have got the result for him,” said Smith.

The Robins coach admitted that the lack of any crowds at games in England was having a major impact on club finances and the atmosphere at the game.

“It was a privilege to be in front of a crowd again,” said Smith, adding: “The French supporters are very vocal and it really adds something to the game.”

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.